Do I Have An Accent?

Antonio   Thursday, April 17, 2003, 02:13 GMT
Cidade de Deus é genial, vale a pena ver!
É um tipo de documentário. Nem tudo é verdade na história, mas vale a pena de se ver.
Jim   Thursday, April 17, 2003, 04:06 GMT
I'd say it's true that there is a difference between the coastal and outback Australian accents. The Aussie accent does vary throughout the country. The variation isn't as great as it is through the British Isles or North America but that could have something to do with the size of the population and the length of time that people have been speaking English there. There are other variations besides the coastal verses outback ones in the Aussie accent. Someone from Sydney would sound a little different to someone from Melbourne.

Antonio, I'm not sure what you mean by "The open 'a' sounding like the english 'i' ..." I think you mean that the diphthong in "day", "mate", "they", "rate", etc. in the Aussie accent it sounds like the diphthong in "die", "might", "thy", "write", etc. in the English accent. This would be true but to put it this way is a bit misleading. Most English speakers pronounce the latter diphthong in a similar way. The difference is that Aussies make less of a distinction between to two. The distinction is there however. For Aussies the two diphthong starts in different parts of the mouth. Kiwi's do this too. If this isn't what you meant, could you give us some example words in which this "open 'a'" is found?
KT   Thursday, April 17, 2003, 09:18 GMT

I totally agree with you on "How can you like better your or any given country, if you have never been to any other?" But I'd rather say, "How you can understand better your or any given country, if you have never been to any other?"

Without comparison, we could have never found out that a lot of our habbits are actually different from those of people of other origins. Things are not always "supposed" to be in the way that we are used to. At least not to people of other culture. Of course that includes both the good and the bad. Knowing another culture helps us to appreciate the good that we have and to realize the bad that we need to improve. And ultimately, helps us to understand about ourselves. Anyway, back to the accent thing.

Here is my question to everyone here:
Does Accent == Identity?

Recently I came across an article written by a Singaporean on the web. He complained that lots of Singaporean, both students and working adults, started speaking wiht a very strong American or British accent, and he thought it was a "slave and master" mentality. "To change one's accent after three or four years in a foreign country is almost like forsaking one's identity and home. To change one's accent without even having lived in another country is even worse. " (the original can be found here:

What do you all think?
Jal   Thursday, April 17, 2003, 09:18 GMT
Some people from small country towns tend to develop a sort of a lazy (we say ocker) accent.
javier   Thursday, April 17, 2003, 10:47 GMT
I would like to give my opinion about KT said,

I 've read the article written by this Singaporean and it seems to me interesting. I obviously speak with a Spanish accent, but in my case I don't care about it, since both pronunciation an accent are united, and in my case I cannot part with my accent. However, in Spain, we usually learn English through a variety - American or British- and therefore we tend to try to acquire a slight American or British accent respectively. I think it's a personal question, and I don't see a bad thing to choose an American, British or Singaporean accent.

"To change one's accent after three or four years in a foreign country is almost like forsaking one's identity and home. To change one's accent without even having lived in another country is even worse. "

I don't agree with this assertion in my case. Anyway, if I want to show where I am from , I prefer to do it through Spanish, not through English. English is not part of my identity
Antonio   Thursday, April 17, 2003, 18:05 GMT


Yes. I only mentioned 'liking better one to another', but of course that could be extended to 'understand/comprehend better' yourself AND the others. One shouldn't judge another culture if he has never had contact with another one culture besides his own one. But we do, don't we? ;-)

Knowing another culture also helps us noticing how much we have in common!

Question: Are those people faking BE or AmE accents using it properly, or even a Singaporean (or any non-native to AmE or BE) would be able to tell that isn't genuine right off??
I really don't think a faking accent should be used. You won't be able to keep up with it and it does not show who you really are. Besides, acquiring an accent to be better understood or to sound better to the citizens of other country is different from trying to speak just like them. The former has nothing wrong as I take; but the second does. When I try faking an accent I always sound stupid and silly.
If people in Singapore do speak English that well, partly due to the fact that today English is also a local language, and they have their own accent; they should be proud of their accent and use it! It's not like a portuguese speaking English, whose language isn't English but Portuguese. English is their language.

Answer: Yes... I really think accent == identity. The explanation is quite simple: how could I be English if I didn't speak English (my language)? And a people must have an accent (special, personal trait) so to differ themselves from other peoples who do speak English as nacional language too. If I'm british but talk like an american, I shan't be that british. Shall I? Language is probably one of, if not the most important nacional caracteristic.

