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British English – bollocks to that!

Posted on: 26. August 2009

Hey everybody!

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!

-Moritz

2 Antworten to "British English – bollocks to that!"

Moving around the British Isles a fair bit over the past decade has meant that my own accent has been hidden behind something rather neutral, an unfortunate by-product of trying to be clearly understood since I am rather fond of that homely accent, and find myself having to ‚put it on‘ when requested (other than when I’m around family and friends). There has been a beneficial side effect of that, however, in that I seem to have nullified the effects of my original accent when speaking foreign languages, having been told by German, Polish and Russian speakers how difficult it is to tell where I’m from. Not to say they don’t work out I’m a foreigner within about 10 seconds for other reasons!

On a slight tangent, it’s interesting how important accent is to the way we speak, and yet how difficult it can be to get to grips with accents of a foreign tongue. I’m still very pleased if I can make out that someone is from the south of Germany rather than the north, and my girlfriend often checks with me if someone is Scottish or Irish. Were accents something you specifically covered at university?

Accents were a huge focus for many at my university – it is one of the more, how shall I put it, livelier fields of study. I however usually excel at the literary side of studies, so accents, while interesting, are only a small part of my studies. Being from Lower Saxony, I know how it is to be completely neutral accent-wise.

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