After I wrote the post about Britishisms, I got to thinking about my own use of language. I mix and match both American and British English all the time. And I don’t have a clear accent of either one. People who hear me speak know that I’m a native speaker but they don’t know where to place me. When they find out I’m Dutch, they immediately presume I’m not a native speaker.
This really bugs me. I’ve been speaking English since I was three. I first learned to read and write in English. I can express myself so much better in English than in Dutch.
But where would I place me?
I guess I’m an international native speaker of English: someone who’s spoken English since they could speak but learned it at an international school from people who come from all over the English-speaking world. Apart from the States and Great Britain, I also had teachers and fellow students from Australia, South Africa, Canada and Ireland.
I sometimes don’t even know when I’m using an Americanism or not. Once when I was in the States I was asked where I wanted my bag. I told the guy to just put it in the boot of the car. I found it on the back seat. I first thought, ‘What a wanker, why did he ask and then not do it?’ Only later I realised I used the British word for trunk.
I have the same problems when writing a story. I situate it in England and half the words are American. I ask a British friend to read through it and mark all the places where she would use a different word. It always surprises me how much changes. Apartment becomes flat, for example. It’s not that a Brit won’t understand it, but it makes a story situated in England more authentic.