Being a global communicator

I just noticed how it is an effort for me to talk to pretty much any of the Assamese people.
Ziv said a very interesting thing: People with their own accents and language, actually ‘hear differently’. I thought the problem was only an incapability of rendering the same pronunciation I was saying. I say my name is, most elementarily broken, ‘Wish-aysh’. The latter half’s vowel pronunciation, in the rare case that you don’t understand, is pretty much the standard way any one enunciates ‘A’ as the first letter of the alphabet.
There were three different pronunications the Americans piked up on pronouncing my name. The few people who knew my name by spelling and tried to generate the phonetics for themselves, pronounced it a Veesh-aaish. The aai is the best approximation I can think of, for a stretched ay sound almost like the vowel part of ‘ack!’. That was David [Roe] and Susan, as far as I remember. Then there was a mixture of Wish-eesh (which I find the most acceptable incorrect pronunciation, because I spell my name with an ‘e’, which pronounced like an… e, is mostly fine), and Vaash-eesh. That was the most confusing. I would say my name and this was one of the most common things they heard my name as. And I’m pretty sure it is not a fault of my speech, because people in India can understand my name rather easily.
Also because the best pronunciation Dan and a few others picked up because I spent some extra time getting my name across to them, and because Henry made up funny ways of saying it, went like Veesh-aysh. Next time I meet them, I need to tell them about the shorter e in the first half of my name. I was also envious about how I didn’t have as cool a single-syllable name as all of htem have. My name is so pointlessly.
Another interesting thing happened recently which had happened before, but I hadn’t noticed it in the same context. Proper regional Biharis are compelled to pronounce my name first as Bish-aysh. It’s not like they can’t say V. It’s just that they default hear any V as B. And try to say it like that. They would only switch to V when it seems compulsory. B apparently, on some level, is a more convenient consonant to pronounce.

So, the point of this narration, was less to get across the correct pronunciation of my name – more to comment on how it is not entirely easy to talk to Americans – I need to repeat myself occasionally if they weren’t paying enough attention; or even with locals of Indian states. I momentarily felt annoyed. I seem to not ‘belong’ to any place, where I can be comprehended easily. And I just realized that I do. It’s been a long time since I spent time there, but I really do belong in Delhi, in terms of communication. Also the really cool part about that is, I can talk, to a large extent, anywhere with Hindi, and/or English. I saw the point/coolness of being ‘global’. Of being in a metro where the kind of exposure I have had, does not regionally localize me, because if I were able to talk perfectly to Americans or to the Assamese, my communiction with the other would be much more dithered, and undesirably tilted towards incomprehensibility.

  • Grab a beer with me some day when we meet again cholo. Psycholinguistics and speech recognition is what I’ve been doing research projects on and if I ever plan to take up research later this is probably what I’ll do.

    • That seems like an awesome thing to work on.
      So does pyscholinguistics have to do with learning language, understanding language, or understanding how people listen to/comprehend language? That observation made the last seem most special to me – that people instinctively *hear* the same things differently. I was also thinking about the construction of languages, on that joke by Russell Peters about !Xobile, if you’ve heard that one. Would love to meet up some time (though I’m not into beer and such, yet. :P).