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02-09-2020, 10:52 AM - 3 Likes   #1
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Accents and Communication

I've always been intrigued by accents in the speech of people I hear around me. As a child, I listened to a lot of non-American English broadcasts on TV, and subconsciously picked up on differences in speech, accents, inflections, and vocabulary.

As an adult, I've travelled quite a bit outside America, lived for over a decade in Germany, and even worked as a translator/interpreter in Europe and the Middle East. All of this has made given me a keen ear for accents, and I will puzzle over where I think the speaker might be from, not just the country, but the region, possibly even the city.

Also, certain accents are like catnip to my ears, I could listen to the speaker talk for hours about anything at all.

Oftentimes, movies will try to have the actors speak in the proper accent of place and time, when it works well, it's great, but when the actor can't pull the accent off, it throws me off too far to enjoy the dialogue.

For some, accents really hinder off the listener's ability to comprehend. I once had two young co-workers, one from Alabama, and the other from Boston. They genuinely had a hard time understanding each other's accent. Slang, of course is often challenging, and some countries have dialects that make speech even more unique. I enjoy the richness and diversity of it all.

Are you a person who can hear past the accent, or does an unfamiliar accent present a barrier to understanding for you?
Are there any accents you particularly enjoy hearing?

02-09-2020, 02:56 PM - 2 Likes   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by robgski Quote
All of this has made given me a keen ear for accents, and I will puzzle over where I think the speaker might be from, not just the country, but the region, possibly even the city.
Also, certain accents are like catnip to my ears, I could listen to the speaker talk for hours about anything at all.
Agreed! 100%!

If I hear a woman speak with a French or Irish accent I go weak in the knees.

I really enjoy listening to regional accents. When I spent some months in Florida I did struggle with the African American Florida accent. That, to me, was the hardest one to understand.
It's not just English, of course. With Afrikaans there are several different regional accents: Western Cape, Transvaal, Malmesbury, Northern Cape etc. I suspect that holds true of many other languages too, although I don't know any other languages well enough to pick up on the different accents.
02-09-2020, 05:34 PM - 4 Likes   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by robgski Quote
Oftentimes, movies will try to have the actors speak in the proper accent of place and time, when it works well, it's great, but when the actor can't pull the accent off, it throws me off too far to enjoy the dialogue.
There's a lot of movies supposedly set in Scotland, but for some reason the characters are all Irish...
02-09-2020, 06:39 PM - 5 Likes   #4
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I have found that when I spend some time in a place where the accent is different than mine, I tend to pick up that accent.

When I turned 18 the drinking age in Canada was still 18, and only being an hour away, we would go up to Vancouver on weekends to drink beer. We always came home with a Canadian accent.

When driving big trucks I traveled through all of the Lower 48 states, and 6 Canadian provinces. If I spent any time at all in a particular region, I would pick up the accent, and many of the colloquialisms of that area.


Then there was the time I emptied out in the Southeast, and was dispatched to Roanoke, Virginia to pick up some construction equipment. Upon my arrival, I spotted equipment I was there to pick up, parked my truck near it and went into the shop to get the loading started.

A guy saw me and asked, "Cud ah hep yoo?", in a distinctly Southern drawl.

Ignoring his accent, I replied, "Yes sir. I am here for a skid steer and a backhoe, the two I am parked nearby I believe."

The guy immediately replied with a question, "You all ain't fum around heayuh, are yoo?"

Of course I responded with, "What makes you ask me that?"

And he says quite proudly, "Its yer accent!"

So I asked, "Oh? What accent do I have?"

And he, again, very proudly, as he clearly took great pride in knowing where people are from by their accent, replied, "Yer Canadian!"

So I burst his bubble and said, "No sir. I am as American, baseball, Chevrolet, and apple pie as you are. In fact I was born in the South. Southern California."

I suppose living so close to Canada does have an influence in the local accents here in Washington.


Last edited by Racer X 69; 02-10-2020 at 04:34 PM.
02-09-2020, 07:56 PM - 1 Like   #5
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It always ...annoys me when I hear my recorded voice. Being born and raised in South East Texas, (That's East of Houston for y'all), I can't hear my accent. Until it's played back to me.
I tend to speak proper English. If I ain't, I'm doin' it on purpuss. I worked in a Western clothing store while I was in college. My coworkers said they could tell of I was waiting on customers from out of state. They said my accent got thick enough to slice.

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02-09-2020, 09:42 PM   #6
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Having spent decades on each of three different continents, I have the opinion that our ears filter out our accent when listening to others. Thus even a 1% foreign difference will be picked up. In every one of the countries I have lived in, locals only hear the accents of the other two, not their own, as they notice only the small differences.
02-09-2020, 09:56 PM - 1 Like   #7
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The nuances of accent have delighted me for decades. I love to try and narrow down someone's personal history just from hearing them speak. Particularly when I can detect multiple influences from the well-travelled.

