The beginning of the year is a time for renewal, celebration, and time to watch our favorite celebs walk the red carpet to vie for gold-enameled dust collectors...I mean awards! One foreign director caught my attention this season when he won the Golden Globe Best Director Award for the film "Gravity". Alfonso Cuarón knew how to give a relatable and humorous acceptance speech when he poked fun at his heavy accent. “Because of my thick accent, they ended up doing what they thought I said, not what I really said.” The Mexican-born director continued with a funny story about the movie's star celebrity Sandra Bullock. “Sandra, you are the most amazing collaborator. I want to thank you for not quitting when you thought that I have told you, ‘Sandra, I’m going to give you herpes,’ when I really meant to say, ‘Sandra, I’m going to give you an earpiece.”
Luckily for Alfonso, someone clued him in on his faux pas. But that doesn't always happen. Often times as foreign speakers, we will get weird looks or smirks in response to our verbal blunders and it will be up to us to inquire, "What's so funny?" Some Americans, especially those we are not close with, would rather not bring embarrassment to you.
As a French language learner myself, I've had many times where I mispronounced things, but rarely did any of the native speakers around correct me. And thus, unfortunately, I don't have any embarrassing stories to share myself. But I do recall one of my grad school professors running into a similar situation as Alfonso. He was Korean and was teaching us SLP wannabes about Neurology. Now as you can imagine, unless you have a strong interest in the central nervous system, it's going to be hard to pay attention in this class. But at a certain point in his lectures, whenever he would discuss the peripheral nervous system, we all took notice!
You see, the prof always found it quicker to say the abbreviations for the different nervous systems. And so instead of peripheral nervous system, he would say P.N.S. However, this teacher could have benefited from accent modification himself, because whenever he'd say P.N.S. he pronounced it like "penis". And to a room full of mostly young women, we found it amusing! Since he was speaking quickly, he was not putting the appropriate stress on the capital "N" in P.N.S., and as he glided over it, ended up producing a word quite embarrassing instead!
Now I'm not sure if anyone ever clued our teacher in on his slip of the tongue, but naturally as female students, we didn't feel comfortable approaching him about it. However, a great benefit to starting accent modification is that you don't have to feel embarrassed about any current or past verbal mistakes, we will work to ensure they don't happen again!
If you have any amusing stories about mispronouncing certain American English or other foreign language words, feel free to share your story in the comments section, we can all relate!