How does american accents sound?

Ashley   Sunday, July 06, 2003, 21:18 GMT
I'm from America, so English is my native tongue. To anyone that doesn't live in the usa, how does our accent sound? even people that are british. Say we americans have accents, of course i don't hear it, I just wan to know how it sounds to people that don't live in the usa.
Chantal   Sunday, July 06, 2003, 23:39 GMT
It's easier to understand and more nasal than British accent to my ears. It's cooler.
game   Sunday, July 06, 2003, 23:40 GMT
It's light and fluent.
Jim   Monday, July 07, 2003, 00:07 GMT
In general, to me it isn't easier to understand than a British accent. As a native speaker I have no difficulty understanding either. You have to make the obvious exceptions: "strong" accents like some Scottish ones or some Southern US ones. What's easier or more difficult to understand depends on what you're more used to. My Aussie accent is closer to British ones so they are easier for me to understand.

The American accent certainly ain't cooler than any other accent, less so if anything, but that's a matter of taste. I used to dislike the American accent but I've met so many decent Americans my opinion has changed. I have nothing against the accent. People are people and accents are accents ... no matter how badly their governments and corporations behave ... but this is not a political forum so I'll shut up now.

I'd say it sounds nasal, though the Aussie one is nasal too, maybe it's a different part of the nose. It sounds sharp probably because of all the /@/s where we'd have /a:/s and all the /a:/s where we'd have /o/s. Also there are a lot of /r/s.

/@/ as in "rat".
/a:/ as in "rather".
/o/ as in "rot" (the rounded Aussie/NZ/British one).
/r/ as in "heart" (pronounced /ha:rt/ with the /r/).
NZer   Monday, July 07, 2003, 01:50 GMT
As a New Zealander this is how I'd describe an American accent:

more nasal
lots of r's
'wider mouth sound'

It is very hard to describe, it just sounds different. Personally I don't like the sound of most American accents, but I have heard some from the East Coast that sounded allright, I guess because the sentence rhythm was a little different.

As for my own accent, I know exactly what it sounds like after spending a year in Europe and North America, to most ears a NZ accent probably sounds really weird, quite similar to the aussie one though. THe vowels are a little different, they think we say 'fush and chups' but we hear them saying 'fiiiish and chiiiiips', to us it sounds miles apart but to an american this 'iiiii' and 'u' would probably sound the same.
Jay   Monday, July 07, 2003, 02:55 GMT

There are around ten "recognized" regional U.S. accents, and there are probably hundreds of smaller groups of accents. Then again, people in the U.S. are so mobile even these groups get kind of mushed up. I'm from Illinois, and run into different regional accents all the time. 'Course, I also think people from Springfield and points south sound "southern", but that's just my ear.
y   Monday, July 07, 2003, 04:03 GMT
What exactly does nasal mean?
Rugger   Monday, July 07, 2003, 04:13 GMT
Most American accents sound very nasally to my Aussie ears, however, I find that I have preferences for different regional U.S. accents. For example, I like the Bostonian accent (eg. accent of Winchester from MASH and Fraser) and even like some southern accents, but the New Yorker, Bronx accents aren't as appealing because of the harsher, more nassally pronounciation of words. I also tend to find that I prefer the Canadian accent over the American accent for some reason. I suppose I find humour in the American accent when I hear words such as herb pronounced as erb or when the colour Khaki is pronounced Khak-ee and not the car-key way that I pronounce it (note, khak sometimes means poo, so Khak-ee is probably apt for the colour). Also, I find that the American accent sometimes sounds a little like the Irish accent.

In terms of whether the American or British accent is easier to understand, I would tend to say the British accent because as Jim mentions the Aussie accent is closer to the British ones. However, taking into consideration the numerous dialects within England such as the Scouse, Geordie, ect. and the slang associated with each, I think that the American accent and American english may actually be easier to understand because I have been exposed to much of it from telly, movies and music.