It was said once that british try hard to keep their accents away from the americans so to keep their identities away from the americans too. When I was younger, when people got to know I was brit they ALWAYS told me I was americans too. or simple confused my `ID`("you like the americans don't you... UK and US are the same thing"). And of course I am NOT american at all. I have nothing in common with them besides the fact that I speak English and live in America (Brasil).
KT   Friday, April 18, 2003, 06:58 GMT
After spending years in the States, I no long speak with the same accent as my friends' back home. Partly due to the fact that I have corrected some of the mispronounciations I used to have, and partly because I was surrounded by Americans and I picked up their accent without noticing it.

It's funny when non-Americans (such as some European friends, including British) recognize my American accent right away, think I am American, and are surprised when I tell them I am not. But it doesn't take long for most Americans to notice my foreign accent. And guess what? As soon as I open my mouth (speaking English) back home, people immediately ask where I came from or where I learned to speak English.

When my friends in my country speak in English, it's hard to tell whether it's an accent or just words mispronounced . For example, they would pronounce "th" as "f" or "d" such as "thanks" as "fanks" and "something" as "somefing" and "them" as "dem." They also pronounce "r" as "w" such as "rewind" as "wewind." "V" is usually pronounced as "w" too . For example, people named "Vincent" would introduce themselves as "Wincent." "N" is using missing or pronounced as "l" like "new" as "lew", and "raining" as "wai-ling." I think these are not really an accent but mispronounciations, . But when majority of them speak in such way, do you call it an accent?

The reason of the weird pronounciation being passed along is that even the teachers can't pronounce correctly (even professors in colleges.) One of the characteristics of my friends' spoken English that I don't consider as mispronounciation is that they speak word by word. (Should I follow them?)

When I ask my American friends about the pronounciation of a certain word, of course they would pronounce it with their American accent. Hence I learn the pronounciation of the word with an American accent. And they would correct my pronounciation till I say the word exactly the same way they do.

Have you ever pick up words your friends like to use? My friend like to use "in terms of" and "indeed" a lot. After hanging with him for a while, I use these terms just as much as he does. (Yes I did beat him up for his bad influence :)). Well (He picked up "well" from me, tho), I think picking up an accent from people around you is the same. A friend from Maryland speaks with a slight Long Island accent after hanging out with her roommate who came from Long Island. Both of them are native American-English speakers.

Well after all, I guess I agree with "accent == identity." But I disagree
with that Singaporean writer's point about "To change one's accent after three or four years in a foreign country is almost like forsaking one's identity and home. " I've never attempted to change my origin (you can't change it anyway.) My accent is different from my friends' back home so as my identity. My identity DOES include the fact that I spent some time in the States. If I try hard to speak with the same accent as my friends back home as if I've never lived in the States, it's just as bad as I try to speak with a British accent. Do you agree?

Should I call my friend Vincent as "Wincent" if that's the way he pronounces it?
Jim   Friday, April 18, 2003, 08:40 GMT
I've read the article. Thanks for mentioning it. It was very interesting. I mostly agree with what the writer thinks except I think that there is more to it than neo-colonialism. Also, I agree with KT about changing "one's accent after three or four years in a foreign country". There is a distinction to be made between those who perposefully change their accent and those whose accent just changes inadvertantly. If whilst living in Canada I picked up a bit of a Canadian accent and some Canadian expressions you can't blame me. I didn't do so on purpose but if it happened it was just an unconcious effect of living there.
Antonio   Saturday, April 19, 2003, 02:29 GMT

I think it's quite normal for people to acquire some expressions and even to modify their accents when they go and live in another country. People must adapt. I don't think it comes on purpose. It just happens normally.
If in your country you have a pronounciation of your own, I do think that could be caracterised as an accent of your own too. That of course if English is also a national language( people learn it from school ad use it on the streets... ). We always get some of our friends' manias. No doubt. That's the way humans interact.

If your friend calls himself by `Wincent`, i suppose you should call him that way too... I believe that `corruption` of the English language isn't bad. Orientals are known to not have some of Ocidentals phonemes, so it's okay if they can't pronounce some things as we do. English is now their language too ( given from the Colonial age ), and as so, like the American, Canadian, Kiwi or Aussie English, very different from the BE. All these regions pronounce the same words very differently. The fact is that we know more about their English than we know about the Singaporean or any other. Most people don't even know there are more counties that speak english than US, CA, AU NZ (...) In the Channel Islands they speak with french accent. So what, they are closer to France than to Britain.

