Author: Justin Lau

Fourth grade in Tokyo

What accent are you?

Have you ever stopped in the middle of a conversation to think consciously about what accent you’re speaking in? To check if you’re pronouncing things ‘correctly’? I have. A lot. Raised by Singaporean parents, I grew up speaking English while living in Japan, causing me to adopt a Singaporean accent. Singaporean English, while based on British English, is also heavily influenced by American, Malay, Chinese and Indian dialects. The result is a creole called colloquial Singlish, which doesn’t comply with traditional language rules, and can be extremely difficult to understand. At age 6, I started attending an American international school in Tokyo called Christian Academy in Japan. I still remember the day when I was called out of my fourth grade class and informed that I needed to receive speech lessons to improve my pronunciation. My mum was furious. Why did her son, who spoke perfectly good English, need speech lessons? I was also stumped: what was wrong with the way I spoke? Every week, I practised my ‘r’, curling my tongue upward, towards the roof and back of my …