Choosing an accent

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Hotu Matua, Jul 18, 2007.

  1. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Italian
    Ciao, cipu.

    In realtà "innit?" è il risultato del tentativo di dare forma grafica alla sequenza dei foni che costituiscono l'espressione "isn't it?", specialmente quando sia pronunciata "di corsa".
    Quanto alla "gram
    matical correctness" cui fa riferimento elirlandes, nutro forti dubbi.

    GS :)
     
  2. Ciao Giorgio, long time no see! :)

    In effetti, di solito, sentire "innit" mi da la garanzia di trovarmi di fronte ad un parlante nativo... Io mi troverei a disagio a usare "innit", quasi come se cercassi di parlare in dialetto veronese! :)
    Grazie per la precisazione, io pensavo che "innit" fosse proprio degli Eastenders, ma in effetti si sente un pò dappertutto in Inghilterra.
    Ciao! :)

     
  3. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    Italian
    As for me, I'm learning Standard British English.

    Because:

    1) I live in Italy, which is nearer to the UK rather than to any other English speaking country (other than Africa!).
    2) It's what I have on my dictionaries and books.
    3) thus said, it would make no sense for me to speak American English (even though there are exceptions... you oughta sing Johnny Cash with a South US accent :D).
    4) I like it! :D

    So yes, not only you can choose an accent - you have to!

    Leonardo
     
  4. More od Solzi

    More od Solzi Senior Member

    Norway
    Macedonian
    I am from former Yugoslavia and living in Scandinavia, so American English was the obvious choice:
    99% of movies, sitcoms and songs are in American English,
    you have to search for stuff in UK English,
    American English is everywhere.

    75% of Americans speak General American,
    while only 3 % of British people use RP
    (according to Cambridge Encyclopedia of language),
    so General American seems like a more democratic choice.
     
  5. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    Italian
    If you were refering to my post, RP is not Standard British English but more of an upper-class accent.

    I have nothing against Americans, but I just don't feel that the American accent would be a sensible choice for me. If I live near England and study on books and dictionaries which report British English pronounciation, why should I try to fake I was from Tennessee? :D

    Of course I'm not English, but still I consider myself more English than American.
     
  6. Nino83 Senior Member

    Italian
    source?
     
  7. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    I still don't see the problem of learning all variants of English. It's not as if we were choosing from Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. It's enriching to know all.

    Besides, people learning English as adults will never speak either variant. They will speak with the accent of their mother tongue. Have you ever heard a native speaker of English speak with a Milan, Roman or Venetian accent in Italian? If they do they most likely grew up there.

    The largest accent group in America is the Southern American Accent group. More people speak with a southern accent than any other, but even this group dialect varies quite a bit from one southern state to another.
     
  8. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    Italian
    I beg to differ.

    We are so many in this world and everyone is different. There are people who have been learning English since they were a child and never lost their accent, and there are people who manage to lose they original accent when they speak a foreign language. I know how difficult this is, but it however doesn't stop me from trying. I'm not at all ashamed of my italian origins, but I'm one that likes to do things right if he has to do them at all, and I try to use the correct pronounciation as close as possible, and I have to choose one.

    I too like to research and discover all the beautiful English variations and accents out there, such as the Scottish English, Irish English, American English (especially Southern American, which I happen to like more than the Northen American - being, to my hears, richer and old fashioned, making for a really peculiar English accent), but I MUST choose one to use, or else how would you think I could learn to speak proper English if I mixed them all? And this leads us to a second question: if you were a native English speaker, what would you think of me faking a Scottish accent?.
     
  9. Nino83 Senior Member

    Italian
    Honestly, I've never heard a native speaker of English speak with an Italian accent. :)
    For example journalist Barbara Serra (Italian parents, raised in Copenhagen, at 20 years old goes to London, now journalist of Al Jazeera English) has a clear English accent (as one can hear here ) when she speaks Italian.
    Probably it's the same when Italians speak English ;)
     
  10. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    Exactly. You can't tell. I remember a few students of Italian in a class at university in the US being really angry because the teacher was from Trieste and they wanted to learn how to speak the way their grandparents did from southern Italy. They were suspicious of everything she taught and it caused problems for them. When she marked their exams and gave them low grades it was always her fault. Now you can guess what accent they really used. ;) Pure New Jersey

    L.P. Translator, when I teach English, I purposely mix the varieties for the students so not one dominates. I think it is better they strive for something practical and generic. It's fine to go for perfection. That's great. More power to you. I encourage you to endeavor in your studies and I hope you end up speaking better than Barbara Serra! I'm just saying of the hundreds of foreigners I've heard speaking English I could not tell you if they learned British/American or Singapore English. Many speak well but it's hard, even those who have been studying for 10 years have their native accent. And that's not just those studying English, so it's not something specific to students of English.

