Artikel getaggt mit ‘accent’
This is a sequel of Moritz’s last article about his experiences with British English. I will try to tell you about my own history of speaking English.
The first time I had the opportunity to meet native speakers was when I visited my aunt and her family in West Virginia when I was seventeen. I stayed there for three weeks. Being the only european visiting this place for years, I was considered to be totally exotic. Everyone was so nice to me and therefore everyone praised my English, which was back then, I suppose, hideous. Like Moritz, I had picked up a lot of British expressions (like rubbish instead of trash, trousers instead of pants) at school which were always corrected. Today, I think the British expressions are a lot nicer, but that’s a matter of taste, of course. Anyway, I picked up quite a few American ones there, too.
Two years later, I worked in a Camphill near Belfast in Northern Ireland. For those who are not familiar with anthroposophical curative education: a Camphill is a little village where disabled people (or persons with special needs, as they are called there) live together with the people who look after them. There are workshops like the bakery and the farm, where the villagers work and where the groceries for the village are produced. Co-Workers from all over the world worked in this Camphill, so I had friends from Sweden, Zambia and New Zealand. I guess this fact also had quite an impact on my English. I adapted a slight Swedish accent among other things.
But since I also managed to make friends with some Northern Irish people I apparently also adapted a Northern Irish accent, as I was told by some Irish people I met in Heidelberg a year later. A Belfast accent is not a particularly nice accent to have. It always sounds sort of agressive, like a dog barking. Probably due to the rough climate there in both meanings.
Well, after all, the point I am trying to make is that my English was exposed to so many influences, that today, I can’t even define what exactly my English sounds like. I can only rely on what native speakers tell me. What I can say for sure, is that my English is rather British than American, but still I picked up American ways of saying things from all the American movies I watched over the years. I find it awkward to say “settee” instead of “couch”. But that’s probably rather a German than an American influence.
That’s it for today, I guess.
Just recently I had the opportunity to talk to a few people from the UK – Dumfries, Scotland, to be exact. Not to derail this article, but they had been asked to play the bagpipes at my aunt’s wedding, a request they fulfilled ever so graciously.
Now, this group consisted of 8 people from 15 to 84 years, so I had a nice demographic of current British (Scottish) dialect right there. My family already had me in mind when it came to communicating with them, so I practically talked to them all evening.
Now, the focus of my studies at University has been on American English, and although I try to speak as neutrally (that is, RP-style) as possible, I can’t help but use a few American expressions every now and then. To my surprise, however, these Scots thought otherwise – they asked me if I had been staying in London for a prolonged time, since I seemingly sounded very British. I replied that I’d never been to Britain, let alone London, so it must have been my Received Pronunciation that has been hammered into my head since fifth grade.
But that is the surprising thing – as far as I’m concerned, my English has developed quite a bit over the years, especially after I left school. To hear that I basically still sound like I just finished my A-levels (accent-wise) is quite confounding to me. One rarely listens to oneself, so I wouldn’t have bothered to see if I have an accent of a specific region (other than a faint German accent, as all non-native speakers of English have in this country).
Has this happened to you? People thought you were from XYZ, but instead you hail from a completely different part of the world? Comments!
Since the topic has been one of the most-visited on our blog, I thought I could talk a bit more about it, namely I picked the topic of dialects and accents in popular culture – most importantly, film.
Now, you’ve all noticed this – in Germany your average actor has to speak High German – there are almost no series, no movies in which dialects are used. And since High German was originally devised as a written language, the same holds true for literature – the only area where you will find dialect freely in German popular culture would be comedy – as a means of getting people to laugh at (stupidly sounding) dialects. A good example of that would be Mario Barth: listen to some of his stuff, he speaks in dialect (albeit a weak form), but he uses that mostly to underline his jokes. Now try to find a movie or a series in which a character continously speaks in dialect – you will have a hard time finding someone.
Now, in the English realm of popular culture, the whole situation is reversed. Dialects and accents are everywhere – not only because the different countries claiming English as their mother tongue have different accents of the same language, but also because one country might use different local dialects more freely, due to missing stigmata. For example – the black vernacular is used regularly and, if it were missing, would completely ruin a character. Let me explain that – if you had a black character in a movie, he had to talk like one – while it seems racist to assume the color of your skin changes the way you speak, Hollywood has basically mimicked “street language” to be a working dialect for black characters. And while there are exceptions (Dr. Eric Foreman in House MD, who could not be “busting heads” due to him being a doctor and all), those are rare and usually the few well-rounded black characters in American popular culture. Another example would be the latino vernacular – basically the same deal as with the black vernacular, only instead of “fo’ sho!” you’d have “Esse!” – I kid.
But those were dialects depending on a different subculture, not just on regional differences – but we have those too. The regional dialects of the South (I know there are more to distinguish from, but for shortness’ sake I will abbreviate them like this) are widely used to mark characters as stupid (redneck stereotype) – an example everyone can relate to would be Cleetus from the Simpsons. More honest (and less degrading) examples would be movies like Forrest Gump and TV series like The Dukes of Hazzard.
So, why is the American dialect so much more accessible to the media? I don’t know, I have my ideas though – due to the cultural melting pot, there is no uniform American culture – it consists of many small cultures that blend together. That means, the way people speak is more diversified – while Germans speak their dialect and a degree of High German to communicate with people that don’t understand their dialect, Americans don’t have the distinction of a “higher” language and their everyday speak. That doesn’t mean they don’t understand each other, they just don’t speak the other persons dialect, they understand it well enough, though.
If you have any comments or insights about this topic, feel free to leave them!
Ich höre immer wieder wie Leute den Unterschied zwischen einem Dialekt und einem Akzent nicht kennen, und daher die Wörter wie Synonyme verwenden. Deswegen möchte die beiden Begriffe mal anschaulich definieren, damit der Unterschied klar wird.
Ein Dialekt ist eine Variation der Hauptsprache, der von einer bestimmten Untergruppe gesprochen wird, und das Vokabular, die Grammatik und die Aussprache der Hauptsprache verändert / ergänzt. Dialekte können durch soziale, historische, kulturelle oder einfach geographische Gegebenheiten entstehen. Ein Beispiel für einen Deutschen Dialekt wäre das Platt, oder neuzeitiger das Berlinerisch. Jede Region in Deutschland spricht mit einem Dialekt, das sogenannte dialektfreie Hochdeutsch ist effektiv nur eine Schriftsprache (selbst im Ausland gelehrtes Deutsch ist von einem Dialekt behaftet – dem des Lehrenden), wobei es gebiete gibt, die weniger starke Dialekte besitzen. Wo man zum Beispiel Oberfranken gerade so noch verstehen kann, so sprich ein Niedersachse fast dialektfrei.
Ein Akzent bezieht sich auf die Aussprache einer Sprache, und damit ist nicht zwingend die Muttersprache gemeint. Akzente sind immer Teil eines Dialekts, aber sind nicht damit gleichzusetzen, weil Akzente keine Grammatik oder Vokabularänderungen beinhalten. Ein Beispiel wäre ein Amerikanischer Akzent im Deutschen – oder genau andersrum, ein Deutscher Akzent im Englischen (Wo wir wieder bei Lothar Matthäus wären..).
Eine sehr gute Zusammenfassung englischsprachiger Dialekte existiert auf Wikipedia:
Wikipedia: Regional Accents of English