The Fast and the British

When I tell people from back home that I am spending the year in London, a common question I am asked is, “Do you have any difficulty understanding the British accent?” I usually let out a  laugh and respond with “What are you talking about?” in the most pathetic attempt at the Anglo inflection (I’ve been told by a Brit that my English accent is “absolutely ghastly.” Yup, it’s confirmed. I suck). The only person that I have ever heard with a worst accent than myself was Anne Hathaway in the painfully bad movie, One Day. If you don’t believe me (yes, if you’ve ever heard my British accent, I know it’s difficult to imagine one worse) watch the trailer. But don’t let the uber-catchy OneRepublic song fool you into thinking either a. Anne Hatheway doesn’t sound that bad or b. The movie looks cute! (No, no, it is terrible.)

Oh, but to get back to my point (DON’T WATCH ONE DAY…oh, wait, my other point), I have found that, generally, I haven’t encountered much difficulty understanding English people. However, I have noticed that more people here talk at alarming speeds. A fellow classmate of mine is “super keen” as the Brits would say (meaning very studious) and always has great points to contribute to the class discussion. But there are two problems, neither, of which, would be unmanageable if they existed own their own, however, the fact that these two tendencies coexist presents quite the aural-obstacle.

Okay so the first is that this classmate uses the academic jargon and speaks in the same style as the literature for the class. I don’t know how familiar anyone here is with political philosophers (e.g. John Rawls, Joseph Raz, Robert Nozick, David Parfit, etc.) but they are not always the most accessible. However, that is not to say that they are entirely incomprehensible (when read in a quiet room). Ahh, but here lays the problem, let us add condition #2: The need for speed.

I’m not too sure if it’s a result of nerves, a deluge of thoughts, or an incessant fear that a catastrophic event will occur before she can finish conveying her idea, but this classmate talks fast, like really fast. She speaks at such an accelerated rate that I have trouble comprehending the meaning of her sentences. While I catch each individual word, every sentence seems to evade me. It is as if my mind cannot process the sentences at the speed at which, I hear them. Just imagine Nicki Minaj rapping this:

“The only thing that permits us to acquiesce in an erroneous theory is the lack of a better one; analogously, an injustice is tolerable only when it is necessary to avoid an even greater injustice. Being first virtues of human activities, truth and justice are uncompromising.” (John Rawls, A Theory of Justice 1971)

It has come to the point that I simply have to type the words as I hear them and not even attempt to make sense of what is being said. Then, after I have all (or most) of the words in front of me, I read the sentences (at a normal speed). Then, after a minute after my she has made her point aurally, I’ll give this classmate (who conveniently sits right next to me) a jab and a thumbs up (with an exaggerated wink and awkward contortion of the mouth) to commend her for her astute point. However, to be fair (since we’re talking about Rawls and all—wow, I just made a political theory joke, my blog must be on the decline), this speed talking has not been completely disadvantageous to me, I honestly believe that I’ve become a faster typer from this weekly workout.

Perhaps that will mean more frequent blog updates! Stay tuned…


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