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  #1  
Old 07-29-2011, 08:56 PM
Elret Elret is offline
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At what age does an accent become permanent?

I debated posting here or in GQ but I don't think there's a real answer to this, so I'm really more interested in anecdotal replies. My husband and I are chatting about the idea of moving from Canada to Australia, possibly temporarily (5 years, say), and I'm curious about my kids' accents. They're 2 and 5 now, so I would imagine they would both pretty much fully take on an Australian accent, but what might happen if we were to move back to Canada at 7 and 10? Would they re-Canadianize?

I know some kids who are born and raised here in Canada by parents with accents, and some of those kids have a hint of whatever their parents' accent is, while others don't at all. What's been your experience with kids moving to and from English speaking countries with distinct accents?
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  #2  
Old 07-29-2011, 09:08 PM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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It seems that the crucial age is puberty. Before that, a kid's accent isn't "carved in stone." Once that's past, it's very difficult to change your accent.
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Old 07-29-2011, 09:11 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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I dunno. Although I never did have much of a Texas accent, due largely to my father's California accent predominating in the home, I did have a little. I left Texas at age 29, and today there's not a trace of it.

Last edited by Siam Sam; 07-29-2011 at 09:11 PM..
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  #4  
Old 07-29-2011, 09:14 PM
Hello Again Hello Again is offline
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We have close family friends who are English, but their kids grew up in the US until the age of 11 and 13, respectively, when the family returned to England. They both completed their educations in England with the daughter continuing to nursing school and the son getting his teaching certificate.

They are in their mid-30s now. The daughter, who was the older one, sounds totally American with just a shade of an "off" accent that most people wouldn't peg as British, while her brother sounds totally English.

So based on my sample of 2, its around age 11-13 that the accent gets fixed.
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  #5  
Old 07-29-2011, 09:19 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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I'm 36, and it takes about 20 minutes before I unconsciously start picking up another accent. 2 weeks in a place with another accent and my friends back home are laughing their asses off when I speak.

Some people are natural mimics, I guess. I hypothesize it has something to do with that theory that some "people persons" adopt the mannerisms or speech patterns of a person they're talking to so as to (unconsciously) put them at ease and increase trust and cooperation. I think I do that with accents.
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  #6  
Old 07-29-2011, 09:46 PM
Súil Dubh Súil Dubh is offline
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Please take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt. First Language Acquisition is part of my research area, but I am more familiar with the acquisition of syntax (grammar) and lexis (vocabulary) than accents or phonetics (pronunciation).

My wild-eyed guess would be that an accent becomes fairly permanent around five- to six-years of age.

A child's acquisition of the syntax of their first language starts around two, and ends around five or six. Once they reach that age, they've pretty well acquired all of the syntactical structures of their first language, and operate at the adult level in terms of grammar (but not vocabulary, obviously).

I would assume, therefore, that regional or dialectical pronunciation patterns would be mastered around the same time, if not much earlier.

Here are a couple of pages that explain the process of First Language Acquisition in more detail:

Cite 1
Cite 2

Interestingly enough, the Wikipedia page on "accent" claims that accents remain malleable until the twenties.

Cite 3

I followed the page that Wikipedia cited, and read the argument behind the claim.

Cite 4

Quote:
Accents can be expected to change until we are in our early twenties. This is usually the time we come to some sort of decision about who we are. But even after that, if you want (and need) to change your accent, you can.

To change your accent you have to want to. Really want to, deep down. This usually happens without much effort because you move to a new place, mix with different people, or develop new aspirations.
To me, this seems to imply accent change occurs voluntarily (if somewhat, unconsciously). Again, I would argue that a person's acquisition of their regional "accent" is going to be fairly set by the age of five or six, and any change after that would require effort.

Hope that helps!
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  #7  
Old 07-29-2011, 09:57 PM
C3 C3 is offline
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Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
I'm 36, and it takes about 20 minutes before I unconsciously start picking up another accent. 2 weeks in a place with another accent and my friends back home are laughing their asses off when I speak.

