Your native language: have you lost a regional accent?

Pedro y La Torre

Senior Member
English (Ireland)
I grew up in northern Minnesota, near the Canadian border. I had a strong Minnesota accent (mistaken for Canadian in other parts of the US) until age 20, when I moved to France for two years. In France, I spoke English regularly, although the bulk of the time I spoke French (which I knew at a low fluency when I arrived). During those two years I lost my heavily Canadian accent in French, and also the identifiably Minnesota accent in English. Today, my English sounds vaguely Mid-Atlantic (although Minnesota returns if I've been drinking).
What is the difference between a Minnesota accent and a stereotypical Canuck?
I can't say that I have been able to distinguish.
 
  • ESustad

    Senior Member
    English - (Minnesota)
    What is the difference between a Minnesota accent and a stereotypical Canuck?
    I can't say that I have been able to distinguish.
    There's no significant difference between northern Minnesota and Winnipeg or Thunder Bay, in terms of accent. Most people from the Twin Cities sound more neutrally Midwestern.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I don't think I ever quite acquired my regional accent. :) Despite being born and raised in California I am often asked by fellow Californians where I am from. To me I sound just like any other Californian. I suppose it might be the words I use, more than anything. To non-Californians I definitely sound Californian, so I have no good explanation for it.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (US Northeast)
    I don't believe I have lost any regional accent (in English) as I never have set out to change it, but at the same time it has become enriched from different sources as I have been exposed to people from everywhere around the world for years and years.
    Actually, I'm not even sure what it would mean to have no accent, to lose ones accent, and what that would really sound like. I always find that the people who proclaim loudly they have no accent at all actually turn out to have the strongest ones. I have sporadically heard that from people from different parts of the US, like Michigan, Missouri, Texas, Idaho... all of which have seemed strong to me. I chuckle each time I hear, "we have no accent in my hometown of East Jeffersonville, XXX". Of course, I hear an accent. :D
    If no accent means adopting another accent from another region, I definitely haven't done that. And for sure, I do not have anything close to a Hollywood accent, that many people have told me. As foreigners have seen so many films and series, they identify that as American.
     
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    Hacha

    Member
    Castellano/Español de España
    I've always lived in Madrid and as such have a madrilenian accent, but I pick up accents really easily. Whenever I'm speaking with someone I like for more than five minutes, I uncounsciously pick up their accent even if we are in the middle of Madrid (ironically, I'm no good at imitating accents consciously). A friend of mine thinks it may be a subscounscious attempt to fit in with the group we're in, since it seems a common enough trend to us.

    I remember one summer I went to see my family in Cáceres (center-southwest) for two weeks, then off to a summer camp in Málaga (south) for a month, then off to see a friend in Asturias (north) for another week, then back to Madrid (center). Everywhere I went, people was surprised I was not a local (althought it's true I'm really familiar with cacereño, which is very similar to asturiano, and that I was in Málaga for a whole month)... except for when I came back to Madrid, when I was speaking with a really weird mix of all three and a new friend couldn't believe Madrid was my hometown :D

    So, to answer your questions, Orreaga: no, I don't see it as an affectation, at least in my case. I'd attribute it to a wish to belong or fit in with the group.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    I don't think a neutral accent actually exists, however people who have taken diction lessons are able to speak with a really mild and almost imperceptible accent (at least in Italian).

    I have never found anyone who can even define what a neutral accent is supposed to be. So how could anyone claim that someone has something that they cannot define?
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (US Northeast)
    I have never found anyone who can even define what a neutral accent is supposed to be. So how could anyone claim that someone has something that they cannot define?
    When people say that in France I paraphrase that they really mean they are making a very strong effort to try to imitate some form of Parisian accent and eliminate the one typical of their region of origin. They are typically successful in various degrees. The more the accent approximates the ideal the more neutral they say the accent is.
    I don't know if people try to do that in Germany and what accent they might try to imitate. It might be a French or Italian issue (assuming the Italians are trying to pick up some Tuscan or Roman accent).
    In English or Spanish speaking countries people don't typically make such a strong superhuman effort to erase their origins or it isn't as important to them. It's normal, not shameful, to have the accent from where you were born. Being cultured is measured more in the correctness of the speech, the grammar, and the variety of synonyms.
     
