I had never worried about my pronunciation of English words until migrated to Australia. I suppose we made the same errors while pronouncing English words owing to the influence of our native languages and as ‘ignorance is bliss’ we felt contended in each other’s company. Things could be different now in my place of origin, especially in the metropolitan/tech cities. Indian accents have been stereotyped in media and mocked almost everywhere in the world. Let me remind you of the characterisation of Appu in ‘The Simpsons,’ which as pointed out by Indian Americans is nothing short of racism. Australia is no different as none can deny the existence of subtle racism in the country and typical Indian accents are sure to invite jibing and racial or ethnic slurs.
National Policy of Languages can state whatever some policy makers want but the prejudiced or the bigoted will continue to be derisive when they hear accents that are different from the typical Aussie accent. The policy’s emphasis is on embracing the different varieties of English in Australia and it advocates tolerance as shown below:
The English used in Australia has been modified by its speakers/writers to adapt it to the new demands and needs of its environment. These Australian contexts of use for the English language as well as the other language backgrounds of the users of English in Australia have led to the evolution of uniquely Australian varieties of English. The national character of Australian English is accorded positive recognition in this policy. [Page 7, National Policy of Languages -Multicultural Australia]
When I analyzed the root cause of this hugely different pronunciation, I realized it is because of the absence of phonetic transcription in the syllabus which should have been mandatorily incorporated into the kindergarten/Primary school languages syllabus. Lower Kindergarten (as it used to be called) educators to Sixth Standard teachers could benefit from a professional development course in phonetic transcription as they then become equipped to transfer the skills and knowledge to the little children who are enrolled in the primary schools. I became aware of phonetic transcription and learnt how to read the phonemes only when I was a Bachelor of Arts student enrolled in Linguistics subject. By then it was too late as I had to unlearn the acquired pronunciation and learn how to do it right. Habits do die hard as in unguarded moments or when rambling I sound Indian than when I pronounce words with deliberate consciousness. I taught my son pronunciation of English words using Flashcards available in the News agencies for purchase. The focus was on phonetic transcription in an indirect way, in the sense they use letters for the sounds and not the symbols.
Let us not be the laughingstock anywhere in the world when it comes to pronunciation. Let’s learn to do it right through phonics!