Some people are natural mimics, I guess. I hypothesize it has something to do with that theory that some "people persons" adopt the mannerisms or speech patterns of a person they're talking to so as to (unconsciously) put them at ease and increase trust and cooperation. I think I do that with accents.
I have a friend like that. We grew up five minutes apart, in Maryland. She married a guy from Brooklyn, lived there for a few years, and started sounding like a native New Yorker. She's also really good at learning new languages.

We moved to Australia when my son was an infant and lived there until he was about 3.5. Now he's eight and has an American accent with just a twinge of Australian pronunciations thrown in every once in awhile. It's enough that people identify him as having an accent, but they can't really place it. My husband is Australian, though, so even though we moved back when my son was very young, he still hears an Australian accent every day. He will often use American pronunciations with me and switch to Australian ones with his dad.
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  #8  
Old 07-29-2011, 10:02 PM
Súil Dubh Súil Dubh is offline
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Originally Posted by panache45 View Post
It seems that the crucial age is puberty. Before that, a kid's accent isn't "carved in stone." Once that's past, it's very difficult to change your accent.
It's argued that puberty is the cut-off age for first language acquisition. By this I mean that before puberty, children can acquire a language, or multiple languages, automatically.

The claim is that a child growing up in a bilingual household or region will acquire (not learn) both languages as a first language, and will therefore be a perfect bilingual with two "mother tongues".

After puberty (the "Critical Period") languages must be consciously learned (as opposed to automatically acquired) as a skill. After the Critical Period, a person can be multi-fluent in two or more languages, but would not be considered "bilingual".

Cite

I would argue that a child under puberty can acquire the additional accent of another language, but that the accent of their "first" first language is set a few years earlier.

Again, I'm no expert on accent acquisition though, and these are just my musings!
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  #9  
Old 07-29-2011, 10:34 PM
JBDivmstr JBDivmstr is offline
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Originally Posted by Siam Sam View Post
I dunno. Although I never did have much of a Texas accent, due largely to my father's California accent predominating in the home, I did have a little. I left Texas at age 29, and today there's not a trace of it.
Were you born and raised, in Texas? And if yes, might I inquire as to (generally) where?
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  #10  
Old 07-29-2011, 10:45 PM
Sine Nomine Sine Nomine is offline
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Originally Posted by Elret View Post
I'm really more interested in anecdotal replies.
Good, because that's what I've got. I was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and lived there until I was 13, when my family moved to Minnesota. I didn't lose my Bay Area accent until I went to college in Milwaukee at age 20. In my case, it was due to being completely immersed in a Wisconsin accent (living on campus rather than going home to my CA-speaking parents every night as I did in high school). I also attribute it to 1) taking singing lessons (read: being forced to make my vowels more nasally) and 2) climate (seriously, cold winters do weird things to your nasal passages). Now, my upper Midwest accent feels completely natural, and everyone who meets me is surprised when they find out I'm not a native Minnesotan.
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  #11  
Old 07-29-2011, 11:29 PM
Rhiannon8404 Rhiannon8404 is offline
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Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
I'm 36, and it takes about 20 minutes before I unconsciously start picking up another accent. 2 weeks in a place with another accent and my friends back home are laughing their asses off when I speak.

Some people are natural mimics, I guess. I hypothesize it has something to do with that theory that some "people persons" adopt the mannerisms or speech patterns of a person they're talking to so as to (unconsciously) put them at ease and increase trust and cooperation. I think I do that with accents.
Same here. We went to Texas when I was 19 to visit family and my mom got mad at me one day for making fun of our Texas relatives. I had no idea I was starting to talk like them. A few years ago I spent 10 days in London and it took me several weeks to fully get rid of whatever English accent I picked up the first day.
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  #12  
Old 07-29-2011, 11:44 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is offline
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I knew a family that moved to England for work. They all came back with accents a few years later. I think they wanted to sound British. It's such a cool accent that people copy it without being aware.