In like manner, I'd like to ask Americans if they can distinguish between the Australian, New Zealand, South African and British accent. The reason I ask is that I stumbled upon a British expat forum in which all the Brits living in the USA were flabbergasted and outraged that they were first identified as Aussie instead of Brit by many Americans, and many Aussies in the site complained that they were always asked which part of England they were from. I can understand confusing the Australian, New Zealand and South African accents (even though to me they are vastly different) but why can't Americans distinguish the British accents from these. Is because of lack of exposure of these accents via the media?
Rugger   Monday, July 07, 2003, 04:23 GMT
Talking Nasal is talking "through your nose". To me a nasally voice or accent is like talking with a blocked nose when you have a cold.
Ryan   Monday, July 07, 2003, 05:00 GMT
I've read before that American, along with Canadian English, is distinguished mostly by where it is focused in the mouth. They are pretty far back in the mouth for English speech. England and Aussie tend to be in the middle of the mouth. Scottish and Irish more toward the front of the mouth.

.   Monday, July 07, 2003, 10:54 GMT
Antonio   Monday, July 07, 2003, 12:49 GMT
I have only met one South African in my life, and I took some 10 seconds to do the ´friend-foe´ checking... Everybody aroud told me he was brit, but when he spoke his very first words I could tell right off he wans´t from the UK.
So I asked myself ´if he is brit, something must have happened to his accent - long time abroad -; or , everyone is wrong, because they were not native, and he is NOT from the UK´.
After considering the aussie accent, US, UK´s (scottish/irish/english/welsh), Canada and kiwi, none matched. So I shot: ´Are you by the way SA?´ He said ´yes´ ;-)
Yet I could tell that time his origin, I can´t describe a SA accent even in my mind. They are so uncommon!

The Canadians I recognise by the ´soft american accent´ and mainly, believe me, the way they dress. :-) Brit canadians, of course, since the other side makes no question of speaking English at all.

The kiwis are often regarded as having a terrible accent, but I like it ( personally ); and I think most people would onfuse them with brits ( brits from the UK - since I usually take the aussie and kiwi accents AS british, though they have many different traits ).
Simon   Monday, July 07, 2003, 13:10 GMT
A friend of mine - SA parents but English born - once told a black friend of his that in South Africa he'd either be a Blick or a Bleek. Needless to say he wasn't that impressed.
shana   Monday, July 07, 2003, 13:14 GMT
Do you know the guy on "Lonely planet" ? What's his name ? 'Ian' something. I always thought he was British until my brother told me he's Australian. For me, he had a British accent as I can't distinguish between English and Australian accent.
Julian to Rugger   Monday, July 07, 2003, 22:10 GMT
I usually can differentiate between an Australian accent and a British accent. To my American ears, the Aussies speak with a distinct twang and a “sing-song” cadence; contract their words a lot more than Brits and Americans do, and use words and phrases that are uniquely Australian. I’ve encountered several Americans, though, who can’t tell the difference. Nor are they aware that there are many regional accents in the UK, apart from the "Queen's English", "Eliza Doolittle's English", and Scottish brogue (which invariably gets confused with Irish, and vice versa). It all depends on your level of exposure to foreign accents. Unfortunately, our media exposure to UK & Australian accents are limited to token characters on network sitcoms and motion picture generalizations. (Cable and dish subscribers have a wider selection: BBC America; Ab-Fab and Monty Python reruns on Comedy Central; CNN; the Croc Hunter; and MTV). Also, quite frankly, many of us Americans just aren’t too worldly (we tend to be a little too self-absorbed, if you haven't noticed), and so we naturally assume that if it sounds like a Brit, then it must be a Brit. (Of course I'm generalizing, so don't freak, fellow Americans).

On the other hand, I have trouble recognizing differences in Australian and New Zealand accents. I took a tour through Europe several years back, and traveled with a group comprised of Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans. When I mentioned to my new Aussie friends that I couldn’t tell the difference between their accent and the New Zealanders, they acted all offended and protested, “We do NOT sound like the Kiwis!!!” They proceeded to give me a brief lesson on the differences, but I still had trouble differentiating between the two. In turn, my Aussie friends told me that they couldn’t differentiate between Americans and Canadians. I gave them a few pointers, but they still had trouble telling the difference. (As a side note, it was quite humorous hearing the Aussies and Kiwis trade barbs about each other – all in good fun though, despite it getting quite heated and off-color at times. When the Aussies and Kiwis egged the American and Canadian contingents to go at it, the Canucks had a lot of ammunition, but we Americans could barely come up with anything, until a fellow American cracked, “How can you expect us to talk about the Canadians? Until this tour, we didn’t know such a thing existed).

As for the South Africans in our group, there was a couple who sounded British (RP) (and at first I thought they were), but the other South Africans had a very distinct Dutch inflection in their speech.