14 September 2010

Scenic Sport

In my previous post, I mentioned the poor English of signs in China, often caused by depending on a dictionary rather than someone with reasonable competence in English.

However, in this sign, the writer has clearly not used a dictionary, as any dictionary would tell you it should be spot rather than sport.Before I went to China, I was under the impression that most learners of English in China follow an American model. However, it is unlikely that anyone with an American accent would confuse sport and spot, because of the /r/ in sport. In contrast, someone whose pronunciation was based on British English might well make this mistake, as there is no /r/ in sport in a Southern British accent, and the two words can easily be confused by a speaker with no vowel length distinctions. In fact, pronouncing sport and spot identically is common in Singapore. (Maybe the sign-writer actually came from Singapore!)

I was told while I was there that many young people aspire to speak American English, because it is regarded as modern and cool and also because they watch lots of Amercan films (sorry, movies). But the overwhelming majority of speakers still aim for a British accent.