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Thread: Keeping your accent when speaking English

  1. #31
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    I'm not exactly sure how accurate this is, but I remember reading an article a few years back that most people can only truly learn another language and pick up that language's native accent and still be able to speak their native language with their native accent when they move to another country before they turn 10. I think that's true because I know this American/Brazilian family and their kids speak English the way people from the USA do and they also speak Portuguese the way people from Brazil do. I guess it's really hard to truly pick up an accent even if you live in a place for so long. I haven't ever been abroad, I have never been to an English speaking country. I do, however, have a lot of friends from the US and some of these friends, we have some Brazilian friends in common who have lived in the USA and they still say my English sounds better than theirs, so I guess it really depends, it depends a lot. I mean, I think I speak okayish English, but I doubt I'd ever be able to speak the American accent nor the British/RP one. I just sound like I do and I guess that if I ever went to an English speaking country and spent some time there, maybe I'd be able to improve it a little but never to a point I sound like a native speaker.

    I've seen Max Cavalera speak English, he was born and raised in Brazil and only learned English later on, he married an American woman, lives in Arizona, all his kids speak only English, not Portuguese and I've met him in person and his Portuguese sounds kinda gringo and I've seen him do interviews in English and you also can tell he has an accent, and what's more weird about that is that I think his brother Iggor Cavalera -- who has a Brazilian family, has lived in the USA but then came back to Brazil -- sounds more native-ish speaking English than his brother does even though I'm sure he didn't get to practice it as much as Max did, and not to mention that I've met Iggor too and he definitely does speak Portuguese like a Brazilian.

    So, as I said before, I guess it does depend a lot. I have this friend from Norway who married an American guy and they spent three months in Brazil. She hadn't spent that much time in the USA as it was a long-distance relationship before they got married and I met them shortly after they got married and yet she sounded like an American to me, when I met her, I was surprised to learn she was from Norway. But then, upon talking to another friend of ours who was from the USA but who was not her husband, he said that she definitely did sound like a native speaker but if you paid enough attention, you could tell she was foreign but it's barely noticeable. What also amazes me about her is that she didn't speak Portuguese but I did teach her a couple of sentences and she could repeat those sentences and sound almost like a Brazilian.

    I guess some people just have a gift for adapting their accents from language to language. And, yeah... Even though I love to learn languages and about languages, I'm not one of those people.

    Quote Originally Posted by Llamas View Post
    One of my students got a C on her English exam in school (her English is awesome - she should be getting all A's) because she filled in exercises like this:

    Q: __________ your homework yet? (do)
    A: Did you do your homework yet?

    The teacher wanted "Have you done your homework yet?" and marked all the answers wrong, even though her answers were totally appropriate in American English. Fuck that noise.
    Oh, this takes me back. I remember being taught in my English classes that the auxiliary verb "did"/simple past should only be used when the time is specified, for example "Did you do your home work yesterday?," while you should use "have"/present perfect when time is not specified, for example: "Have you done your homework yet?." So, for a long time, it was weird for me to see so many people use "did" the way "have" should supposedly be used, but then I just realised it's mostly a region thing and now it's not so weird for me but I still automatically think of the present perfect.

  2. #32
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    Funny enough, I just had a situation related to what bighead mentioned. In a lesson with these two Russian women I teach, we were working on the sound ɔː (like in "law" and "caught"). They got the sound down after some work, and were doing it very well. But then the word "August" came up and suddenly they couldn't say it - they kept saying it with a heavy Russian accent. They were so confused and couldn't figure out why they were struggling with it. I asked what the Russian word for "August" was, and it was the same word, just pronounced like "ow-goost" would be pronounced in English. It's anecdotal, but it does further the argument that it's not intentional. When you've said a word all your life with a certain pronunciation, it's so hard to learn to say it differently.
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  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Llamas View Post
    Funny enough, I just had a situation related to what bighead mentioned. In a lesson with these two Russian women I teach, we were working on the sound ɔː (like in "law" and "caught"). They got the sound down after some work, and were doing it very well. But then the word "August" came up and suddenly they couldn't say it - they kept saying it with a heavy Russian accent. They were so confused and couldn't figure out why they were struggling with it. I asked what the Russian word for "August" was, and it was the same word, just pronounced like "ow-goost" would be pronounced in English. It's anecdotal, but it does further the argument that it's not intentional. When you've said a word all your life with a certain pronunciation, it's so hard to learn to say it differently.
    do you really teach them American pronunciation? no offense,but there is no /ɔː/ in ''caught'' in the US..just read about it on the internet,I was dealing with this topic in my bachelor thesis(cot-caught merger,pin-pen merger in Texas,Mary-marry-merry merger in some places)..a vast majority of the US has the so-called ''cot-caught merger'' which means that you would pronounce a long /a:/ vowel in words like cought,brought and so on as in words like pot,hot blah blah blah..of course,there are exceptions like New York where they pronounce the word ''caught'' with rounded lips pronouncing the /ɔ/ sound..I didn't wanna be offensive,I just wanted to point out that there is no /ɔː/ sound in ''caught'' except for some areas..
    and just to express my opinion on this matter..yea,it's not that difficult to speak with an accent,you don't have to be good at grammar or have a flawless English,but you may be able to imitate and speak with an accent..for example,I think that it is kinda easy to imitate General American English and its accent since you hear it every day on TV,in movies or while listening to music,you just have to focus on pronunciation and after some time you'll be able to speak like a native speaker..or that's just what I think..it also depends on the person..nobody's perfect,but nothing's impossible..
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  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by dexterone View Post
    do you really teach them American pronunciation? no offense,but there is no /ɔː/ in ''caught'' in the US..just read about it on the internet,I was dealing with this topic in my bachelor thesis(cot-caught merger,pin-pen merger in Texas,Mary-marry-merry merger in some places)..a vast majority of the US has the so-called ''cot-caught merger'' which means that you would pronounce a long /a:/ vowel in words like cought,brought and so on as in words like pot,hot blah blah blah..of course,there are exceptions like New York where they pronounce the word ''caught'' with rounded lips pronouncing the /ɔ/ sound..I didn't wanna be offensive,I just wanted to point out that there is no /ɔː/ sound in ''caught'' except for some areas..
    First of all, it may be spreading quickly, but it's not nearly as wide-spread as you think. Second of all, I teach pronunciation as varied as possible, which means I try to include British and even Australian pronunciations when possible. I also teach these women from an Oxford book, which teaches "caught" pronounced in British RP.