    About speaking Scottish English... well, why not? People pick up typical expressions in the countries in which they live. I've heard French people coming back from semesters in Edinburgh say "a wee lass" and things like that. It adds a layer on top and in their linguistic history you can see where they were born and also where they have been.

    I met an Uzbek lady once who spoke English with a Russian/ Mississippi accent. It was original but you could easily tell what her history was. It's not a bad thing.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
  11. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    Italian
    Well, that's true merquiades, imitating an accent is really difficult - especially if you don't know much about the culture in that particular country or region. As for me, I do not claim I speak perfect British English - my version of British English consists in just following 100% the rules and pronounciations I see on the Oxford dictionary and miss out all the "r" before a consonant - and a few more basic rules - but a native English speaker, especially a true Brit, would tell immediately I was from 1000kms away! :D

    I don't know if you have ever been to Italy, but with many people here you can tell immediately which region of Italy they come from within the first words they speak (sometimes the first).
     
  12. Nino83 Senior Member

    Italian
    In fact she says, during the interview, that English people say that she has a strong Italian accent and Italians say that she has an English accent :)

    So, also for who learns languages very early it's difficult to have a native accent.

    Most people say that Bill de Blasio has a good Italian accent. He speaks (with some mistake) and understands sufficiently well (to make himself understood) but his American accent is really strong
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
  13. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    I just listened to her. She speaks very well, perfectly even, but she has a slight Italian accent. It's about the intonation really...

    Edit: Yes, I heard the Bill de Blasio video, and to think he probably heard the language spoken at home when he was a child.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
  14. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    Italian
    Anyhow, we should consider that it is not phisical impairment that prevents us speaking like native English speakers or native speakers of any other language, for I believe it is a forma mentis question.

    I've been told that, when speaking English, I have little accent (although you can DO hear the italian in me) - while when speaking italian, with italians, I think I have a strong regional accent, that goes away only when speaking with people in my work environment or in very formal events/environments - I've been hearing phrases like "ma sei di Roma?" ("are you from Rome?" for the other readers) for all my life and in every part of Italy (I'm not from Rome, anyway, but very near)... funnily enough, when I speak English this accent goes away, because I'm thinking in English. What I mean is that you can probably still tell I am from Italy, but surely not that I'm from Lazio. Now, I don't want to sound pretentious and/or like I'm better than the other people who have English as a second language here on the forum, because I am not - at all, but I thought that I'd tell you about this and see, as I'm sure, if you have experienced it as well.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
  15. Nino83 Senior Member

    Italian
    It's normal, because we learn our mother tongue imitating the way other people speak (so, with an accent) but when we speak English we try to imitate the way English/American people speak, and, probably, the differences (in vowels, intonation, rhythm) between English and Italian are greater than the small differences between Italian regional accents.
     
  16. More od Solzi

    More od Solzi Senior Member

    Norway
    Macedonian
    Longman Dictionary of American English
     
  17. More od Solzi

    More od Solzi Senior Member

    Norway
    Macedonian
    As an European, I consider myself more Irish than English,
    I'd pick Dublin English anytime over RP, Estuary or Cockney.

    In fact, George Bernard Shaw said " the best English is spoken in Ireland".
     
  18. More od Solzi

    More od Solzi Senior Member

    Norway
    Macedonian
    She sounds like a New York City Italian American, albeit with a strong rhotic accent.
    No one would would ever mistake her for a British.


    Me (talking to a Briton ): I have a general Slavic accent.
    The British: No, you have an American accent.

    An Italian focusing on British English (talking to the British): I have a British accent.
    The British: No, you have an Italian accent.

    :) British accents are very difficult to imitate,
    I've only heard some Norwegians, some Swedes and some Flemish with convincing British accents.
    That girl on ''Flemish for dummies'' has a nice British-like accent.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
  19. Nino83 Senior Member

    Italian
    Yes, I agree. I find very difficult to imitate non-rhotic accents (British, Australian, New Zealand, Bostonian), with those reduction, like [nɪː] (instead of [nɪə]) for "near", and "linking r".

    On the other hand I find easier British/Canadian /æ/ (pronounced [a], as in [kat]) than American /æ/ and find more natural to pronounce "cot" like British do [kɔt] (instead of [kɑt]).
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
  20. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    She doesn't sound American or like a New Yorker or like an Englishman. Just like an Italian that has learned English quite well.
     
