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To consider changing my accent?

(47 Posts)
SoThisIsHowYouNameChange Sat 07-Sep-13 15:33:15

This is a bit light hearted. I would like to discuss the issue, but my personal question is mostly hypothetical as I'm not overly worked up about this.

I have lived in the UK for eight years, and still have a completely American accent. I know some people pick up the accent where they live, but I have not at all.

I know some people get elocution lessons to lose a strong regional accent. I was wondering if it would be nice to have a bland, rp accent. I get tired of people asking whereabouts in the States I am from, because it's boring to have that conversation over and over all the time. And, I know that some people have prejudices about Americans.

Would it be utterly ridiculous to try and change my accent?

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Sat 07-Sep-13 21:44:36

I'm sure it's just an ice breaker and people are just trying to get to know you! Try not to be too intolerant of people asking where you're from and trying to find some common ground- even if it is tiresome. To be fair, I've met Americans who've responded to my statement that I live in London by telling me that they've been to Paris.

YANBU, even though I speak with a cut-glass RP accent after more than a decade abroad. My accent haschanged, but only insofar that most of the Cockney has dropped out and I speak more slowly. Probably to some other English expats this sounds affected, but it works for me - people understand me better. I sometimes get jokingly asked if my school was like Eton or Harrow and I have to tell them it was more like Grange Hill.

Happily, the main result is that get told about various holidays of a lifetime, and trips to the Tower, York Minster, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and so on. It makes for pleasant conversation, although I'm not majorly interested. If, on the other hand, I thought I was on the receiving end of prejudice I would change it straight away.

Be careful though. DW is also foreign (but not English) and she has taken on some - but not all - of the local accent. She reverts to her original accent when talking to me, but at other times she sounds a bit strangled and forced.

FarelyKnuts Sat 07-Sep-13 21:16:10

I was born and raised in Australia with an Irish mother and Aussie father. I now live in Ireland and have a local accent (not deliberate) of the county I live in but certain words still sound Aussie apparently. I pick up the accent of anyone I am speaking to, it embarrasses the life out of me and yet I can't seem to help it.
Don't try to force yourself to change your accent, you are who you are. People will likely think you are trying to mimic them and that gets embarrassing too grin

ILikeBirds Sat 07-Sep-13 21:05:35

I change accents really quite quickly, not quite sure why. I thought initially it may have been because my parents both had different accents and we lived in a place with a third accent so I've never grew up speaking with a distinct accent but having said that my sister has lived in Australia for many years and still sounds completely English.

After living in America my accent was decidedly mid-Atlantic which I hated. I wouldn't have minded American or British but I hated the somewhere in between accent.

Although it clearly passed as American to some as shortly after I arrived back in the UK someone asked me if it was my first visit to England (I was born and raised in the UK for 21 years!).

GrandstandingBlueTit Sat 07-Sep-13 20:54:32

No, don't do it. Haven't you seen that Friends episode with Stifler's Mom?!

I'm Antipodean and lived in the UK for 13 years and my accent definitely softened. I was surrounded by English and Irish people and worked for an American company, and so just didn't hear my home accent anymore. By the time I left, I'd spent a third of my life in the UK, so it was sort of inevitable that I would pick it up a bit. I would still get ripped to shreds from people back home for sounding 'posh'.

I think to consciously change your accent would open you up to too much scorn from people, and would make the issues you encounter now with your American accent pale in comparison. smile

Zoe999 Sat 07-Sep-13 20:53:43

oh the fake posh thing doesn't fool me and I'm not English! A few times I felt like saying to people, 'look, if you're not fooling me, give it up'.

Re accents 'slipping': I certainly sound a lot more German when tired and I hate how I sound whenever I have to listen to my recorded voice (I use dictation at work a fair bit).

Naw, don't change, even if you could convincingly most of the time grin

asmallandnoisymonkey Sat 07-Sep-13 20:42:58

My sister in law decided to start putting on a fake "posh" accent when she went to university, as opposed to her natural Essex accent.

When she gets angry or drunk she reverts to the Essex accent but most of the time she just sounds really stuck up and silly. It's hilarious.

Please don't change your accent - accents and colloquialisms makes us all a bit more interesting.

Zoe999 Sat 07-Sep-13 20:40:22

I was only ever conscious of my accent if I had to complain about something. Then I felt that they might be thinking 'typical, never happy!' or something like that. I felt like I was representing my country when I complained that my coffee was stone cold.

Thinking back, actually I did feel my (vaguely) American accent stuck out like a sore thumb when I first arrived in genteel Shropshire and I made a deliberate attempt to tone it down.

Now native Scots tell me I sound Irish (or like a Highland Scot confused) grin - better than sounding like a Nazi in some B-movie I suppose...

Zoe999 Sat 07-Sep-13 20:25:45

Sassh, I agree, it does so depend, eg anybody Irish I know that moves to America ends up wth an American accent as I thnk the irish accent morphs into the American one naturally after time.

Vagndidit Sat 07-Sep-13 20:12:40

No advice, OP, just a shoutout from another Buckeye-stater. O-H-I-O!

I've only been here for 3 years but I can certainly empathise with the frustrations of sounding American. I am tired of having to answer the question of how I am enjoying my "visit"...most recently by a parent at DS's school. It's no wonder he gets no birthday party invites

Blueberryveryberry Sat 07-Sep-13 19:56:56

I am assuming you can 'pass' for a British person meaning you are white so count yourself lucky.

