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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?

TanteRose Mon 19-Nov-12 04:10:03

Bloody hell, are you serious? confused

Just leave her to it - she will start to mimic those around her in no time, and have a local accent within a few months.

Elocution lessons will surely just give a her huge complex

stickybean Mon 19-Nov-12 04:16:04

I have the opposite. We are Brits in the states. My daughter is the same age as yours. She is picking up an American accent at school and has no trouble understanding or being understood. Relax about it. It'll happen naturally smile

SofiaAmes Mon 19-Nov-12 04:25:53

I'm hoping this is a joke, but if not....your dd will lose her american accent within a year. I moved my dc's from the Uk to the us when ds was just turning 5 and dd was just turning 3. They both lost their british accents within a year. Dh is english and I am American, so they had both around the house. Kids pick up the accent of their peers.

VintageRainBoots Mon 19-Nov-12 04:31:27

No, not a joke, I'm afraid.

I don't mind my daughter acquiring a British accent---it's inevitable and I accept that---but I do object to her learning to say some sounds improperly. For example, I want her to continue to pronounce the "tt" sound in the word "letter" (as she does already), regardless if she pronounces the final "r" the American way or the British way. And I want her to maintain the correct "th" sound rather than switching it with a "v" or an "f".

FairPhyllis Mon 19-Nov-12 05:11:16

I really don't think it's appropriate to try to use a speech therapist to stop a child picking up an accent. Accents are not speech disorders. And if you're concerned about her not being able to physically articulate certain sounds, then I think getting a therapist to teach her sounds she doesn't hear in her peers - like 'r' in 'star' - would be terribly confusing and just pointless, I think, as what her peer group does will override everything else. I think you have to accept that features like non-rhoticity are part and parcel of most accents of British English. In fact if you did make her pronounce 'r' - which I doubt you could in practice - then you could actually be teaching her a stigmatised feature.

So basically what accent your child will pick up will to a large extent depend on the accent of her peers - which will be determined by things like where you are living, what features of Estuary (which I assume is what you have a problem with) have spread to your area, and the socioeconomic class of her peer group. But basically, I think you're being unreasonable. You're moving to the south of England. The accent for much of the south of England, including even naice middle class professionals, is a form of Estuary.

mathanxiety Mon 19-Nov-12 05:26:47

She will pick up the speech she hears most. It behoves you to live in an area whose accent you like if you are worried. She will also be influenced by your speech. If you want Rs then move to Ireland. Rs are looked down upon in most of the UK.

My DCs have American accents but they do not have the fairly strong regional accent from the area they were brought up in and they have elements of Irish speech that others can detect. Their American accent is hard to place and a bit different from their peers' accent but it is definitely American. I am Irish and exH is American.

Please don't send her to elocution lessons. She has to bloom where she is planted. That means getting on with life with the children she will have as peers. Elocution lessons are likely to give her hangups. A more hoity toity accent than her peers in the UK will single her out for teasing or even ostracisation. Also, please don't correct her speech if she starts developing the local accent.

(You are going to find yourself developing an English accent too btw)

glenellyn Mon 19-Nov-12 05:28:33

I have to agree that a speech therapist is not the right person to deal with these issues unless of course your daughter has a diagnosed speech defect. Access to speech therapy is pretty difficult in the UK too - not as easy as in the States. Your daughter will pick up on the accents of her friends and you can reinforce at home how you would like her to speak. I am British, we left the UK for Asia when DS was 3 and DD 1. We now live in the USA and one child speaks British English and the other speaks American English...... Go figure smile

sharklet Mon 19-Nov-12 05:51:29

I am the opposite too, my DD (now almost 9) moved here when 6. Born and educated in UK now in 3rd Grade in USA. Brit Mum, American Dad. She has retained her British accent, because she chose to. I have always taught her the difference between British English and American English. Almost taught them as two languages. When she speaks to an American, or in a group of American kids she uses the verbage used in the states (and often accent and pronunciation to match) and with me or her Brit friends she uses her British English colloquialisms.

I did not really want her to develop an American accent, but I cannot stop her, and honestly with kids if you are too desperate for them to speak one way they will often eventually resent and go the other way. I have found this way she is educated on the differences. I am not pressuring her and as a result so far she is still saying things the way I would secretly like her to.

Do not stress too much, FWIW British accents are very very diverse and alter dramatically depending on where you live, if you are in Guildford, honestly you have little to worry about. Most parents end up reminding thier kids not to drop thier Ts etc.

Are you staying in UK for long?

mathanxiety Mon 19-Nov-12 06:07:24

I actually think it might benefit you to ask yourself why you are so worried and so willing to try to control something that is not really controllable here, plus risk setting up a barrier between your DD and yourself.

Are you anxious about the move? It is a really huge thing to contemplate.

amarylisnightandday Mon 19-Nov-12 06:24:53

A uk elocution teacher being asked to retain a child's American accent? They would think it was a wind up. The point of elocution is to acquire Received Pronunciation (or the Queens English to lay people).
If it works the subject should end up sounding like either Joanna Lumley or maybe even Penelope Keith! (I still covet elocution)

Perhaps you should watch My Fair Lady grin

Seriously though, what you are describing are normal developmental issues. I'm fairly sure the 'th' sound is one if the last to be mastered and she's only 5. Plus this move is going to be huge for her - I sincerely hope you let her cope with that for a good few months before you start trying to adjust her sad

madwomanintheattic Mon 19-Nov-12 06:27:50

Ohhhhhhhhhh. Cos the British all use f or v instead f th, innit. What the actual frick are you on about, luv?