    Also, I'm from the US and every single American I've ever associated with besides like 5 people pronounce "caught" as /kɔːt/. It's really not as rare as you think.

    Last edited by Llamas; 05-16-2013 at 12:04 PM.
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  5. #35
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    With the forum title cut-off, I have chosen to read this thread as 'keeping your accent when drunk.'

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  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Llamas View Post
    Funny enough, I just had a situation related to what bighead mentioned. In a lesson with these two Russian women I teach, we were working on the sound ɔː (like in "law" and "caught"). They got the sound down after some work, and were doing it very well. But then the word "August" came up and suddenly they couldn't say it - they kept saying it with a heavy Russian accent. They were so confused and couldn't figure out why they were struggling with it. I asked what the Russian word for "August" was, and it was the same word, just pronounced like "ow-goost" would be pronounced in English. It's anecdotal, but it does further the argument that it's not intentional. When you've said a word all your life with a certain pronunciation, it's so hard to learn to say it differently.
    Reminds me of this:

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  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by dexterone View Post
    do you really teach them American pronunciation? no offense,but there is no /ɔː/ in ''caught'' in the US..just read about it on the internet,I was dealing with this topic in my bachelor thesis(cot-caught merger,pin-pen merger in Texas,Mary-marry-merry merger in some places)..a vast majority of the US has the so-called ''cot-caught merger'' which means that you would pronounce a long /a:/ vowel in words like cought,brought and so on as in words like pot,hot blah blah blah..of course,there are exceptions like New York where they pronounce the word ''caught'' with rounded lips pronouncing the /ɔ/ sound..I didn't wanna be offensive,I just wanted to point out that there is no /ɔː/ sound in ''caught'' except for some areas..
    While I occasionally meet someone who pronounces "cot" and "caught" the same, its definitely a rare occurrence.
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  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by _Lost_ View Post
    While I occasionally meet someone who pronounces "cot" and "caught" the same, its definitely a rare occurrence.
    yea,it may be rare in the north and in the northeast,but it's quite usual in California and in the whole southwestern area..my research on this has shown that only two people out of 24 pronounced ''cot'' and ''caught'' differently in California..the same result was in Texas..even in Boston,there were a lot of people who pronounced these words the same..on the other hand,around 20 people out of 24 from New York pronounced ''caught'' with rounded lips,thus differently than ''cot''..anyway,I'm sure that you wouldn't find many people who pronounce these words differently in California and its neighborhood..but your opinion is reasonable because you're both from northern/eastern states where the merger is not so frequent..
    Last edited by dexterone; 05-18-2013 at 02:52 PM.
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  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by wheelchairman View Post
    However once I say I'm American, something clicks and they are able to "hear" that accent. I find this rather amusing.
    I had that exact same thing happen very often as a Brit living in the US. People would be able to tell, generally, that I was not a local boy, but they had no clue where I was from until I told them, and then suddenly they thought it was obvious. Though a small percentage of people did pick it up right away, sometimes after only hearing me say one short sentence, which was always really impressive. And a few people couldn't detect my accent at all, to the point of not believing me when I told them I was from England. Which was really weird. I guess some people might lie about such a thing, but wow. I met an American stripper once who was trying to pass as British. After I called her on it and convinced her I was British she gave me her number, which was kinda cool. Random story.

    Quote Originally Posted by _Lost_ View Post
    While I occasionally meet someone who pronounces "cot" and "caught" the same, its definitely a rare occurrence.
    I can say that most Kansans pronounce these two words exactly the same, and the merry/mary/marry thing holds up too. My ex, who was from Kansas, couldn't even hear the difference when I tried to emphasize the differences.

    Quote Originally Posted by RageAndLov View Post
    So my question to you, especially to you who are native speakers of English, what do you think of people keeping their non-English accent? Should they do it, or should they adopt a native English accent?
    I hid my English accent when living in America simply because it was easier for me that way. I generally think people should simply do whatever they prefer. Giving up your native accent over a long period can lead to unpleasant feelings, sort of dissociative, a loss of who you are. But keeping your native accent can impede communication, or just attract unwanted attention. Personally, as a native speaker, I love hearing non-native speakers use their native accent. It tends to just sound awesome. I'm a big fan of accents in general though. They fascinate and entertain me. I used to work with a lot of people from various eastern european countries and loved all their accents. The women all sounded hot and the men sounded badass.
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  10. #40
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    Only somewhat related: I hate, in films, when the characters all have different accents, even though they're supposed to be of the same nationality. Like in Goya's Ghosts - American, British and pan-European accents, despite all the characters supposedly being Spanish. That ruined the film for me.

    I'd feel like an idiot if I changed my accent, even though I hate it.

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