My accent. It’s a-changin’

This week I became acutely aware of the fact that I’ve been losing my North American vowels. I knew previously that I had adapted to UK vocabulary and perhaps even grammar, and that because of this I was starting to sound “foreign” to my friends and family in the US. But now I’m pretty sure that I also have started to neutralize my accent in response to the local pronunciation. Think to-may-to, to-mah-to. I’m not yet at the point of saying “bawth” and not “bath” but I’m somewhere in-between. And every time I hear myself doing it, I’m surprised. I am from Minnesota, but the south, Twin Cities area, and I’ve never had the “Fargo” accent. But it’s clear that the twang-y letter A is the first thing to go after you’ve lived in the land of RP for a while.

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11 responses to “My accent. It’s a-changin’

  1. *furiously snickering* (and nodding cause I know it all to familiarly)

  2. My accent depends on who I talk to. That’s why I find myself saying things in the supermarket I’d never say at home. Whea ah the lemons? I also hit that T pretty hard.

  3. Ha! How interesting that you still spell it “bawth” not “bahth”. To me, “bawth sounds like “north”.

    I definitely add “r”s here and there. Like in that sentence, for example. I used to say ‘heah and theah” but now I say “heahr and theahr”. It’s only a little “r”, but it’s there.

  4. I scared myself the other day by saying “zed” – I forgot what letter came next in my name (I’m technically an Elizabeth) because I was so startled!

  5. I suggest a quick trip up the A1 every few months to get those long “a” sounds flattened out again! 😉

  6. I learnt/learned English in high school in the Netherlands, the British way. Then I moved to the US and learned it the American way in Oregon, which is a rather “neutral” American accent.

    Then I lived in Africa and had an Irish friend and when we would spent time together I’d find myself imitating her, but not purposely. It just happened.
    Then I’d come home to my American husband and reverted right back. I find I often use British English phrases and words when I am with British friends and tone down the American accent.

    Of course English is not my native tongue, so maybe that is why my accent and vocabulary changes at the drop of a hat ;). I don’t do that with my native Dutch when I’m with people speaking in different accents.

  7. One odd thing that you may have noticed is that whilst most people in southern England say ‘Bahth’ the residents of the city (along with northerners and your fellow Americans) pronounce it with a short ‘a’, i.e. rhyming with ‘bad’.

  8. Funny thing I’ve noticed that my Kiwi accent is waning too, and in a way that makes me feel a little sad. How do you feel about losing your accent? Is it sad? Or simply a relief to ‘fit in’ in the land of RP?

    • I have mixed feelings about it. I doubt I’ll ever sound truly RP but I definitely don’t sound American when I’m back in America. I just figure it’s part of the overall experience. (And sorry for not seeing this until now, it somehow landed in the spam folder which I had not checked for a while!)

  9. First, it was good to meet you yesterday!

    I wasn’t really thinking about it, but I wasn’t struck by non-US elements in your speech. I suspect you’ll end up in a sort of middle ground, sounding slightly foreign to everyone. I know that’s my own fate! If I go home (up north), people say that I talk ‘all southern’. Down here, they look at me after just a few sentences with the sure knowledge that I’m not one of them. 🙂

  10. Bawth??? I can’t think of any British accent that says “bawth” for bath!

    @KathyF, I think you need to listen more carefully! Brits don’t actually say “Whea ah the lemons”. That would be a classic giveaway of someone trying too hard to sound British. The r is still sort of present in ghost form and reappears as “linking r” between two vowels (or sometimes it may be replaced by a glottal stop). Also, unless you were stressing the word “are”, it wouldn’t be “ah” but “uh”, thus “where uh the lemons? I thought the[r]e we[r]en’t any but actually there AH some.”

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