Do I Have An Accent?

Jim   Monday, April 14, 2003, 04:40 GMT
I was digging around in the archive again and I came upon [an old topic which has been removed] in which Das Behälter wrote "I don't consider myself as having an accent."

Of course you have one (unless you don't speak). Everyone who speaks English has a accent. Mjd hit the nail on the head when he wrote "You probably don't hear your accent," It's impossible to speak without an accent.

Someone else said that there are Americans who are "accent deficient" with speech which is "very bland", "very flat, and quite boring". Regardless of how highly you may esteem this accent it is an accent none the less. If by "bland" you mean "boring", that is one thing but if you mean "weak" then I think that you're mistaken.

I'm Aussie so, to me, this "bland" American accent sounds strong whereas the Aussie accent sounds weak even non-existant. I'm sure that the London accent sounds as strong to a Dubliner as the Dublin accent sounds to a Londoner. The strength of an accent is determined by how different it is to your own. It's a relative thing not an absloute one.
mjd   Monday, April 14, 2003, 06:34 GMT
Absolutely. If I was in Australia, there's no question I would have a "strong" accent. My accent and speech is unlike that of a native Aussie. I often wonder what the American accent sounds like to others (especially other native speakers of English). You'll sometimes hear British or Australian comics and actors imitate an American accent and often they're quite good (if you listen carefully, you can usually pick up certain hints of their being English, Australian, Irish, etc., but if I were to run into one of them on the street I would probably think them a native speaker). I can think of Jude Law (The Talented Mr. Ripley) and Russell Crowe (The Insider) off the top of my head. As far as Americans imitating accents, I think Gwyneth Paltrow does a very good British accent.

I also wonder what English itself sounds like to non-native speakers.
mjd   Monday, April 14, 2003, 06:40 GMT
corrections...."If I were in Australia...."

"I would probably think them a native speaker".....I meant native speaker of American English...i.e. an American.

cmhiv   Monday, April 14, 2003, 07:11 GMT
The guy who played "Boris" in James Bond's Goldeneye, a Scot, does brilliant American accents. Daniel Day Lewish does a very good America accent as well; just as good or even better than this other person (who I cannot remember his name now).
Cricket   Monday, April 14, 2003, 07:25 GMT
From the few times I've heard Americans imitate the Australian accent, I can say that Americans can't imitate the Aussie accent for nuts. It just sounds out of whack, something that is very exaggerated and tending towards the British accent. It's usually very commical. I think the reason Aussies can do an American accent so convincingly is because they are widely exposed to it via TV, movies, and music. Plus, to have success in Holywood you need to master the American accent.
CJ   Monday, April 14, 2003, 07:36 GMT
American dialect,... I can't hear it except for the southern and eastern region. Can you hear it, Cricket? What other dialects can you hear? Is there a distinct northern or western American dialect? BTW, are you native Australian?
Cricket   Monday, April 14, 2003, 07:55 GMT
To answer your last question CJ, yes I'm a native Australian living in Melbourne. I can usually identify the different American dialects, for example, watching TV I can pick out a person with a bostonian accent compared to a bronx NY accent or a texan accent. But this is as far as my knowledge on American dialects go, which is pretty much limited to what I hear on TV, movies and music, and the information I gain from this english forum under certain threads discussing American accents. BTW, from your comments, I'm assuming that your also not an American. If so, what is your nationality and what accent do you have?
CJ   Monday, April 14, 2003, 08:00 GMT
I'm a native Missourian from the USA. People say I have a southern accent, however I sure don't have the twangy southern accept. I can hear that thick accent when I am in Texas or Tennessee. I don't hear it, at least!
Cricket   Monday, April 14, 2003, 08:35 GMT
CJ, I believe that there are variations within any particular accent. To the ears of nonsoutherners, you probably prounce words in the distinct way southerners pronounce them. Accents are also very relative, ie. someone who has been around southerners most of their lives will be able to identify the specific variations in the accent from those that are very strong to those that are mild or similar to their own. It's the same with the Australian accent, which has specific variations that only an Australian or a person that has lived a long time in Australia will notice. For example, I have a friend from Tasmania who tells me that Melbournians have a very 'straight' accent. However, to my ears, my friend has a more British/New Zealander accent. To an American, we probably both sound the same, ie. formost in the American's mind is that we have Aussie accents.
CJ   Monday, April 14, 2003, 08:39 GMT
i guess I'd have to hear you and your friend talk to hear the difference.
jal   Monday, April 14, 2003, 08:47 GMT
When I go to germany at the end of the year I want to master the german accent. I was born in australia and am a native english speaker. Does anyone think this is possible? Any tips?
TDS   Monday, April 14, 2003, 10:50 GMT
to jal: it's possible but you'll have to spend some time here, just listening to the people of the region talk to pick it up. what city are you planning on visiting in Germany?
Antonio, accents abroad   Monday, April 14, 2003, 12:38 GMT