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    ESustad

    Senior Member
    English - (Minnesota)
    In English or Spanish speaking countries people don't typically make such a strong superhuman effort to erase their origins or it isn't as important to them. It's normal, not shameful, to have the accent from where you were born. Being cultured is measured more in the correctness of the speech, the grammar, and the variety of synonyms.
    You sure about that? I know that in England particularly, people can be enormously judgmental about a person's accent. In the States, someone with an Appalachian drawl often encounters stereotypes, and don't even get me started on the politics of Black American English.

    In Mexico, the Yucatecan accent is seen (or heard) as being a sign of a yokel. No one in Spanish-speaking countries outside of Spain likes the ceceo lisp, which is judged as effete.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (US Northeast)
    You sure about that? I know that in England particularly, people can be enormously judgmental about a person's accent. In the States, someone with an Appalachian drawl often encounters stereotypes, and don't even get me started on the politics of Black American English.

    In Mexico, the Yucatecan accent is seen (or heard) as being a sign of a yokel. No one in Spanish-speaking countries outside of Spain likes the ceceo lisp, which is judged as effete.
    I wasn't thinking particularly of England, but actually most of the people I've never known from there have not wanted to change their accent, a northerner doesn't care to sound like a southerner for instance, or a Scot like an Englishman. It seems to me that Cockney is actually cool now in London. I did, however, meet a girl from York who was obsessed with sounding like she was from Oxford, and actually believed that Americans should try to do the same. I chalked it up to her having lived so long in France, where she must have picked up this attitude. There can be such accent mania here.

    I spent time in Appalachia and I found the people there really proud of their heritage. They don't seem to make any effort to modify the accent even when others don't understand them. Ebonics... well, that's another story. I suppose some (perhaps many) people strive to get rid of traces of that dialect when they talk. I know it's true it's kind of looked down on in the US. It's probably related more to racism.

    I don't know what a Yucatecan accent sounds like at all, so I cannot comment on it at all, or any Mexican accent really.

    In the past there has been a stigma attached to ceceo in the regions where they have that accent in Andalucía, like Granada. It's more redneck than effete. It's still not present on tv there for sure. There was a critical study I read once about accent on TV. Men were more likely to have ceceo than women in all given contexts. Ladies would make more of an effort to have a standard accent or change it consciously for formal interviews, especially those on TV. On the other hand, aspirating the s at the end of syllables, and dropping the unaccented -d has no social stigma at all in southern Spain. It's even encouraged in many circles. Politicians in Spain have regional accents to prove their regional pride.
     
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    irinet

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    I haven't lost my dialectal accent. Moreover, I am still using specific regional words from my native region though I live in Bucharest for more than 12 years. But this is because I am still in touch with Moldovian people and because I don't want to fully blend.
     

    beezneez

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I wasn't thinking particularly of England, but actually most of the people I've never known from there have not wanted to change their accent, a northerner doesn't care to sound like a southerner for instance, or a Scot like an Englishman. It seems to me that Cockney is actually cool now in London. I did, however, meet a girl from York who was obsessed with sounding like she was from Oxford, and actually believed that Americans should try to do the same. I chalked it up to her having lived so long in France, where she must have picked up this attitude. There can be such accent mania here.

    I spent time in Appalachia and I found the people there really proud of their heritage. They don't seem to make any effort to modify the accent even when others don't understand them. Ebonics... well, that's another story. I suppose some (perhaps many) people strive to get rid of traces of that dialect when they talk. I know it's true it's kind of looked down on in the US. It's probably related more to racism.

    I don't know what a Yucatecan accent sounds like at all, so I cannot comment on it at all, or any Mexican accent really.

