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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?

RichTeas Mon 19-Nov-12 13:04:31

Vintage, you've got me on that one. I hadn't even been aware that there was a difference in pronunciation for jewellery, and furthermore you have clarified why in recent years I have been getting confused about its spelling (obviously using an American spell checker, but not being aware there are two variants). How funny.

LaVolcan Mon 19-Nov-12 13:10:39

'Knight' used to be pronounce 'K-nig-ut'.

Now I thought that the gh used to be pronounced like a slightly harder ch as the ch in loch, or the current Dutch gh. Hence James Naughtie - pronounces his name noch-ty and not norty, which is what most of us would say.

ivykaty44 Mon 19-Nov-12 13:13:47

I have a Japanese student staying with me (we are in the Midlands) and my dd1's boyfriend is a Jordy who moved down here to work - bless my student can't understand a word he says and actually asked if he was speaking English grin

Op enjoy your stay and listen out for all the differences in the wonderful we we speak over here - it is diverse

ScrambledSmegs Mon 19-Nov-12 13:15:55

Ooh, not sure LaVolcan. Have lost touch with aforesaid linguistics bod, so can't ask him. I'm pretty sure there are some experts on MN, so maybe someone can come forward to clarify it?

I'm definitely not an expert - you can probably tell grin

ScrambledSmegs Mon 19-Nov-12 13:17:37

Bloody hard word to pronounce if it is the case, btw. I just tried your way and spat on my laptop...

StillSquiffy Mon 19-Nov-12 13:20:32

Your DD's accent is the very least of what you should be worrying about in terms of moving to the US. I'd put 'how to make sure she will fit in and be happy' right there at the top except then you'd have to accept that the first rule of fitting in means talking in the same way as everyone around you

GrimmaTheNome Mon 19-Nov-12 13:23:37

I'm always tickled by the irony of 'glottal stop' itself having a double t. 'Glo'al stop'.

lljkk Mon 19-Nov-12 13:27:34

Out of curiosity, Vintage, would you seek elocution lessons for your DD if you went to live in Hawaii, Alabama, Boston or The Bronx? Why not?

Toptack Mon 19-Nov-12 13:36:43

OP I'm confused about the tt thing. My American nieces pronounce letter as if it rhymes with cheddar, as do all their friends and family (on both coasts). Is this not common? Not that anyone is worrying about it...

VintageRainBoots Mon 19-Nov-12 13:39:51

lljkk: If we moved anywhere in the US, I would insist that she pronounce all words the standard (generic) American way, regardless of where we lived. I wouldn't want her to have a Southern drawl (Alabama), for example. In fact, I myself grew up in the Southern part of the US and never acquired a Southern accent, which has led to good jobs prospects for me. Even in the US, Southern accents/drawls suggest a lack of education on the part of the speaker. It could be a hindrance in some occupations.

Bronx or Boston accent? Heaven forbid. Those are just awful.

VintageRainBoots Mon 19-Nov-12 13:43:16

StillSquiffy: But I'm not British; I can't pretend a British accent. It would be phony, unnatural and awkward, and I doubt it would do much to make me fit it. Yes, I will say the British "conserv'try" instead of "conservatory" (especially since the American word would be the otherwise ambiguous "sun room"), and I use "take away" instead of "to go".

basildonbond Mon 19-Nov-12 13:45:30

When we moved to New York for a while I was convinced that ds1 (3 at the time) would pick up an American accent ... far from it! He ended up sounding more and more English (and for some strange reason, much posher than he'd sounded at nursery in London) but he started using American words e.g. sneakers, cookies, trash, sidewalk etc ... very bizarre ...

6 months in a primary school back in south London put him right though grin

VintageRainBoots Mon 19-Nov-12 13:46:34

Toptack: Yes, it's commonplace to hear dd where tt should be vocalized (e.g., so that better nearly rhymes with cheddar). I think many people voice an incomplete t sound so that they stop short of finishing the tt, which sounds a lot like a dd sound.

CecilyP Mon 19-Nov-12 13:48:07

She may not be able to pick up the r sound again, but I don't know why you think that is a major problem. Then again, there is no reason why she shouldn't. I had a friend who emigrated to Canada when she was 18, came back for a holiday a year later and you would never have known she had once been a cockney.

If you don't want her to drop the tt sound in butter, you can always correct her (as many English parents would) although the glottal stop is something she is less likely to pick up in a more affluent area. Anyway, don't Americans say budder?

Regarding use of words, I am reminded of a cartoon captioned, 'Lord Oaksey was my fag at Eton.' 'Boy, you British sure are frank.'

StillSquiffy Mon 19-Nov-12 13:51:16

Still - you don't have to change how you talk at all - you'll be making friends with grown ups who (usually) look past the accent to the person underneath.

It's when you are 5 that fitting-in in terms of clothes/accents/hairstyles is make or break in the playground, and where being different is not always a good idea. Let her find her own level when she gets to school, don't make it harder for her. If she wants to be different, then fine, but I think you'll find she'll want to change her accent (and start eating marmite) in a heartbeat.

amyboo Mon 19-Nov-12 13:53:25

But I always find the Americans don't pronounce the tt sound! My DS's Elmo ABCs app for example drives me crazy because he says "leddar" instead of "letter" etc.... And fwiw, I grew up in the home counties, went to a posh school and can't for the life of me pronouce the th sound. My brother and sister both can/do. So, I really don't think you can do a huge amount to influence these things (oh, and I had 3 years of elocution lessons in primary school btw) :-)

IsabelleRinging Mon 19-Nov-12 13:54:08


GrimmaTheNome Mon 19-Nov-12 14:00:22

If you're in Surrey rather than Lunnun chances are those tts will be more enunciated than standard US, rather than missing.

Fortunately, Vintage, most Brits can understand a wide variety of US accents so you probably won't need to 'pretend British' very often. I rarely have had to 'pretend American' in the US - place names can be an issue, try getting a cab to Waltham from Logan using british pronunciation 'Woltham'. I learned to always ask for Waaalthm.

duchesse Mon 19-Nov-12 14:02:51

Frankly I wouldn't bother- she'll be speaking like the other children in very few months I'll wager. At that age they shed accents so quickly. Ours came back from Canada with strong North American accents (which they can still produce if needed) aged 6, 9 and 11 and were "back to normal" within 3 months.

ShoeJunkie Mon 19-Nov-12 14:03:42

FWIW th and r and later developing sounds in a child's speech sound system and I wouldn't necessarily expect a 5 year old to have acquired them just yet.
Any speech therapist worth their salt would tell you the same.

RichTeas Mon 19-Nov-12 14:04:00

How about a train to Gloo-chester ?

VintageRainBoots Mon 19-Nov-12 14:09:40

RichTeas: Isn't it something like "Gloster" or "Gloshter"?

I don't think I'll ever manage to say all the English placenames properly. I might have to resort to latitude/longitude coordinates instead. wink

lljkk Mon 19-Nov-12 14:11:57

Um so, Vintage: what do you think if you meet someone with Boston or Alabama accent? Do you reflexively think "I can't respect you because of the terrible way you speak, it indicates you're ill-educated & not all that intelligent or you would have learned to speak differently." ?

I always find the Americans don't pronounce the tt sound!

Except in Wimbledon, obviously there's a T in that. wink

RichTeas Mon 19-Nov-12 14:12:35

Vintage, just don't give directions with a north, south, east or west, no one has a clue which they are!

Doctor Foster
Went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain.
He stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle
And never went there again!

RichTeas Mon 19-Nov-12 14:14:00

iijkk, once had a massive argument with an American friend over whether there was a T in Wimbledon!

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