I myself have got many expressions from friends without noticing it. Perhaps just to become `matey`.
KT   Saturday, April 19, 2003, 12:00 GMT

I think accent cannot be corrected but mispronounciation should be corrected. A friend once said "seafood" but what he meaned to say was "civil." I understood what he meaned only because I guessed it from the context. The British professor whom my friend was talking to was totally confused. So I "translated" for him. My question is, if other people cannot understand what you are trying to say, should you leave it the way it is or try to correct your pronounciation? And that raises another question, where do you draw the line between accent and mispronounciation?

After all, not all my friends have trouble pronouncing words correctly. So it's not that they can't do it, it's more about whether they would ever get the chance to learn the correct pronounciation.

I've just started learning German and found it hard enough just to pronounce the alphabets! (Hey I've never needed to widen my mouth to such extend just to say "e"!) But I believe having a good teacher/tutor and working hard enough my German can be comprehensible one day. :)

Btw, what do you think about Mel Gibson's accent in the movie Braveheart?
Antonio   Sunday, April 20, 2003, 03:51 GMT

Hey ya. Mel Gibson ...? Have no idea! I think I could tell he was faking it, but no more.

It is really annoying when people (native) correct you all the time. The French are said to do so a lot. But it should be brought to one's attention that he/she isn't "passing the information" right. Accent (strong accent) is only a problem when it hinders comprehension. I believe that some people will never master a language, and so their pronounciation will always be a mess... But most tend to speak quite clearly after learning the language with a strong basis. No doubt, if one is learning a foreign tongue he/she should be more exposed to conversation by his/her teacher. Grammar is important, but also - and even more - the way that tongue is used in reality. You may only need to be able to read and write a bit. But in most cases people will learn English to travel abroad and that means having to exchange information with many different people of many different backgrounds. Thus pronounciation becomes more important than knowing even an "basic-intermadiate grammar".
If you try to say "civil" but I get "seefood" something is very wrong, isn't it?
KT   Tuesday, April 22, 2003, 07:00 GMT
I always think communication is all about understanding each other. I agree it's annoying to be corrected by native speaker all the time. But I actually asked a friend to correct me when he spots any mistakes and I do appreciate the effort because I am learning from it.

I don't know if I should correct my friend who pronounces "civil' as "seefood" though. He also says "test wip" when he means "test rig." It may be impolite to correct him since he has never asked me to help him with his pronounciation. But if I don't, I feel like I'm encouraging the wrong pronounciation.
Antonio   Tuesday, April 22, 2003, 14:57 GMT

I think just the same as you do. Correcting without being asked to may appear as impolite and even haughty (specially when done by natives). But why don´t you tell your friend, when you get a chance, that you ´figured that he sometimes pronounces x, y and z words in a improper fashion and so people understand different things not what he meant´. I think if you put it in a subtle manner he won´t feel like you´re correcting him, but rather helping.

see ya
Cat   Saturday, May 03, 2003, 04:53 GMT
I think that if people get offended or annoyed when corrected, it is because of their own pride, and they miss out on a learning experience.

As for correcting your friend, the next time he says "seafood" ask him, "Do you mean "civil?" This will probably be a lot better than saying something like, "It's pronounced "si-vul."

A comment posted a while ago stated that Americans who try an Australian accent can't do it worth "nuts." I think that's very true. I've never heard an American speak with a decent accent. I have to admit that I've tried myself, and like someone said, it went British.

I think accents are fun. They can be a part of your personality, whether or not they're natural or practiced. Every one has different sides to their personalities, and accents sometimes help a certain side of you stand out. If you haven't figured this out already, I'm an American. Now at work, I definately don't use accents. I try to remain as professional as I can. I'll use a British accent when I feel like goofing of with my friends, or when I feel like bugging my history teacher. I never try an Australian accent in front of other people. I only try an Australian accent when I feel like bugging myself.

I guess you could say that my accents are fake. But I think what I've said applies to people who have more authentic accents. Do you ever notice if your accent changes a little depending on who you're with?

I think I've said enough for now. Later.
KT   Saturday, May 03, 2003, 08:00 GMT
My accent definitely changes when talking to different people. I realize that since I left the States, my "R's" is more relaxed. For a while I try to imitate British pronounciation of words only to see how it is different and try to get used to the pronounciation. I've never tried to talk with a British accent. I just can't. Even if I can speak with a British accent I still can't speak like a British simply because I'd say flashlight, elevator and trash instead of torch, lift and rubbish.

Accents are fine as long as people understand what you're trying to say.