    In the past there has been a stigma attached to ceceo in the regions where they have that accent in Andalucía, like Granada. It's more redneck than effete. It's still not present on tv there for sure. There was a critical study I read once about accent on TV. Men were more likely to have ceceo than women in all given contexts. Ladies would make more of an effort to have a standard accent or change it consciously for formal interviews, especially those on TV. On the other hand, aspirating the s at the end of syllables, and dropping the unaccented -d has no social stigma at all in southern Spain. It's even encouraged in many circles. Politicians in Spain have regional accents to prove their regional pride.
    Trust me, Americans are EXTREMELY prejudiced and judgmental when it comes to accents. I once worked in an office where I handled a correspondence between a potential employer and a former employer. The reference letter to the hiring employer pleaded that the young lady was a qualified, hard-working and pleasant person, IN SPITE OF her annoying and dreadful accent. He suggested that once her productivity became apparent, her accent would become less of an issue. Any accent that drips of poverty and hard work is condemned in the strongest terms, e.g., Appalachia, "Ebonics", Ozarks, and New Jersey. Accents scented of idle money and power are regarded as superior: Crusty British, certain New England accents. But most Americans hide behind an undefinable "Standard American" accent, that we use like a second language to conceal our origins. I know many people who took special classes to learn the "standard" accent. When I was 5-6 years old, I myself had to take a "speech development." I was kicked out after I threw a tantrum Lol. Hated the teacher, hated the class. If anyone tells you that they are proud of their accents, you should bear in mind that it is only because someone told them it was shameful and they refused to be bullied.
     

    midlifecrisis

    Member
    UK, English
    I'd like to have an idea how common it is for people to lose the regional accent they grew up speaking, especially those who still live in the region where they acquired the accent, in whatever language. If so, to what do you attribute the change? Do you see it as an affectation?
    I grew up in a working class area where an East Anglian sub-dialect was common. I then got a scholarship to a private school where a broadly 'RP' accent was the norm. I'd say by the age of 12 or so, I'd lost any trace of the local accent, not through conscious effort but by assimilation with the peer group. Now I cannot even do a convincing imitation of the local accent - indeed my attempts at Scottish accents are probably better! Looking back to other boys in a similar situation at that school, which had a catchment drawn from both a market town and the surrounding villages, it strikes me that those like myself with an 'urban local accent' lost it rapidly, whereas those with a 'rural local accent' did not, despite the latter attracting more open criticism / stigmatism than the former. However, interestingly, what I have clung onto is an only partial shift of a few class-marking terms. I grew up having 'dinner' at midday and 'tea' in the evening. I'd now say respectively 'lunch' and 'dinner'; most of my social group would say 'supper' for the latter but to me saying that would feel like a conscious shift. So perhaps regionalisms fade more easily, or at least less consciously, than social class markers?
     
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    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    I was born and raised in a working-class area of Birmingham, in the English West-Midlands, where there is a very strong regional accent (called "Brummie"). I left Birmingham to go to University in Norwich at the age of 18, and have lived in Norwich ever since (24 years) and I've lost my regional accent almost entirely (without intending to do so)...to the extent that I couldn't mimic it now even if I wanted to.

    However, I haven't replaced my "Brummie" with a Norwich accent...my speech is now "neutral"...neither posh, regional nor working-class...which sometimes I think is rather a pity...
    I'm a Brummie as well. Yippee!! I grew up in Birmingham so I suppose I spoke with a Brummie accent then. I've lived in Cardiff in Wales for many years and I haven't picked up a Cardiff accent (a harsh, unattractive accent if you ask me, although I suppose I'll get into trouble for saying so). Some people have said I sound as though I come from north of Birmingham. Perhaps it's because I went to university and then worked for a while in Yorkshire. I'm glad I haven't lost my regional accent (wherever it comes from). If you've got one, keep it. The more linguistic variety the better. There's something called Estuary English - presumably because it's spoken around the Thames Estuary. It's a boring, colourless, invented 'accent'. You never heard it in my young days. It's spoken by people who don't want to sound posh but who don't want to sound common either.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Trust me, Americans are EXTREMELY prejudiced and judgmental when it comes to accents. I once worked in an office where I handled a correspondence between a potential employer and a former employer. The reference letter to the hiring employer pleaded that the young lady was a qualified, hard-working and pleasant person, IN SPITE OF her annoying and dreadful accent. He suggested that once her productivity became apparent, her accent would become less of an issue.
    It depends on the position, the accent and the work involved, I think. If it's a customer-facing job and the accent is so strong that it is difficult for many people to understand it can be an issue. I'm thinking of a very strong Vietnamese accent, for example, where many of the ending consonants are dropped. Do you know which accent the person had?

