Elocution lessons for our American daughter?

(260 Posts)
VintageRainBoots Mon 19-Nov-12 03:49:19

Our five year old daughter will soon start school in the UK. She was born in US, has only lived in the US, and has so far been educated in the US. As a result, she speaks with an American accent.

My concern is that there are a few sounds that she still needs to work on, and moving to a different country with different speech patterns may complicate things for her. For example, she cannot pronounce the "r", as in "star" or "very." Could elocution lessons in the UK help her pronounce words the American way? That is, can a British speech therapist help her learn to say the American "star" or will she be taught the British version (which sounds a lot like "stah" to our uncivilized American ears)?

In addition, she's only recently mastered the "th" sound (before, she was approximated "th" with a "d" so that "them" was pronounced "dem"). However, I hear a lot of folks around town (and more often in London) pronouncing "th" with an "f" or "v" rather than the American "th". We spent a fair amount of time helping her with her "th" sounds; I would hate to see all that work amount to naught if she's in a class with students who use "v" or "f" instead.

So, will elocution lessons help her?

Along those same lines, does anyone have a recommendation for a speech therapist or elocution coach near Guildford?

GrimmaTheNome Mon 19-Nov-12 12:11:26

>You wouldn't say, oh we found a lovely 'Otel in France, would you.
There are people who refer to 'an 'otel' rather than 'a hotel' with an aspirated H. It sounds pretentious; regardless of the impeccable reasons for doing so, the same applies to 'erb.

Never mind the rest, make sure your DD knows what we mean by pavement here - and even more when you're back in the US what it means there. That's about the only difference I can think of that actually matters.

legalalien Mon 19-Nov-12 12:13:40

I didn't realise that about pavement. Interesting.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 19-Nov-12 12:15:19

Oh...Maria has reminded me of another one which could be an issue...'fanny' is a different bit of anatomy in the UK to the US.

AndiMac Mon 19-Nov-12 12:16:49

You are moving continents and your worry is how your daughter, your FIVE year old, pronounces things?

As others have said, she will pick up the local accent in no time (whether you like it or not) and really, there are far bigger things you should be thinking about it in regards to your move.

BarbecuedBillygoats Mon 19-Nov-12 12:22:47

Istorically lots of things were different

I'm still trying to get my head round the tt thing. I and my children' and dh would pronounce the ts in better, butter etc

EauRouge Mon 19-Nov-12 12:30:48

Have to say, OP, your question is a bit odd. How long have you been in the UK? Why don't you want your DD to have an English accent? I wonder if it's because you're a bit homesick.

VintageRainBoots Mon 19-Nov-12 12:31:43

Re: Pavements. Yes, we're aware of what it means in the UK (it was one of those things I looked up years ago when Adele's Chasing Pavements song was a hit). And she knows about rubbish, loo, etc.

RichTeas "Nevertheless, I still contend 'erb sounds a bit silly in the UK; we know what you mean but we just think why drop the h. You wouldn't say, oh we found a lovely 'Otel in France, would you."

The point was that the English, during the times they (you?) colonized the North American continent, did NOT pronounce the h in the beginning of herb, and we Americans maintain that original English pronunciation. It was the English who changed how they pronounced it on their island. We Americans left it as is.

mummytime Mon 19-Nov-12 12:33:37

There is actually a bus to ACL in Cobham, and I think the one that does door to door includes Guildford.
Guildford is posher than Woking (and certainly alder shot which is full of Squaddies not Officers in my experience). My children all pronounce the "tt" in letter. Actually my 3 state school educated children all have slightly different accents. DC1 can be extremely posh, DC2 is pretty typical Surrey but can do a great Peckham, and DC3 is typical Guildford child.

There are lots of American's in Guildford, and none of those I know have been at all worried about their children's accent (and they themselves come from a wide range of States eg, South Carolina, Florida, Massachusetts, California etc.).

VintageRainBoots Mon 19-Nov-12 12:36:08

EauRouge: I don't mind if she acquires an English accent---as I said before, it's inevitable---but I don't want her to drop the tt in butter, bitter, letter, etc. Plus, she's still young and her brain is still figuring out language, I'm afraid that she'll lose the ability to say the American r and not be able to pick it up again. If we return to the US, she might not be able to fully revert to American English.

lljkk Mon 19-Nov-12 12:36:53

I'm American and I say the h clearly in herbs. confused I'm sure my parents did/do, too. But I wouldn't stress about it either way.

Out of curiosity, OP, to-MAY-toe or toe-MAA-toe?

Just WAIT until you encounter the British pronunciations of route, impedance, conservatory, garage, controversy and issue.

Most American five year olds would think there was nothing rude about saying fanny. Just like Brits don't think of fags as rude. Someone might want to clue OP up on those.

mummytime Mon 19-Nov-12 12:38:13

Btw Vintage if you want to have a nice time here, do try to adapt, and not assume everything from the US is better.
At the time of the colonists there were a very wide way of pronouncing all words in England (never mind the rest of the UK), much wider than today. In the US there are still words pronounced very differently in different parts eg slough. Unless you are a professional linguist I don't think you can tell us how words were pronounced 400+ years ago, whatever you might have been told at school.

EauRouge Mon 19-Nov-12 12:41:40

I'm sure she'll pick it up again once you move back. I don't think a speech therapist would be the right person, one of those drama voice coaches is probably your best bet.

If she does go to a school where they (god forbid!) drop their Ts then she'll probably end up with a school accent and a home accent. I was mocked at primary school for being 'posh' and ended up blending in at school and then reverting to my real accent at home.