I had a strong Boston, Massachusetts accent (think JFK and RFK) until I moved back to the deep south (age 10). There's no trace. I can't even do it if I try. I'm southern all the way now.

Last edited by aceplace57; 07-29-2011 at 11:47 PM..
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  #13  
Old 07-30-2011, 12:16 AM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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I grew up with a very strong Southern accent (Northern Louisiana/Texas border). I started losing it quickly and unintentionally when I went to college with a broad mix of people from all over at age 18. I have lived in Massachusetts for the better part of my adult life. It is really hard for people to tell that I am Southern just from hearing me speak although people can usually tell I am not from the Boston area. I have a mostly generic American accent now although, oddly enough, I have never lived anywhere it is widely spoken. It is more of an averaging effect I think. I certainly don't have any sort of New England accent and never will. I have recently spoken to some people on the phone that I haven't talked to since high school and they have a hard time processing that it is really me because my accent is so different from theirs now.

I don't think that people can completely shift accents like American Southern to British Received Pronunciation past childhood but I am an example of how some striking accent changes can happen even unintentionally in early adulthood.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 07-30-2011 at 12:17 AM..
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  #14  
Old 07-30-2011, 01:38 AM
Shakester Shakester is offline
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Accents aren't permanent.

People change their accents all the time. It requires a bit of effort at first and then it becomes natural. I changed my own accent from "poor folks" to "educated" in my teenage years. I can drop straight into "poor folk talk" if I want to, but my natural way of speaking now is "educated" and I speak that way even when drunk. It isn't an affectation, it's my natural accent now. My brothers all did the same thing - we were smart kids from a very poor background. All 3 of us can and do pass as well-educated people from a middle-class background.

I've known people who lost a foreign accent and gained a local one through conscious effort. If you think it can't be done, you're not trying hard enough. Actors do it all the time. Some actors can pick up an accent well enough to pass in a matter of weeks.
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  #15  
Old 07-30-2011, 02:10 AM
Rigamarole Rigamarole is offline
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Originally Posted by Shakester View Post
Accents aren't permanent.

People change their accents all the time. It requires a bit of effort at first and then it becomes natural. I changed my own accent from "poor folks" to "educated" in my teenage years. I can drop straight into "poor folk talk" if I want to, but my natural way of speaking now is "educated" and I speak that way even when drunk. It isn't an affectation, it's my natural accent now. My brothers all did the same thing - we were smart kids from a very poor background. All 3 of us can and do pass as well-educated people from a middle-class background.

I've known people who lost a foreign accent and gained a local one through conscious effort. If you think it can't be done, you're not trying hard enough. Actors do it all the time. Some actors can pick up an accent well enough to pass in a matter of weeks.
Agreed. It has more to do with the person not really being comfortable pronouncing words the correct way and/or making a concerted effort to learn and practice that pronunciation, because it most certainly can be done at any age.

Accents are a choice. Not necessarily a conscious choice, but ultimately still a choice.
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  #16  
Old 07-30-2011, 03:32 AM
HazelNutCoffee HazelNutCoffee is offline
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I've noticed that Koreans who move to the US after about the age of ten never quite manage to lose their Korean accent when they speak English. It's faint but it's definitely there.
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  #17  
Old 07-30-2011, 05:48 AM
Girl From Mars Girl From Mars is offline
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I moved a lot as a kid - time in Australia (0-3) the US (3-5), the Philippines (5-7), the UK (7-11), the US (11-12), Germany (12-14), New Zealand (14-29), UK (29-30) and Australia (30-35). Had a fairly US accent before I hit the UK, at which point it went completely Queen's English. After 15 years in NZ I still have a basically English accent, but have somewhat of a Kiwi accent on certain vowels - my Is are more like Us (e.g Tim is pronounced Tum), and American Rs. I think it's beginning to take on a slightly Australian twang after 5 years here now. Pretty confusing for most people - they eliminate Canadian, South African and New Zealand but can't place it.