    Any accent that drips of poverty and hard work is condemned in the strongest terms, e.g., Appalachia, "Ebonics", Ozarks, and New Jersey.
    Now, hang on. :) I don't remember Bill Clinton "condemned in the strongest terms" (at least about his accent) even though he had quite a drawl. George Bush Jr. was lampooned for his vocabulary and malapropisms rather than his accent.

    I think "poverty and rural" might be a more accurate combination than "poverty and hard work". I don't think any accent can claim "hard work" as a hallmark of the accent. That sounds like a personal grudge on your part rather than a general American characteristic to me. There are plenty of Bostonians who are hard-working blue-collar people. The "Car Talk" hosts come to mind.

    Looking at "Real Housewives of (fill-in-the-blank)" you have all sorts of idle rich from all over the U.S. with a huge range of accents. There's no way to tell from the accent whether the person is dirt-poor or independently wealthy.
     

    giuggiola91

    Senior Member
    Italian
    When people say that in France I paraphrase that they really mean they are making a very strong effort to try to imitate some form of Parisian accent and eliminate the one typical of their region of origin. They are typically successful in various degrees. The more the accent approximates the ideal the more neutral they say the accent is.
    I don't know if people try to do that in Germany and what accent they might try to imitate. It might be a French or Italian issue (assuming the Italians are trying to pick up some Tuscan or Roman accent).
    This is not the case, in Italy we never try to pick up Tuscan or Roman accent.
    These accents are not considered "better", "prestigious" or something similar, there's no reason to try to pick them up or to imitated them:)

    In English or Spanish speaking countries people don't typically make such a strong superhuman effort to erase their origins or it isn't as important to them. It's normal, not shameful, to have the accent from where you were born. Being cultured is measured more in the correctness of the speech, the grammar, and the variety of synonyms
    In italy too :)
     
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    Nipnip

    Senior Member
    Español
    I suppose it might be the words I use, more than anything. To non-Californians I definitely sound Californian, so I have no good explanation for it.
    Syntax, lexicon and accent. I myself don't think of as having lost my regional accent, but defintely the words I use are perhaps not standard where I am from. I am at a poing in my life that no matter where I'm at people always ask me where I am from.


    A friend of mine thinks it may be a subscounscious attempt to fit in with the group we're in, since it seems a common enough trend to us.
    A bit of this too, I grew up among different social strata, with very different lifestyles, academic backgrounds and affinities. All those groups had different accents and I somehow developed one for each. About two years ago I was negatively surprised when I found myself talking with the accent and the attitude of someone I thought I had buried long time ago, but it took 10 minutes speaking with someone of the same persuassion to dig up the corps of an old me.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (US Northeast)
    Syntax, lexicon and accent. I myself don't think of as having lost my regional accent, but defintely the words I use are perhaps not standard where I am from. I am at a point in my life that no matter where I'm at people always ask me where I am from..
    I would agree with all that 100%. I just met up with non-widely travelled cousins and I heard hundreds of words and expressions I would never use anymore. They conjured up old memories. I thought I'd retain them but I can only remember one: "mango" for "chile pepper". Pronunciation is easier, adding r where it doesn't exist and removing it were it does: warsh for wash, saprise for surprise, lots of long o and a.
     

    Gwunderi

    Senior Member
    German (CH) / Italian - bilingual
    This is not the case, in Italy we never try to pick up Tuscan or Roman accent.
    I don't (consciously) try to pick up the accent, but often do it automatically. I visited Rome for the first time when I was over 20 years old (and later several times), and after two or three days we were there, I caught myself speaking with a Roman accent (not proper I think, but I could state a swift in my accent). I.e. I said: "E mò che facciamo?" with Roman cadence - usually I would say: "E adesso cosa facciamo?". Funny, we had to laugh about it :)
     

    Mishe

    Senior Member
    Slovenian
    I'd like to have an idea how common it is for people to lose the regional accent they grew up speaking, especially those who still live in the region where they acquired the accent, in whatever language. If so, to what do you attribute the change? Do you see it as an affectation?