My DD1 ends up speaking with a Canadian accent if she spends 2 minutes in conversation with DH and then goes back to an English accent when she's speaking to me. She always pronounces 'garage' like a Canadian though grin

I really think you are worrying over nothing.

RichTeas Mon 19-Nov-12 12:45:06

Vintage, most of North American English is a relic of the English colonisers of the day. Indeed, the East Coast accent is said to be closer to 17th-18th century English English than the standard English we now use. Indeed, if you go to the Indian sub-continent, you will find impeccable Victorian English being widely used. English is constantly evolving in Britain, less so in the colonies. Although your black rappers and entertainers are doing an excellent job of vitalising American English too.

VintageRainBoots Mon 19-Nov-12 12:46:23

lljkk: I say to-MAY-toe, as does my husband. I also say "root" (rhymes with loot) for route.

I have no idea how the British would say impedance. I'm a physicist, but I don't think I ever had a British professor; im-PEED-ance is how we say it in the US.

"Conservatory" is pronounced "con SERV a tor ee" by Americans; the English seem to omit the "o" (if I'm hearing it correctly). Garage, controversy, and issue...yeah, I can hear (and appreciate) the differences between the American and British pronunciations.

ScrambledSmegs Mon 19-Nov-12 12:47:29

According to a linguistics scholar I used to know, all words in the English language used to be pronounced as they were spelt. For example 'Knight' used to be pronounce 'K-nig-ut'.

Thank goodness language evolved, eh, otherwise we'd all sound like massive twats grin

Selim Mon 19-Nov-12 12:48:04

I have some sympathy as I have a beautiful Scottish lilt and my dcs speak with a midlands accent of which I am not fond. However, its their voice and not mine so I have to let them get on with it.

I don't think it is especially helpful to claim a superior pronunciation on account of American pronunciations being closer to 16/17/18th century English. The UK has always had a broad range of accents, non more correct than the others and language evolves. I wouldn't go to France and talk in 17th century French and claim superiority over a native speaker of 21st century French.

RichTeas Mon 19-Nov-12 12:49:52

mummytime, is there really that much variation in your childrens' accents. How do you differentiate typical Surrey from typical Guildford, for example?

VintageRainBoots Mon 19-Nov-12 12:52:47

RichTeas: your most recent post reminds me of something. The word jewelry/jewellery. From what I recall, Webster (who had a lot of influence on American orthography...he's the guy who removed the u from "colour", changed "centre" to "center", etc.) chose to remove the supposedly unnecessary letters in "jewellery", writing it as "jewelry" to represent his particular pronunciation of the word. The thing is, not everyone pronounced it as he did. Even today, you find Americans who say "jewellery" as the British do, rather than "jewelry" as is the standard American way of saying it, and many of these folks even have trouble spelling the word the American away since it's not written as they would pronounce it.

StickEmWithThePointyEnd Mon 19-Nov-12 12:53:36

ScambledSmegs I'm pretty sure you've got that the wrong way around. Words were spelt how they were pronounced (by the individual) as dictionaries hadn't been invented grin.

Hence the many different variations of surnames spellings for example.

<high-fives madwomanintheattic and EauRouge>

DH and I are Canadian. Both DDs (9 and 6) were born in London and sound perfectly English (or as perfectly English as a north-Londoner can sound grin ). When we go back to Canada in the summers, they get teased a bit by their Canadian friends but within a day or two they are sounding completely Canadian. The reverse happens when we return to London and they go back to school and see all their friends - a bit of teasing, then back to being proper little English schoolgirls.

OP, you perhaps don't realise but regional accents are a HUGE deal here in the UK, much much more so than in North America. People care IMMENSELY about them. You might not have realised this when you posted your OP. All I am saying is that you should tread softly.... this is meant in a friendly way.... smile

Limelight Mon 19-Nov-12 12:55:28

The American 'r'? I feel a campaign to reclaim it for all of humankind! Thank God the Americans are keeping English proper eh? wink

Seriously though OP, you might be fighting a losing battle here. What I can't work out is what the worst case scenario for you is. If your DD does lose her American 'r', or says 'th' incorrectly, or drops the 'tt' from letter, what's going to happen to her? With a good education and input from you, she'll learn about the 'appropriateness' of language and speak in subtly different ways depending on her audience. And that's fine isn't it?

I speak as a London dwelling university educated professional... with a broad north-eastern accent. Of course my accent softens and neutralises when I'm at work or in company other than my family. Human beings are very clever monkeys!

StickEmWithThePointyEnd Mon 19-Nov-12 12:56:30

At least she will learn to say "can't" properly. wink

ScrambledSmegs Mon 19-Nov-12 12:57:20

Unless there is something seriously wrong with your DD's speech, OP, I wouldn't bother with a therapist. If you go back to the US she will rapidly adapt. A good SALT will also ensure that your DD uses her own accent, not someone else's.

ScrambledSmegs Mon 19-Nov-12 12:59:11

It was probably the way my friend phrased it, Pointy, but I know what you mean.

But if you think about it, how did we end up with that crazy spelling of knight anyway? Must have been because it was pronounced that way wink

Pooka Mon 19-Nov-12 13:02:09

As a family we all live in the south east.

Dcs occasionally say bu-er or le-er in transition between school and home. I do pick up on it, but actually see the flexibility that enables them to switch between different types of speech with an awareness of audience a very positive thing.

I shared a flat at university with 4 guys, one from Scotland, one from Yorkshire, one from Belfast and one from Wales. I used to return home to London and get asked whether I was from Australia by people in shops. Was as if I'd picked up a smidgen of each accent. When talking to my grandmother there would be clipped cut glass tones,, completely different to my accent with friends from school. Dh similar - public school educated, working class parents. Now capable of slipping easily from one form of speech to another.

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