So, point being that there is a base level of my accent which I think will stay as it was in my early teens, but time in other countries after that have definitely altered it. So your kids could well pick their Canadian accents back up, particularly if they hear it spoken at home from you guys.
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  #18  
Old 07-30-2011, 05:52 AM
Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shakester
Accents aren't permanent.
For some people, perhaps. I lived in Edinburgh for seven years with two Scottish flatmates and surrounded by Scottish friends for most of that time. I never lost my Wigan accent and picked up a Scottish one. The most that can be said was that my accent was tamed a bit to make it at least understandable to those outside Lancashire. When I speak with my parents or friends from back home, my Scottish girlfriend complains she can no longer understand me.

The fact that actors can regularly change accents is neither here nor there. That's their job. It's like pointing to mathematicians and saying everybody can learn algebraic geometry if they just apply themselves enough.

Last edited by Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party; 07-30-2011 at 05:53 AM..
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Old 07-30-2011, 12:08 PM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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Both I and Mrs. J. grew up in places with strong regional accents (NYC and the Boston area) and lived there until going off to college. We've lived in various places (including Texas) since then and have long, long ago lost whatever regional accents we started with.

I suspect the really strong accents are the most persistent, but as noted there's a lot of individual variation. I definitely don't believe anything is set in stone just because you've reached puberty.
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Old 07-30-2011, 01:29 PM
Lamia Lamia is offline
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Originally Posted by Siam Sam View Post
I dunno. Although I never did have much of a Texas accent, due largely to my father's California accent predominating in the home, I did have a little. I left Texas at age 29, and today there's not a trace of it.
It can vary a lot. My mother left Texas for good at 26 (and had spent some time living outside Texas between the ages of 22 and 25) and has lived hundreds of miles from Texas ever since. It's been 30 years and she still has a very obvious East Texas accent.

Even within a family there can be a lot of variation. Some of my mother's siblings don't have such a strong accent, even though they've lived in Texas their entire lives. I have a friend from Boston who doesn't have much of a noticeable Boston accent, but her sister does. Funnily enough the first thing I ever heard her sister say when I first met her was "Where should I park the car?" and it sounded to me just like someone imitating a stereotypical Boston accent!

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  #21  
Old 07-30-2011, 02:32 PM
Baker Baker is offline
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I had a boss who came to the US from Germany, when he was twelve. He had no German accent that I could notice.
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  #22  
Old 07-30-2011, 02:55 PM
cuberdon cuberdon is offline
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Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
it takes about 20 minutes before I unconsciously start picking up another accent.
This is me. I grew up on the East Coast but now live near San Francisco. No trace of East Coast accent is left. But speaking at length with someone with an accent that is very distinct from my own, I will start picking it up and have to consciously make myself stop.

OTOH, my Grandmother, born & raised in Oklahoma, then lived 30 years in the northeast, still sounded like she'd just stepped off the plane from Tulsa.
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  #23  
Old 07-30-2011, 03:16 PM
Shakester Shakester is offline
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Originally Posted by Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party View Post
For some people, perhaps. I lived in Edinburgh for seven years with two Scottish flatmates and surrounded by Scottish friends for most of that time. I never lost my Wigan accent and picked up a Scottish one. The most that can be said was that my accent was tamed a bit to make it at least understandable to those outside Lancashire. When I speak with my parents or friends from back home, my Scottish girlfriend complains she can no longer understand me.

The fact that actors can regularly change accents is neither here nor there. That's their job. It's like pointing to mathematicians and saying everybody can learn algebraic geometry if they just apply themselves enough.
Speaking is a lot simpler than algebraic geometry. Even very very stupid people can speak. They do it all the time. It really isn't hard to lose an accent. I mentioned actors not because they're highly trained professionals but because so many of them aren't.

