I had the privilege of leading a group of foreigners to the office of a tourist company. I am not a tourist guide and neither do I run a company. And the people I escorted were not tourists either. My guests wanted to learn about ecotourism and how it works.
We were supposed to meet the ‘high level’ contact; instead a ‘former’ tourist guide, who now runs the office, greeted us. He was extremely polite – before we could sit down, had ordered tea, juice or water for us.
I introduced my guests to the man and briefed him the purpose of the visit. After apologizing on his boss’ behalf, the man started talking. I was surprised by the things he was saying and the passion with which he was trying to convince us. That is good. But the moment he opened his mouth, I felt like being shown in front of a large crowd, naked. Certainly, he didn’t feel that.
He sounded like an American or was he trying to sound like one? And at some point of the conversation his accent became artificial. In his thick artificial accent, the man told my guests how his tourism company makes efforts in curbing the waste issues on the trekking routes by advising the visitors not to dump garbage carelessly. We listened to him talk about the whole tourism policy in Bhutan and how that is helping the nation sustain its environment.
At a separate incidence at Paro Tshechu this year, I accidentally ran into an old schoolmate. But that is just to say that I saw him leading a group of tourists. Back then he was known to be a very shy and reserved person. He proved me otherwise – here’s a confident young man leading a pack of foreigners, who are eager and curious to know about almost everything including a small piece of mural painting on the wall. And lo, he too had mastered the artificial accent.
I am wondering – in order to communicate and communicate well with the foreigners, do we really need to have a native accent?
Don’t the foreigners understand the way we speak English?
Or do we really need to cultivate artificial accent?