I always ask myself what should I sound like too. I am british ( a dual citizen, actually - british and brasilian - ) but moved to Brasil when I was very young ( 4 years old ). To a non-native speaker I sound 100% british, and the americans always say the same thing... "you sound very british". That´s a´course before they know I am. But if I were to talk to another british I am sure he/she would get some accent from me. If it helps anyone (speacially those non-natives) understanding; one bloke from Manchester once told me " people would know your´re from abroud at once because you speak too good english to be english. British people are lazy." (??:); and another one from London, when I asked if my accent seemed foreigner, he told me: "no, you talk a little different, it´s the way you speak".
I know that for sure, since I hardly speak any english here in Brasil ( Brazil for non-natives :). Unlike my sister, who after coming from the UK continued to speak and who also teaches in a British school, I hardly use my english; but none the less my english is far more british than my sister´s. She has a 'mangled' accent because she for a long time taught in an american school. As a result her accent is a mingle of both (BE and AmE), though excellent and clear!
The whole point, I think, is that I have no defined (regional) accent, and in the UK that makes a BIG difference. I have no doubt that in a short while I would relax my accent so to sound more "local". I was told that I often sound a bit snob. But living outside UK I preferred speaking a clear language.

I and my sister lived in Chelsea (London) and, it is from that place that at least my sister got her accent from.

I suppose all the british in here are far too acquainted with the accent-thing that british people hold.

So, do I have an accent? I don´t know. But I would like to keep some traits of, not foreigner, but somebody with 'international influences'... Otherwise I would deny what I am and what makes my different from those 60 million other English. I was brought abroad and that modified me - for better ! -

Some people ask what does the accent sound to a non-native. I suppose I can answer that when I´m speaking english and when I´m not. Speaking two tongues has that advantage.

Anyway, let´s go further on this peeps!

Till then!
Justin   Monday, April 14, 2003, 13:39 GMT
I'm English and I have a particularly "plain" accent as the region I'm from doesn't have a well defined accent of a large vocabulary of regional slang. When I was at univerisity, people couldn't tell where I was from, but I could guess where other Britons were from. So in the UK there is definitely some neutral accents as well as heavy ones. Plus if you meet people who have had private education, they mostly have the same accent not matter where they are from in the UK, as they have been taught English formally and correctly. This is probably what you sound like Antonio?
To Justin:   Monday, April 14, 2003, 14:18 GMT
I don´t know really, Justin... may be so.
I still want to get that answer LOL
But probably.
I read somewhere that those who are most likely to stay close to "RP" (near-rp accent) are those who have learnt English as a second language, for they have 'absence' of regional accent, and according to the very English definition of RP; that´s what RP is about ( a accent without regional influences and so, somehow, more comprehensible to anyone, native or non-native ). I suppose I would fit in that case perfectly. Though I don´t know how to classify myself, except that I would probably fall into the Southern group :-)

See ya