If you're not motivated to do it, fine, but I am certain that if you did feel enough motivation, you could train yourself to speak BBC English. The fact that many people don't lose their accents doesn't mean they can't, it just means they don't need to.
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  #24  
Old 07-30-2011, 04:34 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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The only answer is, it depends. On the person, on how much they want to try and natural talent. I knew a man who claimed his family moved to the US when he was ten and he had an awful French accent. A man I currently know moved here from Paris when he was 16. Since this is Montreal, he could have just gone on speaking French, but he wanted to speak English without a French accent. He succeeded. His wife told me that he would walk down the street as a teenager, saying "the, the, the,..." over and over until he eventually learned to say the "th" perfectly (probably the hardest sound for a French speaker to master). My wife had a college friend who was 14 when her family came to the US and had a rather mild accent, there, but not strong. Her 12 year old sister has no accent while her 18 year old sister has a thick accent despite getting a PhD in English.

Then there was Peter Sellers who had a perfect midwest US accent in Dr. Strangelove.

Oh yes, let me mention Richard Feynmann. He was from Brooklyn but spent most of his adult life in California (at least after leaving Arizona working on the bomb). He lectured using a strong Brooklyn accent. Until he came to the question period. His answers were unrehearsed and most of the Brooklyn accent just disappeared. My wife (raised in Brooklyn till age 11) can put on a Brooklyn accent but rarely does it.
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Old 07-30-2011, 06:42 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Certainly into the 20s. There's Joe Namath, whose accent is part Pennsylvanian, part southern (from four years in Alabama) and part New York (though the New York is predominating).
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  #26  
Old 07-30-2011, 06:42 PM
Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party is offline
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Originally Posted by Shakester View Post
Speaking is a lot simpler than algebraic geometry. Even very very stupid people can speak. They do it all the time. It really isn't hard to lose an accent. I mentioned actors not because they're highly trained professionals but because so many of them aren't.
Yes, and the vast majority of them are hopeless at impersonating accents. Given that they have a professional interest in changing accents and you claim the task is trivial for anybody who would only apply themselves, why is this so?

Quote:
If you're not motivated to do it, fine, but I am certain that if you did feel enough motivation, you could train yourself to speak BBC English. The fact that many people don't lose their accents doesn't mean they can't, it just means they don't need to.
I don't mean to be rude, but ... you're wrong. If you're a neurolinguist and have some data backing up your claims that losing an accent is "easy" and can be done by anybody if only they apply themselves, then go ahead and post it. Otherwise you're just some random schlub who's extrapolating from their linguistic flexibility into a universal truth.
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Old 07-30-2011, 07:14 PM
Mississippienne Mississippienne is offline
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I briefly dated a guy who was born and raised in Latvia, and moved to the USA at the age of 14. He learned English with a perfect Northeastern accent; you could not tell that he was not a native speaker, nor that he had learned it so late. We were in the odd position that when we'd go out together, people would assume I (native English speaker, from the Deep South) was the foreigner and that he was the American!
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Old 07-30-2011, 09:30 PM
Manda JO Manda JO is online now
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As a teacher in a school with a large ESL population, I have often been amazed at how dramatically my ESL kids' accents change after a year in college.

I think accent is really totally separate from the other aspects of language acquisition, and shouldn't be compared. I've had some kids with virtually no accent but who still had very weak English skills: what they knew, they could say clearly, but their grammar and vocabulary, speaking, listening, and writing, were all poor. I've also had some extremely fluent kids who had accents so strong it was sometimes hard to follow them--but they could read, discuss, and write about any piece of English literature you put in front of them in an academic register.
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Old 07-30-2011, 09:36 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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Originally Posted by JBDivmstr View Post
Were you born and raised, in Texas? And if yes, might I inquire as to (generally) where?
I was born elsewhere, in a Western state, and we landed in West Texas, the South Plains, about a month before my 6th birthday. We'd lived in Arkansas from when I was 2 until the Texas move, so I guess I'd expect to have some sort of Southern accent.

Now that I think of it too, my father must have picked up a little Texas accent himself, as I recall his California relatives poking a little light-hearted fun at it one time.

