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Observations of Speech

A couple of observations:

My friend Elizabeth was talking to me about coming over here, and one of the things that she mentioned was that someone that studied communications once started a theory that when people are in a situation where they are different, such as when they are among all French speakers, or all German speakers, or even among people that speak the same language but have different accents, the foreigner will unconsciously stress their manner of speaking, whether it be insisting on speaking English, or stressing the accents of English that they have. According to this theory, when I came to Wales, I would stress my American English and not try to assimilate my manner of speech to that of the Welsh, the English, or any other group here.

When I first got here, I thought that that theory was ridiculous. I could feel myself actually changing my pattern of speech and the inflections that I used within sentences, and I even changed the way in which I said certain letters. However, since I came over to the UK, I have begun to examine my patterns of speech very closely. Being in a foreign country makes you look at yourself very self-consciously, making you wonder how other people see you, and whether you can fit in with other groups. I got to the point where I just said to myself, "screw it, you're an American and everyone will know that you're an American, so just be yourself and don't worry about fitting in." Instead of trying to wear the same clothes that people over here wear, I have been wearing things that I am comfortable in; instead of pubbing and clubbing, I have been trying to do more work and concentrating more on what I want to do (which doesn't exclude pubbing and clubbing, but isn't limited to that).

But one of the things that I have noticed myself stressing more and more over time is my way of speaking. Indeed, after being around these people who all sound the same but sound foreign to me, I have started sounding foreign to myself in many ways. It is not merely the American English that I speak, but it often sounds to me like I have begun to pick up an almost South'n Drawl. To write down the way that I speak now would seem to be writing Huckleberry Finn now. I am slurring my words together more and more, and when extra words seem unnecessary, I don't say them, but just assume that everyone will understand if an "as" is divided between two words (i.e., "Seen sow sall the same" = Seeing as how it is all the same"). My sense of not speaking like anyone else was heightened when my European Literature professor asked me to read a passage out of _The Catcher in the Rye_ in front of the class, "to get the proper dialect out." Suddenly, I was an American, speaking quickly, omitting unnecessary words, and speaking in a way that made sense to me, but knowing that it probably made very little sense to the people around me.

And an entirely new subject: Trash. People here don't seem to be too concerned about throwing their trash away, but rather believe that something will happen to it if it is left somewhere, anywhere, on the street or sidewalk. Public trash cans are few and far between, which is very interesting, since in so many other ways Cardiff is an extremely orderly city.