    In the US, some people become self-conscious of a strong regional accent at a certain time in their lives, they may notice that it isn't spoken on national TV, or may go to university in another region and lose their accent in favor of a more "standard" American accent. Some Southerners I know can switch back and forth, they'll switch to a standard accent when speaking to non-Southerners, and then switch to their original accent when speaking to Southerners.

    I grew up with a fairly strong accent from my native New York City area, but "lost" it (without consciously trying) sometime in adolescence. I can't even imitate one very well, and am sometimes sorry that I can't talk that way again with New Yorkers.
    Slovenia, although a small country with only 2 million people, has more than 40 different dialects and 6 dialect groups, which is quite a curious phenomenon for a relatively low number of speakers. Also, people are quite proud of their regional dialects, but they take pride in the (standard) language itself as well. However, dialects and regional accents are very much alive and thriving, although everybody learns the standard variety.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I know some Sicilians (now in their 60s) who have lived in Milan since they were young adults. You can hear that they are Sicilian, but when they go back to Sicily in the summer their fellow Sicilians say they have a northern accent.
    I had a similar experience in London. I had a colleague from Newcastle whose Geordie accent was evident, but he told us that when he went back to Newcastle they said he spoke with a London accent. Of course, the people in Newcastle only noticed what was different from their own accent and not what remained of it. In the same way his Londoner colleagues noticed what remained of his Geordie accent and not what he had acquired in London.

    These are typical cases: the Sicilians sound Sicilian to the northerners around them, who therefore say that they haven't lost their accent, but but in reality they partially lose it, which is noticed only by their friends and relatives in Sicily.
     
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    Peripes

    Senior Member
    Español, Perú
    I must say that in Peru, there's heavy accent within the different regions. I used to think I spoke without much accent, buth when I came to Lima it became more and more evident that I clearly spoke in a very different way. I mostly tend to switch words within my sentences and speak quite quickly and with a somewhat high tone, all of them typical from people who are in contact with the Amazon region. It's very difficult not to pick up the expressions they use here, specially the slang used by the younger generations, but people still point out to me that I was not born here from my way of speaking. There are some people that look down on the andean accent, specially because of the influence Quechua has on it, associating it with negative connotations. I remember that some rude kids used to make fun of one of my cousins just because she came from Cusco and her accent was quite evident.
     

    Vanda

    Moderesa de Beagá
    Português/ Brasil
    I sort of have and I don't like it very much. I've lived in so many regions and have been in touch with so many accents so far that now I have a mixed one.
     
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    Mishe

    Senior Member
    Slovenian
    I must say that in Peru, there's heavy accent within the different regions. I used to think I spoke without much accent, buth when I came to Lima it became more and more evident that I clearly spoke in a very different way. I mostly tend to switch words within my sentences and speak quite quickly and with a somewhat high tone, all of them typical from people who are in contact with the Amazon region. It's very difficult not to pick up the expressions they use here, specially the slang used by the younger generations, but people still point out to me that I was not born here from my way of speaking. There are some people that look down on the andean accent, specially because of the influence Quechua has on it, associating it with negative connotations. I remember that some rude kids used to make fun of one of my cousins just because she came from Cusco and her accent was quite evident.
    Are people also mocked if they speak Quechua in public?
     

    Peripes

    Senior Member
    Español, Perú
    Are people also mocked if they speak Quechua in public?
    No, nowadays it's not like people will directly mock you if you speak Quechua in public, but Spanish is so widespread that, to some people, it seems incredible, if not impossible, that someone who lives in the city or any urban area does not speak Spanish. When they're with their friends they may say things like "This cholito came to me and I didn't understand a thing of what he was saying! He better learn some Spanish!" People can sometimes say very nasty things about people who have the andean accent as it's often associated with the cholo stereotype. Peruvians are becoming a bit more tolerant, they may not speak out in public but racism exists. The Government always wants to promote Quechua in some way or another (e.g.: Ads half in Quechua, half in Spanish) but complete bilingualism or interest in this language is, in my opinion, an illusion.
     