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Old 07-30-2011, 10:12 PM
NoiseBomb NoiseBomb is offline
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Seems to vary a lot from one person to another. I grew up in the northeast and moved to the southeast at age 20. I'm now 38. I've been told that I've picked up some southern speech mannerisms but not the accent.
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  #31  
Old 08-01-2011, 12:51 AM
BigT BigT is offline
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Originally Posted by Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party View Post
Yes, and the vast majority of them are hopeless at impersonating accents. Given that they have a professional interest in changing accents and you claim the task is trivial for anybody who would only apply themselves, why is this so?
It seems to me that it is easy to acquire about 80% of an accent, but there's like 20% that you don't get, and that's enough for you to sound off. Usually, you sound off to native speakers, but okay to people of another accent. (The case of Hugh Laurie's American accent is curious because seems to be the opposite: Brits don't think he sounds right, but Americans usually can't tell.)

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  #32  
Old 08-01-2011, 04:42 AM
Shakester Shakester is offline
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I don't mean to be rude, but ... you're wrong. If you're a neurolinguist and have some data backing up your claims that losing an accent is "easy" and can be done by anybody if only they apply themselves, then go ahead and post it. Otherwise you're just some random schlub who's extrapolating from their linguistic flexibility into a universal truth.
I'm not a speech therapist, but I used to work with one. I had a little training in linguistics, enough to assess children with speech issues and work out which ones "talked funny" because their parents were idiots and thought it was cute and which had genuine problems. 99% of the time, the parents were idiots.

It's been over a decade since I had that job, but what it taught me is that almost everyone is able to make almost any speech sound if you show them how it's done. Among the children I worked with were some recent arrivals in the country, so different accents don't seem to make a difference.

So, while I'm certainly not an expert, I'm also not "some random schlub" either. Making the sounds that make up speech is so easy almost any child can pick it up instantly if they're shown the correct way to do it. After that, it's just practice, and practice is where most people fall down. People are usually pretty lazy with speech, even more so than with writing. If they can make themselves understood, that's enough for most people.

The speech therapist I worked with achieved remarkable results very quickly, but only with children that understood it was important. The ones who didn't care and didn't practice didn't improve. I personally saw the difference that motivation makes to speech clarity. It makes all the difference. I didn't see what happened to the handful that had genuine difficulties in the brain or in the mouth parts, because that happened elsewhere, but I did see children go from incomprehensible to a non-family member to speaking clearly in a matter of months.
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Old 08-01-2011, 05:42 AM
Filbert Filbert is offline
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It really depends on the person- my uncle emigrated from the UK to Australia with his 3 kids, age, I think, 8, 12 and 13, at some point in the 1970s. When I went to visit a few years ago, the one who left age 8 still had a tiny trace of a UK accent, the one who had been 12 still sounded almost totally English, and the eldest one was the only one who had lost all hint, and sounded (both to me and Aussies) completely Australian.

His two later kids, both born over there, had a few words they sounded very English on.

My uncle on the other hand has one of the strongest Lancashire accents I've heard in years, much more so than anyone in the family who stayed living in England. Was quite funny going on one of the trams with him, and having the ticket collector carefully explaining where we should get off, being helpful to the tourists, and watching his reaction when my uncle, in totally broad Lancashire, cheerfully told him he'd driven the trams in that town for over 20 years...
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  #34  
Old 05-08-2013, 09:39 PM
Bri_lott Bri_lott is offline
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Southern Accent

Hi! I was wondering the same thing as you which is how I came across this feed. I just wanted to talk about my own experience. I was born in NoVa (Northern Virginia) and I lived there until I was 9. The area of Virginia I grew up in was, what my friends and I joke about, an area with NO accent. Everyone said every word as plainly as you can say them. When I was 9, my family and I moved to South Carolina. I'm now 16 almost 17 and I noticed when talking to my friends a few years ago that I've picked up a southern accent. So I guess I picked it up maybe around age 10 or 11. I don't know if I fall under that category of taking on the accents of those around me or not. I just find it interesting and if you find an answer you really like, let me know
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Old 05-09-2013, 05:55 PM
BigT BigT is offline
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Originally Posted by Shakester View Post
I'm not a speech therapist, but I used to work with one. I had a little training in linguistics, enough to assess children with speech issues and work out which ones "talked funny" because their parents were idiots and thought it was cute and which had genuine problems. 99% of the time, the parents were idiots.

