My Foreign Language
It’s the words “shone” and “about” that display it most prominently. These are words that, even though I have worked hard for sixty years to pronounce them the way my fellow Americans do, there is just a hint of an accent when I say them.
The truth is, I speak a foreign language. I speak the language of the country of my birth. Spending the first ten years of my life in that country speaking its language has left me with a definite accent. In the United States, “shone” rhymes with a man’s name. But in the country of my birth, it rhymes with “bone.” Here, “about” rhymes with “shout.” In parts of the country of my birth, it rhymes with “boot.”
I was born in Canada, but in a part of Canada that has very close ties to the United States. Less than one mile of river separate Windsor, Ontario from Detroit, Michigan. Many people cross that river each day, in both directions, going to and from the place of their employment and their residence. My father did it for nearly two decades.
When I was ten years old, my father led his family across that river one more time as residents of Canada. My parents bought a home in Lincoln Park, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. I had completed four grades of my education in Canada. Fall of that year, I started fifth grade in the USA.
This required some adjustments from me. I had to learn to pronounce certain words, like those mentioned, differently. I had to remove the letter “u” from many words, like “colour”, “neighbour” and “saviour.” My American word processor has underlined those words as I typed them, indicating I have misspelled them. This is even though my word processor is actually from a company headquartered in Toronto, Ontario.
I am an American citizen, by the way, and have been since birth. I even have a certificate from the United States Immigration Service stating my citizenship as the son of an American citizen (my father was born in Detroit). Since I have not done anything to renounce my Canadian citizenship, I may very well have dual citizenship.
There is one thing, however, that I would like to clear up about my Canadian accent. Where I lived, Canadians did not usually end their sentences with a little word that Americans think all Canadians use, a little word usually spelled “eh” and pronounced to rhyme with “day”. “My car needs new tires, eh.” “It’s going to snow today, eh.” “You going to the states next week, eh?”
This word is used in parts of Canada, but it is also characteristic of speech in some parts of the United States, especially certain areas of New England. In Windsor, most people simply say, “My car needs new tires.” “It’s going to snow today.” “You going to the states next week?” Oh, and by the way, contrary to what some Americans think, most parts of Canada have four distinct seasons, not just one. In fact, where I was born in Canada, we had to travel north to get to the United States. If you don’t understand that, just look at a map of the Detroit-Windsor area.
In spite of my experiences living in two countries, and speaking, as it were, two languages, even though both of them were English, my US citizenship and my Canadian citizenship are both temporary things. You see, I am planning to move out of both countries one of these days. I secured my citizenship in a new country many years ago by being born again. When I get there, I am very certain all the citizens will speak the same language, although I’m not certain exactly what language that will be. I doubt it will be English, either American or Canadian style.
What I do know is that the land of my citizenship is free from the things that have marred my citizenship here. Things like strife. Wars. Illness. Death. And taxes! My new country has streets paved with gold, they say. And when I get there I will be forever more with my Savior. Or Saviour.
I hope to see you there. You can get there from any place in the world by trusting Jesus by faith. You can get there from Canada. You can get there from the US. Eh.
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