  21. More od Solzi

    More od Solzi Senior Member

    Norway
    Macedonian
    In RP it's still [kɒt ] and not [ kɔt ].
    That means it's not an ɔ, but a rounded ɑ.
    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/cot


     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
  22. Nino83 Senior Member

    Italian
    In traditional/conservative RP it's just raised, [ɒ̝], link.
    Today (from 1970 on) in South Britain it's more raised, [ɔ] (like in Australian, New Zealand, North English and Scottish accents), link
     
  23. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    This is the NYC Italian accent. Compare that to Barbara Serra (also the Mississippi accent of her co-host).
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
  24. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    I would've thought that Tony Soprano was more the NYC Italian accent. Though I've met working class Irish-American New Yorkers that spoke like that too.
     
  25. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    That's the less refined version.

    I don't know if the Irish have the long diphthonged a in "la-est" though. :confused: They do have "feesh" sandwiches. :)

    P.S. I found a better link. I'll change it
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
  26. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    You'd know better than me.

    I've come across Irish Americans from South Boston that spoke with a peculiar accent, but the Italians (and Jews) seemed to share it too. I don't know whether these accents are particular to one community, or just to class.
     
  27. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    I don't know where I read that the two often share neighborhoods, so the Jews frequented the Italian businesses and the Italians ended up transmitting their dialect to the Jews.

    Class also plays its role. No educated New Yorker world say "thoidy thoid" for "thirty third" anymore.
     
  28. More od Solzi

    More od Solzi Senior Member

    Norway
    Macedonian
    Except for Fran Drescher.
     
  29. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Belgium
    Dutch - Belgium
    :D
     
  30. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    :tick: Haeh haeh!
     
  31. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    Italian
    I believe everyone is different. I find British pronounciation much easier and natural than American English. I, of course, wish not to offend none of our american friends on here. :D

    If I have a problem with something, it's just with the rythm of my speech that - being I italian - more often than not sounds probably strange (or better: 'stranger') to British ears.
     
  32. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish

    You've forgotten one - your closest neighbour to the southern regions of your country: Malta!
    But even there you are better off with any accent from England than with American English.

    However, you mention somewhere that you are learning "Standard British English" - What IS that, who SPEAKS that? I mean, I have heard several versions of socalled Standard BE that was being taught to people who afterwards claim to be speaking the only correct and acceptable English and sounding very fake, very foreign and in no way like any English person I have ever heard neither in person nor in the media. A "wonderful" example of such a person is the former chief of state and present top leader of the NATO, Fogh-Rasmussen.

    If you really want to learn to speak English in a way that sounds really genuine, find someone on the internet (like on Youtube) that you really, really like and who speaks the kind of English that you would like to speak. Listen closely to everytihing this person says, use this person as a role model - at least what speaking is concerned. There is no way this could not have a positive effect.
     
  33. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    Just checked him out. Sounds pure Swedish to me. :)

    I'm not sure if anyone is better off with Estuary, Liverpool or Geordie speech anywhere.
     
  34. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    Italian
    Hello,

    I don't live in England and thus haven't got the chance of personally testing everyday the way native British speakers speak, but Standard British English's pronounciation is that reported in British dictionaries such as this one: http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/standard_1 and derives from Estuary English which is, as wikipedia has it, "Standard English spoken with the accent of the south-east of England". No one says that it is the only way of speaking correct English as, i.e., you can speak correct English with an Irish accent in Ireland (I suppose) - it's just a standard form of English used in formal enviroments and generally by learned people who don't wish to show off their regional accent - and it sounds good to me. Wouldn't I, a native Italian speaker, sound very ridicolous if I believed myself to be a cockney or I spoke with a west-midlands accent on purpose?

    Also, I think that you have mistaken Standard British English for the Received Pronounciation, which is different and not much used anymore even on TV and radio.


     
  35. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    There's no I suppose about it. If an Irish person started to affect an English accent in order to ''speak properly'' they'd be rightly lambasted.
     
  36. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    Italian
    Hello,

    As I see that you are an "English of the Irish variety", I really hope that you aren't offended by my supposing - especially knowing that I never set foot in Ireland (but would very much wish to do so).

    Cheers from Italy :D
     
  37. Nino83 Senior Member

    Italian
    Hi, L.P.
    I'd like to recall that dictionaries report "phonemes" but not "phones". So, for example, Oxford dictionary says that cat is pronounced /kæt/ but this vowel is equal to [æ] in US, [a] in Southern Britain, [a ̴ ä] in Midlands and Northern England and [ä] in Scotland, Canada and Western US (see Canadian and California vowel shift).
    The same for can , /kæn/, whose pronunciation is [kän] in Scotland, Canada, Western US, [kan] in England and [kɛən] in US (as you can hear from the audio sample on the site).
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2014
  38. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    No worries. :D:thumbsup:
     
  39. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    Italian
    This is also true. Of course with Standard British English I was talking about pronounciation - in which case æ, as you said, resembles our italian "a".

