Have you ever thought about your accent before?
I grew up in the north of England. Northerners are known for having a strong accent. (Think Ser Davos Seaworth from Game of Thrones). And there are so many colloquialisms that it is almost another language altogether. YouTube the Geordie accent if you have no clue what I’m talking about.
Now, despite growing up surrounded by this gritty, hearty accent, my own accent was always much softer. From a young age, I was always aware of the way I was speaking. I wanted to talk properly. Perhaps this is because of my love of the language, or of structure. Perhaps it was because I read a lot and was also read to often from a very early age. I’m not sure why, but I never developed a strong Northern accent.
My accent diluted further when I went to live in York for University. I spoke too fast and had to learn to slow down so that people could understand me. But it was when I moved to California that I really started to notice my accent.
The people here would comment on my accent when I met them. “I love your accent!” they would say. And sometimes I would get, “Are you from Australia?”. Have you seen ‘Love Actually’? One of the guys goes to America to meet girls because he thinks he has a “cute British accent”. Well, that’s what it felt like – I had the “cute British accent” and I kind of loved how much people loved it.
But the more time I have spent here, the more I have adapted my accent. I went from saying tom-AR-toe to saying to-MAY-toe. And I cringe inside every time it comes out of my mouth, but it does make life a little bit easier when you don’t have to repeat yourself twenty times. Adapting seemed like a small price to pay to live in this amazing place. After all, I have always been a bit of a chameleon.
Every year for our holidays (vacation), we would go to Scotland as a kid. And I LOVED the accent of the people there. I would mimic it as much as possible. I have always had a fascination with interesting accents and tried to mimic them for fun. Scottish is an example of an accent that I think stays with a person more easily. I doubt that many people from Scotland lose their accent when they move to another place. But perhaps I am wrong about that? Perhaps it depends on the person rather than the accent. I know people from the UK who have lived in other places with strong accents, South Africa for instance, and their British accent remained as strong as ever. Yet, my sister went to live in South Africa for a year and came back with the accent (although she went back to speaking in her regular Gerodie accent after a sort while when she moved home).
So, despite adapting my accent to be understood more easily, there are some things that have stuck with me. I still say ban-ar-na, for example; and c-ar-n’t; and bin rather than garbage can etc. So now I have a hybrid accent and I’m not sure how much I like it. People don’t hear right away that I have a British accent when I speak now and I miss the idea of having that “cute British accent” – I felt sexy and exotic with it. But I also don’t mind my hybrid accent. I am part of both worlds. I am both British and American. And my accent reflects that.
Do you adapt to where you are? Or do you have no choice but to keep the accent you grew up with? Leave a comment 🙂