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Accents.....

Shashank Tanksali
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Joined: Feb 21, 2001
Posts: 122
English is one language that seems to have so many different accents. Almost every english speaking nation seems to have its own accent. The most prominent accents being American,British,Australian.

I am not aware of any other languages in the world that have any accents at all. Sure, the same language is spoken differently (usage of different words/expressions etc), but I feel there is no significant difference in the accent for any other language.

Is English the only language with so many different accents ?

In fact, the American accent itself has so many differences, you can very easily tell if a person is a southerner,New Yorker or a Texan.

Recently, in India with all the call centers opening up, several language institutes have come up that promise to teach you a global (or neutral) accent. Since the call center operator may speak to a guy in Europe one minute, a guy in the US or Japan the next minute, they need to speak in a neutral accent. Is there any such thing as a global or neutral accent of English or are these guys being taken for a ride ???
Joe King
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Joined: Sep 02, 2003
Posts: 820
Originally posted by Shashank Tanksali:
English is one language that seems to have so many different accents. Almost every english speaking nation seems to have its own accent. The most prominent accents being American,British,Australian.

I am not aware of any other languages in the world that have any accents at all. Sure, the same language is spoken differently (usage of different words/expressions etc), but I feel there is no significant difference in the accent for any other language.

Is English the only language with so many different accents ?

Plenty of other languages have other accents. Apparently the Parisian accent is very different from the south of France for example. The only foreign accent I've been exposed to is the Greek (I'm currently learning it) one - even as a beginner I can tell the difference between the "proper" Greek that I'm being taught and the "island" Greek I've heard while in Crete.

In fact, the American accent itself has so many differences, you can very easily tell if a person is a southerner,New Yorker or a Texan.

The place in which there are probably the most English accents is funnily enough England. Having been cramped together on this one island for umpteen hundred years, we've had plenty of time to make up some interesting accents. A person from Manchester will have a totally different accent than a person from Leeds even though the two places are only a few miles away. In some places you can have different accents inside one city - in London there is a difference in accent between in the east and south east to the rest of the city. There's enough different accents that if you've travelled around the country enough you can probably narrow down to within 30/40 miles where someone grew up the first time you meet them.

This is why its so amusing that in many Hollywood films Brits either have cockney, posh or Scottish accents - these are just three of hundreds. Mind you, had they used scouse or geordie accents in films then no-one (including most Britons) would not be able to understand them.... and had they used a Brum accent then that would probably get them in trouble for human rights violations

Recently, in India with all the call centers opening up, several language institutes have come up that promise to teach you a global (or neutral) accent. Since the call center operator may speak to a guy in Europe one minute, a guy in the US or Japan the next minute, they need to speak in a neutral accent. Is there any such thing as a global or neutral accent of English or are these guys being taken for a ride ???

Possibly the posh "Queens English". Until recently the main global broadcaster of news was the BBC - no other single station broadcasted to as many places as the BBC World Service did, meaning that many people's exposure to English would have been the very proper and correct posh BBC accent used. There is also the influence of the British Empire - there's a lot of ex-Imperial countries that would have had a lot of exposure to posh English. This may make it the most understandable accent. In years to come the popularity of Hollywood films will probably make the American accent more widely know, especially as more and more of the world gets TVs.
[ July 02, 2004: Message edited by: Joe King ]
Steve Wink
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Joined: May 13, 2002
Posts: 223
Yep, even I can tell the difference between north and south France. Spain has noticeable accents ( and Spanish spoken in South America introduces a load more ), and I've heard people talk about different German accents. I'd be very surprised ( but interested to find out ) if most languages that were spoken in more than one place didn't have accents.
Arjun Shastry
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Joined: Mar 13, 2003
Posts: 1874
{
Is English the only language with so many different accents ?
}
As above said,many languages have different accents.Marathi,official language of Maharashtra state(area:307,690 Sq.Km) ,I know has atleast 7 to 8 accents.In Mumbai,its different ,in Nagpur its different,in Jalgaon its different etc.Hindi also has I think different accents.Ravish will tell more about this.


[ July 02, 2004: Message edited by: Arjun Shastry ]
[ July 02, 2004: Message edited by: Arjun Shastry ]

MH
Shashank Tanksali
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Joined: Feb 21, 2001
Posts: 122
Most asian languages when written tell you exactly how to pronounce the words. This is not the case for English. For example, nobody in the world can figure out how to pronounce pseudo when they see it for the first time in their life.

Even simple words like behind are pronounced differently. Some of my colleagues would pronounce it as bah-hind and others would pronounce it as bee-hind.

Maybe this is the reason why there are so many accents in the English language.

I thought good old England had just one accent. Boy, I learn something new almost everyday.
Thomas Paul
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Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
The place in which there are probably the most English accents is funnily enough England.

Professor Henry Higgins claimed to be able to identify to within a block the birthplace of a person by their accent. Of course, Henry Higgins was based on a real person whose name escapes me at the moment.


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Jeroen Wenting
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In the Netherlands, and especially in the east of the country, it's often possible to tell which town or village someone comes from not just by his accent but the vocabulary and grammar in use.
There's sayings that are particular to a single small village and misunderstood (or not comprehended) by people from the next village which can be only a kilometer or so away.

But then, part of that region is officially recognised as having a distinct language (and I'm not talking about Frysian which is not a recognised language).


42
Steve Wink
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Joined: May 13, 2002
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Originally posted by Shashank Tanksali:
Most asian languages when written tell you exactly how to pronounce the words. This is not the case for English. For example, nobody in the world can figure out how to pronounce pseudo when they see it for the first time in their life.

Even simple words like behind are pronounced differently. Some of my colleagues would pronounce it as bah-hind and others would pronounce it as bee-hind.

