#201 Mimicking local accents
Submitted by Awak Bior
They may not be able to attend Broadway shows while in the field, but no matter: get a group of Expat Aid Workers together and before long they’re entertaining each other!
And when it comes to EAW self-entertainment, there is nothing more rib-tickling (not to mention good for building field cred) than pretending to speak like a local. It is to understand that this is not at all the same as adjusting one’s accent and modulating one’s speech for ease of communication, nor is it simply a matter of using random words in other languages. Rather, the entire purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate the EAW’s ability to simultaneously employ extreme irony and cultural knowledge.
Yes, white EAWs (and perhaps also their private sector tribesmen and women) can spend many a happy hour chuckling about the curious (never ever ever referred to directly as dim-witted, buffoonish, or happy-go-lucky ways) of the locals, illustrated with typically imprecise yet at the same time hilarious mimicry of a the local accent, if not from the place where they are right then, than from one of the EAW’s many prior postings.
“No, Madam. It is not possible. Let us try make like this way and go fast behind, thank you, please.” “Why we are around the bush beating all day long?” “Today I am standing beside of myself…” “Mee-tah, where are you come?” Or simply, “thank you very big!” However variously nonsensical and/or inaccurate, these displays are always certain to elicit roars of laughter (the more indigenous alcohol already consumed, the louder the laughter) and invariably set the stage for hours of happy one-upping by every other EAW in the room who has ever spent long enough in “the field” to be cognizant of the fact that local people were, in fact, speaking with an accent.
In order for local accent mimicry to have optimum effect, it is of critical importance that the EAW never seriously contemplate the possibility that it might actually be offensive or distasteful. Given the hours they’ve spent bonding with their driver, accruing hardship pay in hardcore postings, and the clear statements of commitment to the greater good they’ve made by going native, the EAW’s altruism and general goodwill and deep respect for all humanity should be obvious. They’re not demeaning anyone or making fun of anyone. They’re simply finding beauty in the panacea of human behavior and basking in the glow of being one with all of humanity.
Of course the crowning irony is that in many parts of Africa (one all too convenient example), local school children can be heard mimicking the White Accent which they think is INSANELY funny!
The adults around them smile and shake their heads. They know that one day these cheeky little ones will grow up and leave their childishly ignorant ways behind them.