Some of us have to deal with BS about going back to where we came from, etc. or people writing on medical notes 'good English' God knows why

Up to you of course. Good luck OP, I also thought of elocution lessons in the past, but that wouldn't change my brown face.

SoThisIsHowYouNameChange Sat 07-Sep-13 19:41:02

Even Americans don't think I have picked up any accent at all
.

But I do use British words and expressions.

SoThisIsHowYouNameChange Sat 07-Sep-13 19:39:18

lifesgreatquestions Do you mean the "whereabouts are you from?" conversation? It is boring! If I go somewhere off the daily beaten path, where I may meet new people, I can have it a dozen times in a day. And the answer (Ohio) is boring. They usually give me a blank look, then tell me they've been to Florida. I know they mean well, and are just showing a polite interest, but I've learned from it not to comment on the most obvious things about people. grin

Snatchoo Sat 07-Sep-13 19:31:44

It would be really, really weird. The people you don't know might not notice if you're really good at it, but what about your friends and family? They'd think you were a right nobber bit like Madonna

PS - I'm originally from the Home Counties and now live in Liverpool, I use the words but my Scouse is terrible!

reggiebean Sat 07-Sep-13 19:29:24

OP, I'm American, and have been here for two years. It's been completely unintentional, but I've picked up a hint of an accent here, so I just sound a bit like Madonna, and now, instead of people asking me where in the States I'm from, I just get a weird look, and "Where are you from?!"

It's nice sometimes because I don't get the (very obvious) prejudice that I did when I first moved here, but sometimes I do miss sounding like I'm from "somewhere" rather than "anywhere", IYSWIM?

Crowler Sat 07-Sep-13 19:24:59

I"m American and have been here for donkey's years and I can't even FAKE an English accent. I'd be surprised if you could pull this off.

lifesgreatquestions Sat 07-Sep-13 19:23:26

It is a boring conversation, I've had it for over 15 years. If it helps, I'm so used to it that I don't even really hear it anymore.

Zoe999 Sat 07-Sep-13 19:20:20

No don't change your accent!

I can understand why people want to rid themselves of a strong regional accent when they move to an area where the accent is more neutral (to avoid being dismissed or put at a disadvantage) but when you're American what is the point pretending you're local! Being American isn't going to harm you or hold you back. It's not hard on the ear.

sashh Sat 07-Sep-13 19:16:58

Why do some people's accents change when they move and others don't? Anyone know?

I think it depends on you keeping your own accent. I kept my Yorkshire accent for 10 years. I then started working in a hospital and many of the patients were elderly and couldn't hear well, but they understood me better if I used a Lancashire accent (hospital in Lancashire) so I ended up with a Lancashire accent.

Since then it has been mixed with a couple of other regions and can cross counties in one sentence.

A couple of years ago I was pulled over by the police in Lancashire and heard this strange Lancaster accent come out of my mouth. I was thinking, 'I don't speak like that' but that is what was coming out.

My brother still has his Yorkshire accent after 10 years i Lancashire and 20+ in Cornwall.

Oh, how interesting!

My first language is German, I learnt US English pre-school age, then lived back in Germany and moved to Britain 20 years ago as an adult. I've lived in England, but most of the time in Scotland. I have different German and English accents depending on where I live, but not deliberately.

My accent changes depending on what people around me sound - I am sometimes embarrassed by that as I don't do in consciously and sometimes feel a bit 'spineless' that I cannot just sound like me (whatever strange muddle of English that would then be).

SoThisIs, I totally get where you are coming from. I was acutely aware of my American accent when I first moved here (and how mortifying it was when I figured out that 'pissed' means something different on the two sides of the Atlantic..).
FWIW, I would not go out of my way to change your accent, but you might find you tone things down a bit. Where in the States are you from?

My dad has taught American Studies (language and literature) all his working life. His vocabularly, knowledge of linguistics and literature are great. His pronounciation is perfectly easy to understand, but does sound German. He does not have a musical bone in his body and accents totally leave him helpless - me living in Scotland has not been easy for him wink and Africa was worse....
My mum is much more musical, only learnt US English as an adult when she was left to get on with it while me dad went to work; she makes far more mistakes than my dad, but can actually follow a conversation in different accents better than my dad. She herself sounds like a character out of 'allo 'allo grin

MamaChubbyLegs Sat 07-Sep-13 18:12:16

It wouldn't be ridiculous, but I think it would be sad. Why would you purposely change your accent to one that's "bland"? Your accent interests people. That is a good thing, surely? It's part of your history and your home. If people are ignorant enough to be prejudiced against you for how you sound, that is their problem, and sad for them. Don't give them the time of day.

Also, changing your accent is a bit like doing an impression of a bland RP accent. Trust me, wait until you need a rant, and the good old american accent rolls out. It will. grin This used to happen to me all the time. Was quite confusing for the "naice" middle/upper class boys I used to date grin

I have an RP accent.

It's still an accent. My point being, you can't escape some sort of assumptions about whatever accent you have. People assume I am posh, rich and right-wing.

You are just as likely to get questions when people find out that you are American but don't have an accent. This is the case for a friend's husband, who is Australian but sounds 100% English.

Taz1212 Sat 07-Sep-13 18:01:47

I've been here 23 years and still have an American accent! Though oddly Americans now think I'm Scottish. I guess I'm a bit of both with people hearing the differences not the similarities. It's obviously up to you but I don't mind the "where are you from question" as it's often a great conversation starter and I don't find that much prejudice against Americans these days- it was much worse when Bush Sn was president!

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