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Basically i'm an English person looking for work in IT in Australia and I realised the other day that there is a word that will come up multiple times a day and is pronounced completely differently; English people say the word "Data" like "Day-ta" and Australians pronounce it like "DAH-TAH".

It's quite probable that when the D-word does comes up, we'll need to use it in quick succession to each other kind of like below:

Can you write me some SQL that takes only the DATA we need for orders? Sure where is that DATA stored? The DATA is stored in the customerorder table. Okay when i'm finished how should I check that we are getting the right DATA? Test your SQL in our UAT database, make sure the DATA there is synchorised. Okay what do I do if the DATA isn't synchronised? etc. etc.

It's a little distracting that we're both saying "DATA" completely differently; mainly because i'd also be wondering if it could be construed that i'm being some how passive aggressive if i'm adamantly sticking with the English pronunciation. On the other hand I might look a bit of a potato if I am choosing to pronounce just one particular word very differently.

When I do eventually get work in IT in Australia and inevitably have a conversation with an Australian about "DAH-TAH", what would be the accepted polite social convention; should I imitate the same pronunciation "DAH-TAH" even though it's not native to me? or should I stick with my English pronunciation?

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    This sounds more like a question for interpersonal.stackexchange.com – Mark Rotteveel Oct 6 '18 at 5:38
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    "It's a little distracting that we're both saying "DATA" completely differently" Why? There are countless examples of words being pronounced differently (e.g. the word "why" itself has at least two pronounciations). It is only a problem in practice if it is too fast for you to understand what is being said. But in this case you obviously understand each other. In technology especially there is no right way to say terms. Some say SQL as "sequel" and some as "ess-queue-ell" for example. Mac OS is "macoss" or "mac oh ess" and the list goes on and on yet we somehow understand each other just fine. – Brandin Oct 6 '18 at 5:46
  • "should I imitate the same pronunciation "DAR-TAR" even though it's not native to me?" - Just say words as you would normally; if it is someone's name you can adjust appropriately (e.g. the name "Jan"), but not for vocabulary words. If you are explaining vocabulary to someone you might explain it has another pronunciation but only if you are in a teaching context. E.g. "This is the DATA ('DA-ta') command, or 'DA-TAH' as some pronounce it." – Brandin Oct 6 '18 at 5:55
  • Don't worry about it, you're not the first Englishman to work with Australians. Some Irish accents are difficult to decipher but never heard of a problem with English. – Kilisi Oct 6 '18 at 17:47
  • Even within England there is variety in pronunciation - particularly the north/south divide for words like bath and glass. As long as people understand you're talking about data, just move on. – HorusKol Oct 6 '18 at 22:34
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I discuss data and databases with Australians pretty regularly. Also beta release of software (which I say Bayta and they say Beeta.) And I discuss schedules with English people. I also send emails or write documents that refer to colour, behaviour, and plenty more.

And we all figure it out. Where the difference is due to an accent you can totally ignore it. You just keep using your accent and they just keep using theirs. If you miss something, they might need to prompt you or use another word or spell something. Some self deprecating humour like "sorry, please speak slowly for the foreigner" or "how many repetitions is it going to take for me to get that?" may ease any tension. Overall, it's fine.

(Well, usually. You may be interested in How to handle hostility in interviews? which turns out to be an accent problem if you read the edit history to see the specific misunderstandings that occurred, with the interviewer asking about "an empty array" and the interviewee hearing "an MTRI" which is apparently a linguistic concept.)

Where things get tricky is when someone pronounces a word differently from you and it's not an accent. I knew two different people who said "pacific" (to my ears) for "specific" so I would hear "if you have a pacific reason for doing that," and get distracted from the conversation as a result. The solution to that is working harder at paying attention and trying to remember each person's quirks. But for your accent example, relax! Don't pre-worry about a problem that really won't happen.

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  • As a British-Australian the only word I've forced myself to pronounce differently since coming here is route/router... but that's because of mildly immature reactions of Aussies (and myself) to root/rooter ;) – HorusKol Oct 6 '18 at 22:32
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If the accent still allows communication, then don't worry about it. That is what you are asking about. You grew up in region X and you are working with people who grew up in region Y. The two groups pronounce some words differently.

If it is a new word to the community you may find your self morphing into their pronunciation, but that will occur naturally. If it is an important word like the name of the project or of key component of that project you may find yourself motivated to make the switch faster. Peoples names are always something you work to get right.

I am from the US. I have worked with people from the UK and Australia. The small number of words pronounced differently don't cause problems.

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I've lived in Australia most of my life and I say "day-ta". Australians are familiar with the idea that not everybody speaks English exactly the same. The only way it's likely to be a problem is if it impedes understanding, or if they dislike English people in general (in which case, changing pronunciation is unlikely to mollify them).

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