What makes us different is just as interesting as what makes us the same.
02-09-2020, 10:39 PM - 5 Likes   #8
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Accents and communications...interesting topic.

My grandparents lived with us from the time from about when I was 2. They were wonderful people, as were my parents. My GF on my mother's side was born in Ireland, and I used to hang around with him an awful lot, from this time on.

Back then (early '50's) there were quite a few older men in the neighborhood, my grandfather's age and pretty well all of them had been born in either England, Ireland, Scotland or Germany. They were all retired and would invariably gather around in each other's backyard...in the gardens...to shoot the breeze. As often as not, there I would be, part of the conversation circle, ( albeit being seen and not heard ), listening intently to all these men...jabbering away in heavy Irish, Scottish, English and German accents. I recall that I found the discussion of the day fascinating...even if some of it was not readily understandable by me, at the time.

Fast forward about 20 + years and I was in the UK, traveling by overnight rail, one Bank Holiday from Edinburgh to London in a compartment (not sure what they call it in GB) within a train car. There were four of us, me, wife and two Brits, one fellow from Glasgow, the other man from Liverpool. We were all within about 5 years of each other and thus shared many interests.

It was a long, but pleasant journey and we had almost a continual discussion. My wife and I have Canadian accents and the Glaswegian and Liverpudlian could readily understand everything that we North Americans said. But when it came to the two British men understanding each other...it was very difficult for them to understand each other....due to each other's thick accent.

There were many times ...when the Glaswegian would say something to the Liverpudlian and the Liverpool man would look completely confused. Generally, I would step in then and 'interpret' as it were...by saying...no...what he is saying is . ...etc. etc., and of course vice versa where the fellow from Glasgow would not be able to completely understand what the guy from Liverpool was saying.

It got to the point where one Brit said to the other...isn't it amazing...we live about 400 miles from each other, have difficulty understanding what each other is saying, but can readily understand what the Canadian is saying...even though he lives about 6000 miles away from us...and on top of that, he has to interpret for each of us.

My assessment at the time and still current, was here we had a tale of two Brits.

One lived in Scotland, the other England, one country known as the United Kingdom, but they were separated by language....one language...English..due to what was to them, an almost impenetrable accent barrier.

The two men asked me if I had any theories as to why I could understand them , but they couldn't understand each other. I replied and told my story about hanging around my grandfather when I was young and always listening to a variety of English, Scottish, Irish...and German...heavily accented conversations. All that very early experience developed an 'ear' for British accents....which came in handy when I was an adult.


Last edited by lesmore49; 02-09-2020 at 10:45 PM.
02-09-2020, 10:59 PM - 1 Like   #9
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We sometimes needed subtitles for my stepfather, a Scotsman who lived in Glasgow for decades... I can decipher most accents in person, but on the phone it seems to lose enough detail that I have to have things repeated a lot.

Favorite accent has to be a nice Irish lass. My accent is either nothing, ‘Canadian’ like Racer, or whatever I have been exposed to lately...
02-09-2020, 11:10 PM - 2 Likes   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by RoxnDox Quote
My accent is either nothing, ‘Canadian’ like Racer,
Suggesting a Seattle local is Canadian might be grounds for war
02-10-2020, 03:30 AM - 2 Likes   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sandy Hancock Quote
Suggesting a Seattle local is Canadian might be grounds for war
I don’t mind.

Rather I like being mistaken for a Canuck.
02-10-2020, 03:53 AM - 3 Likes   #12
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I know what you mean, I was pleased when My accented German changed enough to no longer give me away as an American, for some reason they started thinking I was from South Africa.
02-10-2020, 03:58 AM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by robgski Quote
I know what you mean, I was pleased when My accented German changed enough to no longer give me away as an American, for some reason they started thinking I was from South Africa.
For some reason I can't get "Inglorious Basterds" out of my head. Brad Pitt's "Italian" accent will haunt me forever.
02-10-2020, 04:19 AM   #14
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I love regional accents, for a small country the UK has a wider range of dialects and accents that add to the richness of life.

One of my favourite albums of the last couple of years is Le Kov by Gwenno, sung entirely in Cornish, which is estimated to have only 3,000 speakers!
02-10-2020, 04:25 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sandy Hancock Quote
For some reason I can't get "Inglorious Basterds" out of my head. Brad Pitt's "Italian" accent will haunt me forever.
But his was supposed to be that of the American South, wasn’t it?
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