    Mishe

    Senior Member
    Slovenian
    No, nowadays it's not like people will directly mock you if you speak Quechua in public, but Spanish is so widespread that, to some people, it seems incredible, if not impossible, that someone who lives in the city or any urban area does not speak Spanish. When they're with their friends they may say things like "This cholito came to me and I didn't understand a thing of what he was saying! He better learn some Spanish!" People can sometimes say very nasty things about people who have the andean accent as it's often associated with the cholo stereotype. Peruvians are becoming a bit more tolerant, they may not speak out in public but racism exists. The Government always wants to promote Quechua in some way or another (e.g.: Ads half in Quechua, half in Spanish) but complete bilingualism or interest in this language is, in my opinion, an illusion.
    Well, I find it kind of sad that a native language has such a dodgy reputation. This is, undoubtedly, a remnant of colonization and deeply-rooted racism, which persists in different forms and features all over the Americas.
     

    Peripes

    Senior Member
    Español, Perú
    Well, I find it kind of sad that a native language has such a dodgy reputation. This is, undoubtedly, a remnant of colonization and deeply-rooted racism, which persists in different forms and features all over the Americas.
    Indeed. I must say that, if the only language one knows is Quechua, one's completely lost in Peru, at least when talking about the most contemporary aspects of life.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    There's something called Estuary English - presumably because it's spoken around the Thames Estuary. It's a boring, colourless, invented 'accent'. You never heard it in my young days. It's spoken by people who don't want to sound posh but who don't want to sound common either.
    People who speak Estuary English definitely don't sound posh but to my ears they sound far worse than common: it's an appalling accent which is gradually taking over in London (especially in south-east London, from whence I hail).

    Anyway, I personally only ever spoke English with a London accent early on in school (not at home) and only then because I was ribbed about having a posh accent. I stopped using the accent as I grew older and gained confidence in myself
     

    Mishe

    Senior Member
    Slovenian
    Trust me, Americans are EXTREMELY prejudiced and judgmental when it comes to accents. I once worked in an office where I handled a correspondence between a potential employer and a former employer. The reference letter to the hiring employer pleaded that the young lady was a qualified, hard-working and pleasant person, IN SPITE OF her annoying and dreadful accent. He suggested that once her productivity became apparent, her accent would become less of an issue. Any accent that drips of poverty and hard work is condemned in the strongest terms, e.g., Appalachia, "Ebonics", Ozarks, and New Jersey. Accents scented of idle money and power are regarded as superior: Crusty British, certain New England accents. But most Americans hide behind an undefinable "Standard American" accent, that we use like a second language to conceal our origins. I know many people who took special classes to learn the "standard" accent. When I was 5-6 years old, I myself had to take a "speech development." I was kicked out after I threw a tantrum Lol. Hated the teacher, hated the class. If anyone tells you that they are proud of their accents, you should bear in mind that it is only because someone told them it was shameful and they refused to be bullied.
    Another similarity between the US and France.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (US Northeast)
    Another similarity between the US and France.
    I wouldn't say I share this opinion at all. I've known Americans who are proud of their accents and would not hide their origins. Everyone has their own accent anyway. I can usually tell where anyone is from.

    The French, on the contrary, can sometimes be obsessed with correct accent.
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I was raised in a region with a relatively neutral US accent - my Oklahoma cousins once told me I talked just like those folks on TV. But I pick up accents wherever I am, so it isn't so much a matter of dropping the old one as sliding toward a new one. I'm slowly acquiring the accent of the region I live in now despite my attempts to resist; it isn't one I particularly like, so every now and then I wince when I hear those long flat vowels coming out of my own mouth. Ack.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I don't think a neutral accent actually exists, however people who have taken diction lessons are able to speak with a really mild and almost imperceptible accent (at least in Italian).
    There are countries with a "neutral" or "standard" accent used by most people. Poland is one of them. I was born and grew up in Poland, and I have never spoken a local accent or dialect, only the standard language. Nobody can tell where I grew up, and the same is true of the majority of people in Poland. Only some people from the country, without much school education, use only local dialects and are unable to speak the standard language. Most people, even those that speak a dialect with their neighbours are diglossic and switch to the standard language speaking with strangers.
     
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