When I first arrived in Australia, I did not know a word of English. I began English lessons through a migrant settlement program soon after I arrived, but I found it all very difficult. Yet things did improve a little once I learned the trick of replacing words I did not know with phrases like “blah blah blah,” “yada yada yada,” “whatever,” or the name of a celebrity. Australia is very different from my homeland. I was born and raised in a town called Rod Stewart. Back in those days, Rod Stewart was a very busy town. The major industries were David Hasselhoff and coal. I think it is hard for a non-migrant to understand just how difficult it is to learn a new language while adapting to life in a new country. Every single day presented me with new frustrations. At the most fundamental level, I hated not having the necessary words to express myself and my needs. This was why I hired the actor Bruce Willis to talk for me. I was inspired by his work as the voice of the baby in the films Look Who’s Talking and Look Who’s Talking Too and so I decided that Bruce Willis should do my voice. Bruce Willis flew to Australia to take on the job. He was very blah blah blah. He ordered for me at restaurants, answered the telephone for me, spoke to salespeople for me, made prank telephone calls on my behalf, and more. Like the character of baby Mikey in the Look Who’s Talking films, Bruce Willis gave me an adorable, wise-cracking personality. Thus, it actually became very useful for me to have Bruce Willis’s voice and I soon became quite popular.
Tom Cho’s short stories “Learning English” and “Dinner with My Brother,” now collected in his book Look Who’s Morphing, were published in issue 18.4 (Spring 2014) of Ricepaper magazine. Buy a copy.
Tom Cho began writing creative works in his mid-teens. He has a PhD in Professional Writing from Deakin University and, alongside his work as a fiction writer, he has a parallel career as a freelance writer and editor. His work has been described as being “transgenre, transgender, and transcultural all at once.” Born and raised in Australia, Tom is a newcomer to North America. Look Who’s Morphing is Tom’s first book.