I do see, now... It must be terribly worrying for you to assume she might catch a glottal stop. ( I am laughing proper about an American pronouncing double 't' in letter - see where those lazy stereotypes get you?)

Fwiw, mine have vacillated wildly between glasgae, the home kineties, and southern alberta. They sound like me, Oxford born and bred. With the occasional canadianism.

In glasgae, they would role play in Scottish, and sing 'twankle twankle little star' and resort to surrey dahling when they got through the door.

In future years, she will regress to where she is now every time she gets drunk.


Aw, we haven't had a good thread slamming common accents for ages. Try primary in September when all the pfb mummies fret about the NQT who might taint their babies.

In all seriousness, you need neither an elocution tutor or a slt. If at five her only issue is the 'r' sound at the end of letter and star, you have feck all to worry about.

And to fret otherwise whilst thousands of kids are being denied much needed speech therapy is kinda insulting. Notwithstanding your previous comments about F's and v's. I think our kids with those dreadful accents are in much greater need than yours, eh?

Maybe you should stay in the US?

'Improperly'. Ha!

amarylisnightandday Mon 19-Nov-12 06:34:43

Dying to know where op is moving to. I shall be bored if its the south east but shall giggle if its Newcastle or Brum (or even the Black Country!) or, gasp, Liverpool!!!!

Where I live the most used form of causk greeting is ''ere!' And most nouns are plurals due to local tradition. 'Where you to ma boy?' 'Im up asdas doing me lotteries' he he he he

amarylisnightandday Mon 19-Nov-12 06:36:02

If the op is worried she ought to be more worried that Brits traditionally think all yanks are thick wink

sassytheFIRST Mon 19-Nov-12 06:36:04

Op - Private (pref exclusive/public) school. No glottal stop there.


madwomanintheattic Mon 19-Nov-12 06:47:06

Amaryllis, I know. I'm desperately hoping for Liverpool...

Or Aldershot. <evil>

It's a long way from furnished and burnished, I tell ya.

sassytheFIRST Mon 19-Nov-12 06:48:34

Think she said Guildford.

I thought aldershot was very naice, all subalterns and tennis in the afternoon sun.

fuzzywuzzy Mon 19-Nov-12 06:49:50

Well OP is looking for a speech therapist in Guildford, so one would assume she is moving near that

I think you're safe in surrey, but your child will end up with a Brit accent, you could move back to the states later on and she will possibly return to her native accent....or or or sit your dd in front of American TV a lot and she'll retain her accent, free baby sitting and elocution lessons all in one HTH

BeckAndCall Mon 19-Nov-12 06:51:36

OPmas you're moving to Guildford, your DD will pick up the only RIGHT way to speak English.....

You and your DH might pick it up too!


happygardening Mon 19-Nov-12 08:43:52

The only point you should be considering is does your daughter have a genuine speech problems causing her to pronounce th as d? From your posting its not clear but those who repeatedly miss pronounce letters don't do it becasue they are lazy or miss hear or have even learnt to speak with a specific accent but becasue they genuinely cant get their tongues lips etc in the right place. I cant pronounce r's and was nagged and hounded by one of my MFL teachers only later when I worked with speech therapists did I understand that I physically cannot pronounce an r. This if severe enough does require specialist help, constant correcting nagging or elocution lessons will not resolve this.

Cahoots Mon 19-Nov-12 08:58:47

Unless you daughter has a proper speech problem I would not worry at all. Your daughter may or may not pick up an accent but a Guildford accent is very neutral. When you mention folks around here you are talking about some Londoners who have a bit of an East End accent. You won't find that in Guildford. There is no chance of your DD doing a Dick Van Dyke (in Mary Poppins) on you.
My DC have different accent to one another due to us moving about a lot. It doesn't bother us.
Is your DD going o the American school?

forevergreek Mon 19-Nov-12 08:59:58

I don't understand why you think she would stop using certain letters. I wouldn't pronounce 'letter' any other way than saying the tt. British people don't miss out random letters. Some areas might ( mainly up north). Personally I find Americans miss off far more. Such as herbs, in American is 'erbs'!

RichTeas Mon 19-Nov-12 09:27:52

FairPhyllis, Estuary (the working class influenced accent of the Thames Estuary) is becoming more widespread in Southern England but it is wrong to say southern accents are a form if Estuary, particularly RP which bears no relation or similarity.

Fairylea Mon 19-Nov-12 09:32:48

I'm sorry but I feel sorry for your dd.

She's moving to a new county, new school, new friends ... with a different accent to them. It's all very stressful for a small child as it is and then you want to do speech lessons!!??

If she was my dd I'd just want her to fit in and be happy. Anything very wrong (ie I'd correct "ain't" and use of "don't" instead of "doesn't" in context) I would correct myself.

Too much pressure too little..

lljkk Mon 19-Nov-12 09:50:50

I want her to continue to pronounce the "tt" sound in the word "letter"

Oh heavens, that is one of DH's big bears, he harps all over DC if they leave out the proper T and put in a glutteral stop. "It's compuTer not compu'uh!!" he scolds. He would sympathise with you loads. It bothers him hugely. I barely notice the mangled T sound and don't care at all. We are a mixed American-English couple, too.

He's the uptight Englishman & I'm the laid back Californian.

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