Friday, June 29, 2007

Simon Li stresses me out

Today marks one week since Simon Li's last day as Friday host of CBC's "The Current". You can read and listen to parts of the show on the CBC website (e.g., here). Since his first appearance on June 1st, I've been asking myself what I think of him and the answer keeps coming back that he bugs me.

As the blurb on June 1 says, "while he's new to the CBC, he's not new to the radio-waves. Simon Li is the long-time host of 'Power Politics' on Toronto First Radio, a Chinese-language current affairs program." It does appear that Li was host back in February as well. Li is an MA student in History at Queen's University.

It seems that Li is originally from Hong Kong, which leads to what bugs me: his accent.

I find this hard to accept and that's why it's taken so long for this post to see the light of day, but it seems I can't escape it. I'm not sure why this should be. I listen to learners of English from all over the world every day and don't have any problems with it. I hear many experts interviewed on the radio and TV who have much worse English than Li and yet I focus on what they're saying, not their accents. I can listen to announcers with Australian accents, South African accents, Jamaican accents, Cockney accents and French-Canadian accents and none of them trouble me at all. So why do Li's broadcasts cause me such discomfort?

I think there are a few factors:
  • He seems to be working very hard to be crisp in his pronunciation, yet he swallows a lot of consonant clusters and finals that are clearly pronounced in standard English. (e.g., McJob comes out as /mdʒɒ/).
  • He makes me work just to understand him. There are times when I have to think to recover words that I've missed.
  • His voice quality doesn't do it for me aesthetically. He's got one of these androgynous voices.

What really kept needling me though was his habit of stressing the final noun where we would normally stress the modifier. For example, we would usually say soccer ball, but Li would call it a soccer ball. Here are some examples from his broadcast:

  • Li was host of the Friday edition, but he kept saying the Friday edition
  • the Ipperwash inquiry
  • our Toronto studio
  • specific findings
  • Dudley George
  • Fighting words

This seems to jive with general findings that it tends to be the suprasegmental aspects of accent that bother people more than individual vowels and consonants.

1 comment:

alienvoord said...

He doesn't stress me out, but I do have to listen to him carefully.

I love the piece he did on "McJob" where the dictionary editor said "The purpose of a dictionary is not to make people feel good about themselves."