Beitrag verschlagwortet mit ‘british english’
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!