My Korean Husband

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How to say Tomato?

How to say tomato?

Actually the Korean pronunciation of tomato (토마토) sounds similar to British/Australian pronunciation, but Hugh said many Koreans think it sounds cooler to say it the American way. As if it’s some example of English speaking skills and a way to show off! Many Koreans have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with American English which means they will judge other’s pronunciation of words if they don’t sound American. It’s unfortunate because Korean English speaking skills on a whole would benefit from exposure to more accents, not just an American accent. Foreign English teachers in schools are told to speak with an American English even when they are not North American. This obsession with the American accent, which they are already exposed to anyway, hinders Koreans when they have interactions with English speakers that have a different accent. And there are many types of English accents!

I have no problem with Americans saying “tomato” in a way is natural for them, but I scolded Hugh for saying it that way when there was no need to. He still gets judged on the way he speaks English, usually by Koreans who don’t speak English anywhere near as well as him! There is an idea many people have of how English is supposed to sound if you speak it well, but the reality is quite different. When a Korean adopts a strong American accent when they are not a native speaker (and haven’t been to the US) it can sound very jarring, especially to native English speakers that have a different accent. To me it sounds better if an accent is something that happens naturally and is not forced. So usually Hugh has a Korean accent and says some things in an Australian way and still has some slight tenancies he learnt in The Philippines.

I hope Koreans don’t continue to feel pressure to speak English in a certain way, even though it seems that I’m pressuring Hugh to speak the Australian way! hehe

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We had just come back from Seoul when he said this. I was so disappointed that there wasn’t little piggys on the farm. But it’s funny because I start to make mistakes too. After being in Korea for so long, in English I do have problems with some sounds that should be natural for me but are difficult for Koreans. I find it harder to differentiate between B and V now. F and P is still okay for me, but for Hugh, even speaking English every day, it still trips him up.


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Even though my husband understands the correct pronunciation of English words, some words will still come out in Korean English. And sometimes it’s quite funny. My siblings like to set him up so he says certain words. “Beach” and “Beaches” is one that he just can’t get right. If I get him to repeat after me, he may get it on the 5th try. For other words like “fork”, which in Korean English is “pork”, if he says it without thinking he’ll say “pork” but very easily he can change to the correct pronunciation of “fork”. “Beaches” though… it always sounds like something else.

My Korean teacher (who is Korean) often made fun of the Korean way of saying “beach” and “beaches”. He said too many Koreans who come to Australia say things like this, “I love Australian bitches!” when of course they mean “beaches”. Or they ask someone, “Excuse me, which way to the bitch?” Hehe. I know what they mean but others who are not used to the Korean accent may not.

“Sit” is another one that can be funny because they may change it to a “sh” sound, which completely changes the meaning of the word! Even my teacher who has been in Australia for years and has good English still accidentally said to a student, “Please shit anywhere.” He realised immediately after and laughed pretty hard.

Another problem Koreans learning English have, is differentiating between the F and P sound. English F (also PH) words are said with a P sound in Korean so Koreans have to practice their F sounds a lot when learning English. Sometimes they practice so much that they begin to even say English P words with an F. When saying something like “park” and changing it to “fark” it can sound pretty close to a bad word! Learning another language can be so stressful but there can be some really funny moments. I’m sure once I know more Korean I’ll be accidentally saying some bad things.

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