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Old 26th August 2008, 05:15 AM   #1
Perro Callejero
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Default Accents of the UK/Accents of America

I got to thinking, Do people from the UK (or Australia or New Zealand etc that also speak English with a different accent from America) sometimes find it difficult to understand the American accent? If you are knowledgeable of different American accents, which is hardest to understand?

Last edited by Perro Callejero; 26th August 2008 at 09:54 PM.
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Old 26th August 2008, 05:58 AM   #2
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I'm not so much asking what accents you like, but rather do you ever find it hard or you have to concentrate hard to understand what an American is saying?
I (midwestern American) sometimes have to concentrate on what southerners (American) are saying. My hat's off to any Spaniards that can talk Alabaman.
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Old 26th August 2008, 06:14 AM   #3
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From an American perspective, I know exactly what you are talking about. Remember, you don't hear your own accent. I'm always amazed when someone can tell that I'm from Texas. I don't even have a heavy Texas accent.

So far as understanding, I sometimes have to listen real close to Boston accents or Louisiana. Scottish and Irish give me problems and some of the less "proper" sounding English. I get Australian and South African mixed up in short conversations.

I guess the Brits will be up in a couple of hours to answer your question.
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Old 26th August 2008, 09:00 AM   #4
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Iīve never had a problem understanding Americans. Ironically, I think they often speak English much more clearly than a lot of English people (myself included). Maybe itīs also partly due to the fact that we all grow up exposed to American accents in films and TV shows, so we canīt help but get used to them.

To my ear, Americans vocalise their words much better than many Brits, even if the accent is strong.
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Old 26th August 2008, 09:01 AM   #5
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I watch loads of British television and find myself writing things like rumour and humour and colour and saying things like Chinese takeaway instead of takeout. Anyway, I don't find English accents hard to understand but It can be difficult with Scottish accents.

I was born in Arkansas and I currently live very close to the border. The state has an identity crisis with some Missourians being Midwestern and Southern. I have an accent but it's not as thick as you would hear in Alabama or Louisiana (at least I hope not!)

The accent that I have a hard time understanding is the Brooklyn accent where they are three steps away from speaking in Yiddish. Also, I have a hard time listening to the Wisconsin accent because of the nasal sound.....it's not a comprehension problem, it's just hard on the ears.
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Old 26th August 2008, 10:15 AM   #6
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Even within Britain there are accents that others find hard to understand - the Geordie (North East, Newcastle area) accent is notoriously difficult for people from other areas.

We also have a lot of dialect words which people in other parts of Britain don't understand and then, of course, we have other indigeneous British languages of which Welsh has the most speakers.

My trouble with american english is the different words - I still have to figure out what a condominium or a duplex is for instance although we have now adopted some americanisms as an integral part of our language and culture (e.g. the school "prom").

I suppose this works both ways as I remember some years ago approaching some people at the Washington Monument and asking "is this the end of the queue?" only to be meet with weird looks and "is it what?" as I repeated myself thinking they hadn't heard. I then realised I had to ask "is it the end of the line?" which in GB would mean we had reached our destination or things were at an end (e.g. it was the end of the line for their relationship).

Two countries divided by a common language as, I think, George Bernard Shaw, said but then he was Irish so that's another accent and variation in word usage !!!
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Old 26th August 2008, 10:16 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by mcark View Post
Also, I have a hard time listening to the Wisconsin accent because of the nasal sound.....it's not a comprehension problem, it's just hard on the ears.
But those Wisconsiners/ites are the greatest people though. Them and Ohio. Always good people. Don'cha gnow.

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Old 26th August 2008, 10:25 AM   #8
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Quote:
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I still have to figure out what a condominium or a duplex is for instance
It's okay. I have trouble with those too. Actually, I'm not quite sure what a townhouse is. A two story condo, maybe?

BTW. Condo= an apartment that you own (but not always...that IS confusing)(wikipedia says it's like your "commonhold") Duplex= House divided in half for two families

Why someone would want to buy an apartment, I'll never know. Not even the apartment but just the air inside of it I think.

Duplex is a way for a landlord to make twice as much money on the same house.

Last edited by saiguanas; 26th August 2008 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 26th August 2008, 10:33 AM   #9
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Actually, I'm not quite sure what a townhouse is. A two story condo, maybe?
A townhouse is a posh way of saying a terraced house. The latter is what one of the houses in a long row usually built for workers in the 19th century would be called. In London and other cities where there are houses that are similarly "terraces" the association with working class housing means that they are called townhouses as this is more "posh".
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Old 26th August 2008, 10:40 AM   #10
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I've never had too much of a problem with English accents. I think they sound very proper. :P After watching anything from England I always end up talking like them for at least a few hours.. Irish accents are harder to understand.