    For a funny coincidence, I started a thread on this not so long ago and you are invited to give your contribution: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2878361
     
  40. Nino83 Senior Member

    Italian
    The entangledbank's link (which is an expert on these matters) is very helpful.
    If you want to know more about English accents, I suggest that you read the Cambridge History of the English Language and A Critical Introduction to Phonetics of Ken Lodge (and English wikipedia articles, whose sources are very reliable).
     
  41. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    Italian
    These sound like very useful books, thank you :thumbsup:
     
  42. Nino83 Senior Member

    Italian
    You're welcome :)

    With more accuracy:
    the Romance /a/ is open and central:
    casa: [käːzä] (Northern Italian) [käːsä] (Central and Southern Italian) [käsä] (Spanish) [käzɐ] (Portuguese)
    while, in South East British:
    /æ/ is open but fronted: cat [kat] (more fronted than Italian "a", i.e the tongue touches the lower teeth)
    /ʌ/ is central but higher: cut [kɐt] (higher than Italian "a")
    /ɑː/ is back: cart [kɑːt]

    So, if one were to use the Italian "a" (i.e [ä]), his accent would be similar to Northern/Scottish/West Country/Canadian/Californian English.
    If one were to use the the Italian "a" (i.e [ä]) for both /æ/ and /ɑː/ (for example, [kät] for "cat" and [käːt]/[käɹt] for "cart"), his accent would be similar to Northern/Scottish English or West Country English (while Canadians and Californians would say [kɑɹt] for "cart", using the "broad a", i.e the back vowel).
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2014
  43. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    Italian
    Thank you very much for this ;)
     
  44. Nino83 Senior Member

    Italian
    And you're right when you say that everyone is different.

    For example, I find more natural to pronounce "cat" and "cot" like [kat] and [kɔt] (British) than [kæt] and [kɑt] (American).
    At the same time, I find easier to pronounce "cart" like [kɑɻt] (American/Canadian) than [kaɻt] (West Country), because the tongue makes less movement from [ɑ] to [ɻ] than from [a] (front vowel) to [ɻ] (retroflex consonant), but a Scottish would pronounce it like [kaɾt]/[käɾt] (with a flapped "r", so there is both front/central vowel and front consonant). It depends, for example, on which "r" one chooses.
    For me, [ɑ] is an allophone of [a] before retroflex "r", i.e I use always [a], unless before an "r" (and, consequently, I say [baθ] and not [bɑːθ], like people do in West Country, Midlands, Northern England and Scotland).
    So it is similar to the West Country/Bristolian accent (rothic, British vowels, no trap/bath split) with [ɑ] before "r".

    Finally, the most important thing is to differenciate between "bad" and "bed", "cat", "cut" and "cart" (if one uses a a non-rothic accent) and between "six" and "seeks" and "pull" and "pool". The most important thing is to be understood.

    P.S.
    My choice could be influenced by the music I listen to (Northern English bands like Wombats, Arctic Monkeys, once Oasis, Scottish like The Fratellis).
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2014
  45. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    Italian
    I, as I have already said, after studying British English now find it easier to speak with non rhotic accents. I used to watch American TV and listen to American music (especially Johnny Cash), so I was developing some sort of an American accent - but then adventured into studying British English. It is now with great difficulty that I can sing Cash's song without chopping off all the r's between consonants and at the end of the words.

    So, in the end, I think it all depends on your background.
     
  46. cisarro Senior Member

    Chilean spanish
    Gemma Arterton comes to my mind when somebody says "the British accent", and I really like hers. She has a RP accent on screen (learned at the drama school) but she grew up at Kent (Gravesend) with a strong Estuary accent.

    Among all the British accents I have heard, her accent is the most understandable to me (maybe because she doesn't speak quickly). What do you think... does she sounds too posh or exaggerated if I wanted use her as role model to learn English?
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2015
  47. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    I listened to one of her interviews
    I like her accent. It sounds like it would be a good model. It sounds nice, elegant but not too posh or arrogant. Also modern. Go for it.
    And it's definitely not Estuary. I couldn't stand all the glottal stops and twangy vowels in London accents.
     
  48. cisarro Senior Member

    Chilean spanish
    Hi! I meant she had an Estuary accent before she started to use RP even in her everyday life (which she learned at drama school).

     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2015
  49. bearded

    bearded Senior Member

    Milano
    Italian
    Do you also differentiate between 'man' and 'men', and between 'gentleman' and 'gentlemen'? From what I heard, Americans do not differentiate much in these cases.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2015
  50. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    I think the difference between "man" and "men" is crucial. As is "woman" and "women". But I don't differentiate much between "gentleman" and "gentlemen" in normal speech. Since the accent falls on the first syllable "Gen", the vowel in the last syllable is greatly reduced.
     

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