When we started chatting and he asked me what I do, I replied that I do research on vowel measurement, which he found hilarious. (Maybe he heard a /b/ rather than a /v/ at the start?) But then we started talking about problems with speech in Brunei, and he said that people here often mistake his two for three, which he finds hard to understand.
Actually, it's not too difficult to explain it. You need to know three things:
- In the UK, we tend to have a fronted /u:/ vowel, whereas in Brunei it is a fully back vowel. So it is not surprising if people in Brunei hear a British /u:/ as /i:/.
- People in Brunei tend to have [t] rather than [θ] at the start of words such as thing and three. So in Brunei, three often starts with [tr].
- In Malay, an initial /t/ is unaspirated, so two sounds a bit like do in Britain. As a result, an aspirated /t/ at the start of two can easily be misheard as [tr].