Sunday, October 29, 2017

when procrastinating isn't an option

I'm as a good procrastinator as anyone. I remember being an undergraduate student and prepping for exams knowing that I don't really like studying in the morning but rather start in the afternoon. I had one hard rule, all through university and that I've kept the rest of the years. If I have an exam on Tuesday morning, I did not go out the weekend or did anything that resembled fun. I was suppose to study, and even if I knew that I wouldn't spend too much time Saturday doing just that, I gave myself an opportunity to do it. What usually happened? I woke up early on Saturday - intention to study. Ate breakfast, prepped a large pot tea, placed all study material on the table and started organizing the things. Then I remembered to clean my room, my bathroom, maybe there was some food needing cooking?, and so on... the clock started ticking towards 16 and usually by then I was sitting down by my desk and starting picking up the pace. And come 22 I was deep in thoughts and getting stressed about "how little time I had left to do all the things that needed to be done by Tuesday morning".

This pattern repeated itself plenty of times. I started having these weekends earlier than 3 days ahead of schedule so I didn't have to stress quite as much. However, the sad thing is I usually needed some sort of time pressure like that to really get to it and study/spend my time doing what needed to be done. This pattern also repeats itself when it comes to doing taxes for example. I'm never late but it takes a least one day of procrastinating and staring at the papers and starting the process yet knowing that I will not finish it in one day. I will have to go back and double check everything and shuffle around a bit in the space.

It's a good reminder now when I have to finish a certification before the holidays. I have to study for it, but I also have to pay for the time and date to take a certification before I have finished studying since the available time slots for taking the exam are limited... not my ideal situation if I were to say so.

Well, all of this blog post? A clear procrastinating tactic since I should finish my application for the exam and then finish the first 3 chapters in the book so I can say that I'm keeping with my schedule. Lucky me! I have set up some time in the coming weeks when I can take off from work so I can stay home and shuffle my feet and get started on my studying, hopefully before 13 o'clock in the day. Wish me luck!

For now, I have procrastinated enough for today and will finish my application since the application isn't getting better unless I work on it and the later I put it in, the less time slots and freedom do I have for the other studying! Happy Sunday!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

pronounciation, accent and dialect...

The ideas of dialect and accent have been on my mind the last couple of weeks. First, I went out with my friends here in the South whom I’ve now known for over 10 years (!Where has time gone?). They commented that when they met me, fresh of the plane from Sweden, I spoke a clear British English. Now? It’s eroding and I sound more like a bland American English with some weird southern words and syntax at times (think y’all, fixing to do), extra confusing when interspersed with British English words* and spelling (I'm still spelling BE and have to change my automatic word check to AE when I write for work)

There are exceptions of course, when I speak to my British friends and coworkers I slip back into the BE accent. It's also one of those things when I give official talks or presentations, it's all BE. The main thing though, and that which makes me the most annoyed, is that my tone of voice is different in various languages, dialects and accents. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it in the blog before - if I have it’s been  years so if you read this post you probably don’t remember or never read it anyway - but this is something that has been on my mind a lot. You see, in native Swedish I have an alto voice. It’s not shrill, it’s not as childish, it’s my “vomanly voice” (Janet Reno?). I first noticed the difference in tone of voice when I learnt French since I have a tendency to go a little higher pitch in order to get the correct sounds and rolling rs and some of those other non-native french speaking distinctions that one uses to address questions and surprise.

British English, to me, has a couple of sounds that require the tip of the tongue to go spelunking in the front of the teeth, on the top and sometimes locking in on the lower teeth as a semi lisp (think ‘issues’). American English? Well, in the beginning of living here I explained that AE is a little more like being drunk and talking with food in your mouth. Sorry for being rude, it’s what I said at the time. I can recognize that there are more stressed Rs in the pronunciation and that makes is a little more “chewy” to talk. Think about how to pronounce "were" [wae:] and "were" [weRr]. Compared to BE I don’t have to focus as much on how things are pronounced since it is less subtle, thus finding it easier and a little less precise, if that makes sense?

German, as a contrast, has the same pitch as Swedish to me when I speak it. There’s a lot of overlap in the sounds and diphthongs feel more natural and I have a good sense on how to make the sounds without thinking or working it too much. It’s also a couple of more throat sounds (guttural?) so I think it is easier to keep a lower voice/pitch. (This is me guessing obviously, I'm not a linguist at any rate.)

After a few months here in the United States I realized that while I was speaking English every day at work, on the weekend I kept up with my Swedish friends and family and when I had spent too much time (many many hours) on the phone in Swedish I was horse. Why? Because I stressed my voice in American English much more and I changed pitch every time I shifted languages.

Why am I thinking about this now? Well, it’s a disclaimer for something that will happen in a few weeks or maybe months...

You see, I got asked to be on a podcast in an interview! A great honor and so much fun. I practiced my “voice” before the interview, and prepped things that I wanted to say and planned good proper BE since that is what I normally end up talking when I’m on panels or giving talks. (Note, usually after giving a talk my colleagues come up to me in the end and comment that I’ve slipped into the BE and wonder why? Because I feel grounded in BE and I feel more confident in it? Or that I'm not trying to adapt to the AE all around me in the stores and I do try and fit in so I'm not an obvious immigrant all the time?) Anyhow, I need to continue with my excuse and explanation and not get side tracked.

I did the podcast. It was great fun. However, in the end I realized that I was SO not speaking BE. I sounded like a fairly arrogant American English speaker. Or maybe it’s mostly in my head (the arrogant part at least. No joke on the AE speaking part). But anyway, the pitch is very high and I am a little worried that I sound too childish and girly.

You see, I've read a lot about women and voice pitches. And that the girly/higher pitch is a great deal less threatening than the alto womanly voices. If you've ever turned on the American telly in the morning shows, I'm sure you know what I mean. All abundant, the fairly high pitch voices.

Regardless of what you think about this, it’s something on my mind. And I would be disappointed in myself if I continue sounding high pitched and nonthreatening since I’m a confident woman and should like to be considered as a smart competent woman.

I guess I have my work cut out for me. To either "change back to BE" or accept that I now sound like a AE person although I still pronounce 'z' as [zed] to the annoyment of everyone, and what that means to my perception about myself. Oh to face your own prejudice.... 

Lucky for me, this will never be an issue in my native language. That's always going to be "proper Swedish" where it's clear where I come from.

TLDR: if you happen to hear a podcast with me in it, please remember that I thought I was still sounding like a person speaking British English like I was brought up. And, when singing and speaking my native language, I'm an alto.

*pronouncing 'z' as [zed], jumper in clothing, lifts and lorries, autumn and all the 'll' and 're' in  words like travelling and centre ... It's a bit of a mess...