It's been over a decade since I had that job, but what it taught me is that almost everyone is able to make almost any speech sound if you show them how it's done. Among the children I worked with were some recent arrivals in the country, so different accents don't seem to make a difference.

So, while I'm certainly not an expert, I'm also not "some random schlub" either. Making the sounds that make up speech is so easy almost any child can pick it up instantly if they're shown the correct way to do it. After that, it's just practice, and practice is where most people fall down. People are usually pretty lazy with speech, even more so than with writing. If they can make themselves understood, that's enough for most people.

The speech therapist I worked with achieved remarkable results very quickly, but only with children that understood it was important. The ones who didn't care and didn't practice didn't improve. I personally saw the difference that motivation makes to speech clarity. It makes all the difference. I didn't see what happened to the handful that had genuine difficulties in the brain or in the mouth parts, because that happened elsewhere, but I did see children go from incomprehensible to a non-family member to speaking clearly in a matter of months.
In other words, you only dealt with children, the group that everyone in the thread agrees can pick up new accents. And not even as an expert. You merely worked with an expert, who you aren't even citing.

The actual data I've seen is that we lose our accent plasticity in our mid to late-twenties. We literally lose the ability to use certain muscle combinations if we aren't used to doing so. It's no different than how difficult it is to learn an instrument past that age or even learn to be an athlete.
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Old 05-09-2013, 06:07 PM
Poysyn Poysyn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigT View Post
In other words, you only dealt with children, the group that everyone in the thread agrees can pick up new accents. And not even as an expert. You merely worked with an expert, who you aren't even citing.

The actual data I've seen is that we lose our accent plasticity in our mid to late-twenties. We literally lose the ability to use certain muscle combinations if we aren't used to doing so. It's no different than how difficult it is to learn an instrument past that age or even learn to be an athlete.
I pick up accents like a sponge and need to work to eliminate them. I have, however, had years of theatre and acting training, so that may be why.
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Old 05-09-2013, 06:54 PM
skdo23 skdo23 is offline
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Many of my relatives from my Mother's side grew up in either Brooklyn or Nassau County LI, and moved to Myrtle Beach, SC. Those that have been there for 20 years or so sound more Southern than NY'ish, although my understanding is that the two accents have more in common than most people think (due to the fact that they're both non rhotic), so maybe the distinction isn't that noteworthy.
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  #38  
Old 05-09-2013, 06:56 PM
Drain Bead Drain Bead is offline
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I moved from West Virginia to Columbus, Ohio when I was 11. When I first moved here, people always asked me if I was from the South. Nowadays I sound like anyone else from Columbus--practically like a newscaster.
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  #39  
Old 05-09-2013, 07:10 PM
Melbourne Melbourne is offline
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I have a normal American accent, without any particularly recognisable regional characteristics. My younger brother and older sister both have much softer AUS accents.

Both retained strong American accents until they returned to the USA for several years after completing university education. Going to AUS the SECOND time, after working in the USA, they lost most of their American accents.

I can not hear American or Australian accents. Both accents are in my normal range of what I expect English to sound like. I hypothosize that on returning to AUS the second time, my sibs were able to hear the AUS accent and adjust their own.
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Old 05-09-2013, 07:20 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Súil Dubh View Post
I would argue that a child under puberty can acquire the additional accent of another language, but that the accent of their "first" first language is set a few years earlier.

