American citizenship, New Zealand accent


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The Bluffton News-Banner reporter Frank Shanly’s world travels introduced him to three “languages.”

He grew up speaking the king’s English in his native New Zealand.

As an adult he lived in Japan off and on and learned enough Japanese to communicate with new friends there.

After immigrating to the United States in 2004 and finding work as a journalist, he had to acclimate to American English.

Shanly, a U.S. citizen for the past 14 months, said New Zealand-speak doesn’t crop up in his writing as much as it once did. But he’s still getting used to some aspects of living in Indiana.

“I can be talking away and the people will be scratching their heads,” Shanly said.

The language and cultural differences produced fodder for humor columns Shanly, 50, has written about his adventures in linguistics.

One explained New Zealand definitions for “dummy” (a baby’s pacifier) and “bugbear” (a very inconvenient problem).

News-Banner editors got accustomed to Shanly’s writing quirks, said Mark Miller, publisher and general manager.

“When we edit his stories we have to watch for him sneaking in some of the king’s English,” Miller said.

Shanly accepts American vs. New Zealand English correction – it’s “recognized” not “recognised” and “license” not “licence” – with good humor, said News-Banner assistant editor Dave Schultz.

“It’s fun working with him and seeing the community of Bluffton, the state of Indiana and life in the United States through his eyes,” Shultz said.

In his homeland Shanly worked as a computer programmer and hosted a public radio show for fellow amateur wrestling fans as a hobby.

After moving to America he found a job as a sports writer at The Bryan Times in Bryan, Ohio, though it was only part time.

“But at least I was in America,” he said. “This was like Christmas for me. Covering sports was a lot of fun.”

Shanly was impressed with the range of sports open to high school students in the United States.

At his all-boys school in New Zealand, rugby was a compulsory winter sport, and cricket was optional the rest of the year.

“We had nothing else available to us,” he said. “Coming up here and being able to cover basketball, wrestling, baseball, softball, football, volleyball and all the other sports really made me wish I had been able to go to school in the USA.”

When a full-time writing gig didn’t materialize at The Times, Shanly started applying at other newspapers. He accepted his job on the county government beat in Bluffton in 2007.

The job was a boon on two fronts.

Full-time employment meant he could stop depleting his savings. And his reporting duties helped him learn about the U.S. system of governing for the citizenship test he was working toward, he said.

Shanly got up to speed on the intricacies of his beat, Miller said.

“I’ve been impressed with how he’s been able to get a handle on our goofy form of government,” he said.

Shanly’s swearing-in as a U.S. citizen on Jan. 8, 2010, marked the end of an often-frustrating effort to find better opportunities outside his island homeland.

“It was a huge relief,” he said. “It was 15 years of working toward something.”

Shanly had explored living permanently in Japan in the early 1990s. When that didn’t work out he applied to immigrate to the United States for seven years before he was accepted. Then he spent another six years in the country before becoming a naturalized citizen.

Now routine tasks that require ID – like renewing a driver’s license – are much easier and don’t require an OK by the Department of Homeland Security.

“I’m a citizen so I don’t have to go through any extra hoops to apply for anything,” Shanly said.

One thing that’s still a tough spot for Shanly is Indiana’s climate.

In New Zealand the temperature rarely drops below 30 degrees in winter, and most of the country doesn’t get snow.

“The cold winters really kill me here even now,” he said.

Driving on the right side of the road was another adjustment, especially in big cities where he didn’t know his way around, he said.

Though he’s adapted to life in Bluffton, Shanly’s accent makes him stand out to the people he meets, Miller said.

“I think they find it kind of delightful,” he said. “It’s different. It’s not an accent you hear on an everyday basis in the middle of Indiana in a small community.”