Maybe this is the reason why there are so many accents in the English language.

I thought good old England had just one accent. Boy, I learn something new almost everyday.


Its thoroughly tough how things ought to be pronounced. But enough of that, though.
Bear Bibeault
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  65

A someone who speak a little Canadian French, trust me in that if you are in Paris, you'd be better off speaking Swahili.


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Warren Dew
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Joe King:

Possibly the posh "Queens English".

While that wouldn't be considered "neutral" in the U.S., probably everyone would be able to understand it, so it's a reasonable candidate.

If you wanted to sound more normal to Americans, at the cost of sounding less normal to Brits and Aussies, you could choose the American midwestern accent that is favored by U.S. television announcers.

I think Chinese has a broader range of accents than English. Even within Mandarin, I had a little trouble in Peking using what Chinese I learned in Taiwan (they use different terms for "Mandarin", for example).
Stan James
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Is there any such thing as a global or neutral accent of English or are these guys being taken for a ride ???


Some decades ago I heard one of the national anchor guys say that Omaha, Nebraska was the "American standard broadcast English" accent. Since I grew up in that area, I was happy to hear it. Midwest still sounds the most neutral to me.


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Jim Yingst
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Is there any such thing as a global or neutral accent of English or are these guys being taken for a ride ???

I think it depends what the goal really is. If a person wants to speak in such a way that Americans, Brits, Australians etc. will be fooled into thinking the speaker is a native of their own country, rather than some sort of foreigner - well, no, that's not going to happen with any one accent. If someone wants to sound really "authentic", they probably need to pick a particular accent and learn it well. And good luck; it's still going to be pretty tough to fool people. However if the goal is to be easily understood by a wide range of English speakers, I think that's probably possible. One could probably do well with an accent midway between UK and American. This may unfairly leave out the Aussies and Kiwis (Canadians are close enough to US for this purpose) but I suspect they've seen a lot of American and UK movies anyway; they'll be able to undertand the speaker well enough. Though the reverse is not necessarily true...


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Joe King
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Originally posted by Warren Dew:

If you wanted to sound more normal to Americans, at the cost of sounding less normal to Brits and Aussies


While we're on the subject, why is it that Americans often get confused between Australians and English? The accents are very different. Mind you, I find it hard to tell the difference between a Canadian and a north US accent.
Richard Hawkes
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Joined: Jan 28, 2003
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I used to get that Canadian/US thing along with the Aussie/Kiwi thing, but its just lack of exposure. I get the differences now, mostly.

Most bizarre thing was the English guy on a plane last year. He's a teacher in Japan from Bristol. He thought I was from New Zealand after we'd been chatting for about 40 minutes. I'm a southern England boy. He was about 55 and wearing baggy leather trousers which looked a bit wrong but that's got nothing to do with anything.
Steve Wink
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Joined: May 13, 2002
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Originally posted by Joe King:


While we're on the subject, why is it that Americans often get confused between Australians and English? The accents are very different. Mind you, I find it hard to tell the difference between a Canadian and a north US accent.


Isn't one of the easiest ways of annoying a Canadian is to mistake them for an American? Same with Kiwis - ask them which bit of Australia they come from and stand back...
Jeroen Wenting
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Originally posted by Joe King:


While we're on the subject, why is it that Americans often get confused between Australians and English? The accents are very different. Mind you, I find it hard to tell the difference between a Canadian and a north US accent.


Aren't Americans generally confused by just about anything originating outside their own country?

My father was once asked where he was from by a highlevel functionary of the Boston international chamber of commerce. He said he was from the Netherlands, which brought the enlightened reply "ah, the capital of Copenhagen!".
Joe King
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Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:


Aren't Americans generally confused by just about anything originating outside their own country?

My father was once asked where he was from by a highlevel functionary of the Boston international chamber of commerce. He said he was from the Netherlands, which brought the enlightened reply "ah, the capital of Copenhagen!".


Its a bit like the Friends episode where Joey and Chandler meet a girl from Holland, and goes something like:

Chandler: So Joey, is the country she comes from called The Netherlands?
Joey: Nah, you're trying to trick me - that's where Peter Pan comes from.
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If somebody is still interested, here is a detailed article:
Microsoft's call-center business in India gets an American accent


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Helen Thomas
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Joined: Jan 13, 2004
Posts: 1759
Great ! Bolony operation with an American accent.

This was a transcript compiled in India for a British consultant surgeon from his tapes.

It should have read "below the knee operation."

Admittedly the error rates were low.

And Why not! We'll soon get Thackeray's Vanity Fair with an American accent (Reese Witherspoon) and an Indian theme( director Mira Nair).

I'd be open to the latter as I never liked Thakeray's main characters. At the same time I'd be very critical of Pride and Prejudice remakes ( including Kiera Knightley's esp. after the King Arthur debacle) as I like all Jane Austen's characters.
[ August 25, 2004: Message edited by: Helen Thomas ]

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fred rosenberger
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Being a former theatre person, i've studied dialects (a little), and had to learn a few. Mostly what i've learned is that your ear is trained to hear certain sounds, based on your language/region. The reason it's so hard to tell the difference between, say, a New Zeland and Australian, or a Minnesotan and a Cannadian is that you literally can't hear the difference.

You have to train your palette to detect the "hint of blackberry and currant, with a smokey finish" in wines... why do we think our ears are any different?

I'm not making a judgement, nor do i have any solid evidence to back up my claim. I just know that I once asked a woman, who said i was mis-pronouncing her name, to say her name once how I was doing it, and once the correct way, back to back. she did it like 10 times, and I NEVER COULD DETECT THE DIFFERENCE. Nor could several of my friends.


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