Again, I'm no expert on accent acquisition though, and these are just my musings!
I don't buy it. I've known far too many people who came to the US after the age of 8-10 who, within just a few short years, were speaking with a perfect US Midwest accent.

My guess would be puberty to early adulthood.
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Old 05-09-2013, 07:21 PM
Melbourne Melbourne is offline
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Originally Posted by NoiseBomb View Post
Seems to vary a lot from one person to another. I grew up in the northeast and moved to the southeast at age 20. I'm now 38. I've been told that I've picked up some southern speech mannerisms but not the accent.
My accent is not detected by many people I meet, unless I speak more loudly. There are a couple of reasons for that, but one of them is that Americans just speak more loudly than Australians do.

My sisters, who have AUS accents, never have any USA accent recognised by anyone, but both have retained the American volume. People either think they are entertainers, or just very loud.
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  #42  
Old 08-30-2014, 07:52 PM
vasinger vasinger is offline
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Originally Posted by Bri_lott View Post
Hi! I was wondering the same thing as you which is how I came across this feed. I just wanted to talk about my own experience. I was born in NoVa (Northern Virginia) and I lived there until I was 9. The area of Virginia I grew up in was, what my friends and I joke about, an area with NO accent. Everyone said every word as plainly as you can say them. When I was 9, my family and I moved to South Carolina. I'm now 16 almost 17 and I noticed when talking to my friends a few years ago that I've picked up a southern accent. So I guess I picked it up maybe around age 10 or 11. I don't know if I fall under that category of taking on the accents of those around me or not. I just find it interesting and if you find an answer you really like, let me know
That's strange you should say that. I grew up in Northern Virginia, and whenever i visit further north- such as Upstate NY and even up into PA, everyone comments on my Southern accent. So I think Northern Virginia definitely has some sort of slight Virginia accent. Its just very subtle there. If you really pay attention you'll hear it. It takes time. South Carolina accent would be slightly different. There is no such thing as a non-accent. But it is true that Northern Virginia is a melting pot these days . It used to be Southern.

Last edited by vasinger; 08-30-2014 at 07:54 PM..
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  #43  
Old 08-30-2014, 07:59 PM
DingoelGringo DingoelGringo is offline
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We taught that the age was about 13 or 14. Some a bit more and some a bit less. We were dealing with Original Spanish speakers who lived with parents in S Florida who never learned English and continued to speak Spanish in the home.
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  #44  
Old Yesterday, 03:34 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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A double zombie thread.

I will just add that I lived in Philadelphia from birth till past 25--in fact, I was hardly ever out of the city, a few weeks in Atlantic City excepted. Still I have had several people who were familiar with the Philly accent swear I don't have it. But every Canadian picks me out as American instantly, although I cannot pick out Canadians at all. Every dialect test I have ever taken identifies me as Philadelphian. One said, "You are as Philly as cheese steak".
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  #45  
Old Today, 04:24 AM
notquitekarpov notquitekarpov is online now
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My godson moved to Scotland with his family around the age of 10. The elder sister would have been 12.

13 years later she still has a totally English accent, he talks like a native Glaswegian.

Another bunch of friends moved to Australia. Father was an Australian, mother from the Channel Islands (odd accent) but kids all born and bred in England. When they moved their son and elder daughter would have been around 11 and 9, the younger 6. They have moved back a year or two ago - son is now 18 so others are 16 and 13. Son talks like an English lad with just a touch of twang, girls like Australians and no shift seen in the last couple of years.

On that admittedly tiny sample I suspect the onset of puberty is a major determinate of your fixed accent.

I've lived in Scotland the past eight years, obviously I will always talk like the Londoner I am but am gradually acquiring words that my English friends pick up on. "Wee" is a favourite. But nothing on the accent side.
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  #46  
Old Today, 04:51 AM
kbear kbear is offline
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We moved to the UK from Montreal when my girls were nearly six. They're 16 now and their accent is mostly unchanged...mostly due to the fact that they do not attend a British school so they have been exposed to accents from all over the world.
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