I think we can all agree that Jamaican accents are nearly unintelligible.
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Old 26th August 2008, 10:51 AM   #11
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What trips me up is the occasional British colloquialisms in which I know there are regional varieties. Sometimes the accent becomes challenging as in when several Brits start talking with each other, but eventually I understand more so I suppose I'm adapting. The Scottish accent has been the hardest in my experience on sheer accent alone. On the US side, only the most extreme southern, appalachian and New England accents have been difficult. Having spent 6 months with Wisconsin folks, I find their accent kind of interesting to listen to. It's sort of an American Nordic accent.
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Old 26th August 2008, 11:21 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saiguanas View Post
... Duplex= House divided in half for two families
..
That could be apartments or flats in UK. It's a common way for property developers to get more back for their efforts. Years ago the dividing walls were paper thin but they've tightened up the regulations a bit since.
A house built side by side with another is a semi-detached.
As to "why live in a flat/apartment" - money! They're cheaper than a house especially in the larger cities where land has run out.
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Old 26th August 2008, 11:31 AM   #13
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I live in Chester, about 20 miles south of Liverpool. I know native Spanish speakers that say that they have a lot of trouble with the Liverpool "Scouse" accent.

Also Geordie from the NE and of course Scottish.

Try the Liverpool challenge. This one is not too strong.
http://85.133.25.234/021/021MC900S10051AU00002C01.wma

http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/so...nd/birkenhead/

http://www.collectbritain.co.uk/pers...10010U00001C01

I am from Yorkshire originally. Very close to the second example.

mms://85.133.25.234/021/021SED00C908S47U00006C01.wma

mms://85.133.25.234/021/021SED00C908S48U00001C01.wma
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Old 26th August 2008, 11:46 AM   #14
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A duplex on the US east coast is a 2 floor apartment. A home split into 2 halves for 2 families is known as a "double decker" in New England.
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Old 26th August 2008, 02:03 PM   #15
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In Spain a duplex is a flat with more than one floor.

In the UK a lot of terraced houses have the basement converted into a separate flat with its own street entrance. The main, upper part of the house also has its own street entrance but since it no longer counts as being a house (because it constitutes only part of the building) it gets called a "maisonette" instead.
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Old 26th August 2008, 02:33 PM   #16
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You know what I think is really odd though... In my experience English-speaking people with strong accents don't like other English-speaking people trying to immitate those accents. Even if it's a truly sincere gesture it would generally be seen as mocking. I've tried doing this with Scottish, Yorkshire, Lake District, Australian, Irish, Boston, and Texan accents; almost always it was perceived as if I were playing some kind of game. (Maybe I'm just no good at it.. JA!)

But if a non-native speaker of English or any other language tries to adopt their speech to match that of whatever region they're in, it would be seen as entirely complimentary.
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Old 26th August 2008, 02:50 PM   #17
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If, say a Londoner, tries to mimick my Northern accent, I wouldnīt think it at all charming or flattering. Iīd think they were taking the pee-pee, so in that sense your theory is bang on the button. Afterall, we both speak English and (with the odd exception words) can understand eachother perfectly, so thereīs no need to venture outside of your normal accent unless youīre intending to wind eachother up.

With foreigners learning English though, I would consider it "cute" if they acquired a Manchester accent, but then theyīd be doing it natural as a part of being surrounded by locals. I remember an old Spanish teacher of mine had a Mancunian boyfriend, and on one occasion she spoke to me in English, and her Manchester accent blew me away! She dropped all her Hīs and swallowed her Tīs like a pro!

However, me for example, Iīve learned almost all of my Spanish in Barcelona (a town not noted for a strong accent in Castellano), so if I went to Andalucia and started speaking without any Sīs, then Iīd feel stupid and Iīm sure theyīd pick up on it.
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Old 26th August 2008, 03:15 PM   #18
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Peter Schmeichel (Man U goalkeeper) has a Manc accent and I remember Jan Molby having a strong scouse accent after playing for Liverpool in the 80s. I agree that it does sound "cute" on them.

I remember reading somewhere that you can't get rid of your accent after a certain age (I think it is sometime in your early 20s). The article gave Henry Kissinger as an example - he couldn't get rid of his German accent but his younger brother did. Arnold Schwarzenegger is someone else who apparently is too old to lose his accent.
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Old 26th August 2008, 06:12 PM   #19
Perro Callejero
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pepino View Post
Iīve never had a problem understanding Americans. Ironically, I think they often speak English much more clearly than a lot of English people (myself included). Maybe itīs also partly due to the fact that we all grow up exposed to American accents in films and TV shows, so we canīt help but get used to them.

To my ear, Americans vocalise their words much better than many Brits, even if the accent is strong.
Thanks for the response to the actual question Pepino! I guess I never thought about the fact that American films would probably influence an ability to understand.

So how about any other people from non-American English-speaking countries? Do you ever find the American accents hard to understand?

Last edited by Perro Callejero; 26th August 2008 at 09:57 PM.
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Old 26th August 2008, 06:25 PM   #20
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But those Wisconsiners/ites are the greatest people though. Them and Ohio. Always good people. Don'cha gnow.
yeah sure ya betch ya ok
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