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frivilous post - a question on accents for our american friends

frivilous post - a question on accents for our american friends

Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:22 AM
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frivilous post - a question on accents for our american friends

On the ever contentious post about how to spot an american tourist, tudorprincess commented that she didn't think she had an accent.

This got me thinking. As I'm english, obviously tudopriness, to my ears, would have an american accent. Similarly, every time I speak to a non-native english speaker, even if they have an immaculate knowledge of english, you can always trace their origins by their accent (italian or whatever).

But I remember once meeting an italian student who spoke english with a slight american accent mixed in with his italian accent this, it transpired, was because he had learnt English on a years study programme in the US. This sounded just weird to me at the time.

So my question is, as most Europeans learn english english rather than american english, can you hear a trace of an english accent? Or do they just speak english with, say, an italian accent?

Stupid, pointless post I know, but Im just curious.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:28 AM
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Kate, I think mainly their native language comes through in their accent.

My daughter spent a year studying in Tenerife. When she returned to California, her Spanish sounded very odd to Mexicans, but also was odd to the Spaniards she met when she traveled to Madrid. There are so many regional accents that it's hard to pinpoint any one accent free zone.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:31 AM
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Before I even contemplate your question Kate, I still need to come up with an answer on how it is that the Gallagher brothers from the band Oasis require subtitles when they are interviewed on American tv, yet sing without a hint of an accent.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:34 AM
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When I was in Paris last trip, the Concierge at the hotel spoke perfect english but I could tell that he learned in England. His english, even thought there was a french overtone, had a definite english accent. King Abdullah of Jordan speaks the same way. He went to school in England and you can really tell when you hear him speak...so I think you are correct in what you are saying.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:34 AM
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You can spot the native speaker of another language who's learned english english rather than american english more easily through their word selection then their accent - although sometimes the latter is possible.

There's a hostel not far from our apartment and we get a fair number of tourists from there in some of our neighborhood restaurants - and sometimes it's hysterical to see the waiters (chinese, indian, mexican or whatever) try to figure out what a German or Dane or Italian speaking english english is talking about. Serviette instead of napkin is my favorite - causes a huge amount of confusion.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:35 AM
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My boyfriend is Czech and he's been in the US for a total of three years. When his friends come to visit they make fun of him because he has an American accent when speaking English.

Funny though, he's met other European people who haven't spoken much English and they've assumed that he's American. But probably because he's more comfortable with the language, or they're just not able to recognize his Czech accent because they haven't spoken to many native english speakers.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:37 AM
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Kate,
I do think the British accent comes through as well as the native accent when Europeans speak English.

I've also noticed this a lot with people from India, who often have a Hindi AND British accent at the same time.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:37 AM
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Yes, the place in which a person learns English as a second language makes a difference.

I grew up in Southern Africa, with a Hungarian mother who learned English as a young adult. She speaks English mainly with a Hungarian accent, but a Hungarian accent moderated by a South African accent.

I've spent most of my adult life in Canada. Most immigrants to Canada speak English with a mainly German / Chinese / Russian / whatever accent, moderated by a Canadian accent.

I've also lived in Australia, and observed the same phenomenon there. People from Europe and Asia speak mainly with an accent that is recognisable from their country of origin (India, Hong Kong, Macedonia, whatever), but there is a slight Australian inflection.

My husband chuckled on one of his business trips to London. The British counterpart with whom he was to have a series of meetings immediately said to him, "You sound like a South African Canadian," and of course he was dead right.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:38 AM
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Ryan, I heard someone explain once that singers open their mouths and throats more to sing and that is how Americans speak so accents are lessened. I did hear English rap, which definitely had an accent.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:38 AM
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Oh, and I do notice a difference in "accents" when his czech friends come to visit, as they've learned English english and he's learned American English. I can tell a difference, mostly in the sound of words such as American "can't" as opposed to the English "caahn't"
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:39 AM
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... not to mention Americans have accents without the USofA...

And I know I hear accents within other languages...the English ... French ...

Wonder what an Italian who learned to speak US English in Birmingham, Alabama would sound...?
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:44 AM
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Definitely. When I lived in Russia, The Russians we met who learned English in Russia learned British pronunciation and spoke with a British accent -- although their Russian accents were also obvious. Many of them asked us to teach them how to pronounce words with an American accent. The Russians we met who had learned English in America or from Americans had a distinctively American accent (i.e. Mid-western). One fellow we knew could actually imitate different American accents -- Brooklyn, Boston, Southern etc. I was amazed at how a foreigner could detect the differences and be able to change his accent.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:46 AM
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When someone says, "I don't have an accent," and they are not joking, I always view that person as very narrow-minded. It's almost like saying, "They way I speak is normal, the rest of you are different."

An accent is a matter of perspective. Maybe in your hometown people do not perceive that you have an accent, but when you travel around the country or the world, you definitely DO have an accent, because the way you are speaking is different from the locals. Having an accent is not a bad thing, as there's no right or wrong accent. We are all different and that's what makes the world such an intersting place.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:50 AM
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Kate, sorry I posted before answering your question. When I meet a European speaking English, I can absolutely hear an English accent combined with the accent of that country. However, if that person has come to the US to live, most of the time the accent will change to reflect ours. There is a guy working in my office who is Dutch. He has now been here 5 years so his accent has adjusted, but when he first came to this country his accent sounded Dutch and slightly English. Now his accent is slightly Dutch, but mostly he sounds like an American.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:53 AM
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PM:

Rather than viewing that person who really believes they don't "have an accent" as "narrow-minded" perhaps you might simply consider them to be "misinformed."
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 06:56 AM
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OK, Intrepid, I'll go with that.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 07:02 AM
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Its different how each person picks up accents. I would say on first meeting people assume I am born in Ireland (Dublin) after talking for a while some people catch changes in my accent but if I am mad....the NY accent flies out and run for your life!

I saw a girl from China workking in the supermarket and when she spoke she had a heavy Dublin accent. after a few while I could hear some of her Chinese accent but it was a really thick Dublin twist. How cool was that!

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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 07:04 AM
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Just ask them to say "Aluminium" and that all sort out the sheep from the goats.
Or "Moscow" - British English speakers say "Mosc-owe" whereas American English speakers say "Moss-Cow".

Actually, in my experience, many Russian natives seem to speak American English (maybe learning from listening to Voice Of America and Radio Free Europe in the old Cold War days, as opposed to the BBC World Service?).

Dr D.
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 07:08 AM
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I'm Dutch, and studied in the US. After that, I had an obvious American accent in my English. I then went to work in London, where people laughed if I said diaper instead of nappy, or "tomayto" instead of "tomahto". After 9 years in London I would say my English sounds English now, not American, although the Dutch will always come through!
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 07:14 AM
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Fascinating stuff, paticularly the comments that British singers singing without an accent - we think they sing with an american accent!

I can't hear my accent when europeans speak english, but then of course I don't have one ha ha
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