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Old 07-02-2003, 11:50 AM
McDeath_the_Mad McDeath_the_Mad is offline
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Location: Kamloops, BC
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How long would it take to pick-up an accent?

Say a Canadian or American that did not have an "accent" moved to the UK, Australia or New Zealand.

Would they pick-up the accents of the locals? If so how long would it take?

Would it ever be perfect?

Old 07-02-2003, 12:36 PM
Peter Doubt Peter Doubt is offline
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Location: group w bench
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I don't think anyone could give an absolute answer such as "36 days and you're there". It's a question filled with variables like length and depth of exposure, and inherent ability to focus on the variations (whether conciously or otherwise).

My wife noticed a marked difference in my accent (mostly Texan) after a six week stay in Virginia. Of course I had been hanging out with two New Yorkers and a guy from Pennsylvania so that's what she heard (and what an odd combination that must have been). It's faded since, back to whatever odd mix developed as a military brat over the years.

I notice even her lifelong Texas drawl has faded some since we moved away, though it comes back quickly on any new exposure.
Old 07-02-2003, 12:59 PM
Isabelle Isabelle is offline
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 1,860
I moved from New York City to Orlando, Florida and it took me less then a year to lose my NY accent and pick up Floridian slang words. Now I have only a few words that I pronounce like a New Yorker like "Orange, Florida, Horror" otherwise I sound like I am from the south
Old 07-02-2003, 03:34 PM
jacquilynne jacquilynne is offline
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Location: Toronto
Posts: 1,248
It's a highly variable thing, with variations amongst different people, and also amongst different accents. I'm Canadian and spent 10 days on a bus tour with an Irish guide. By the end of it, I sounded just like her. My colleagues have noted that after less than an hour on the phone with some of our Southern American (that would be from the Southern United States, not South America) colleagues, I develop a bit of a drawl.
Old 07-02-2003, 03:56 PM
Kalhoun Kalhoun is offline
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My ex spent lots of time (years) as a kid in Kentucky and never picked it up. His wife picked it up in about 37 minutes over a few beers.
Old 07-02-2003, 04:12 PM
ltfire ltfire is offline
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Location: E 161 St. and River Ave.
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My brother-in-law was born and raised in the Bronx, with all the vocal qualities that come with that. He did twenty years in the Army, and settled and married in Nashville. When I speak to him on the phone, it might as well be a foreign language that I'm hearing. His drawl is so thick, you would think he was a born redneck.
Old 07-02-2003, 04:23 PM
The Great Unwashed The Great Unwashed is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: France
Posts: 2,081
I lived in DC for a little over a year, I tried my best to stay as "English" as I could.

When I arrived back, talking to strangers, they would say, "Are you from...", you could hear the cogs whirring in their brains -- they knew I wasn't American, yet there was something not quite right about my accent,... "Are you from... Canada?"

I'd say, "Yeah, sure, whatever."
Old 07-02-2003, 05:16 PM
racinchikki racinchikki is offline
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: East Texas
Posts: 4,994
I begin to pick up an accent within a week, with certain words and usages appearing unconsciously in my own speech almost immediately. If I do not making a conscious effort to retain my own accent, as I did when I lived in Mississippi, I would probably sound almost native fairly quickly. Even when I tried to keep my native accent in Mississippi, it apparently didn't work very well, as the Southerners thought I sounded like a Yankee but upon my return to New York I was thought to be a Southerner. Go figure.

So basically, it depends on the person and the circumstances.
Old 07-02-2003, 05:22 PM
Gyrate Gyrate is offline
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Location: Deepest South London
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I've been in the UK for seven years now, and while my accent has changed slightly, it's only really noticeable in the occasional word.

Oddly, I have a job at the moment teaching a group of Brits how to sing with an American accent. Surreal.
Old 07-02-2003, 07:29 PM
foolsguinea foolsguinea is online now
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I was in Indiana for a wedding about a week ago. I'm from SW Missouri, and while I don't have a hick accent, the people in IN have more Northern accents than mine, . I was rather sleep-deprived much of the time, started talking in an exaggerated drawl for some reason, and it stuck. I'm not sure, but I bet if you get me in the northern US, I usually just sound more Southern. It's really funny.
Old 07-02-2003, 07:42 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is online now
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Location: Trantor
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I have been living in Canada for nearly 35 years and Canadians still pick up my US accent instantly. On the other hand, almost nobody takes me as being from Philly. Finally, I once met someone from Philly who had spent most of his life in England and almost nobody knew that he was not English. So it varies.

An amusing aside. When I was in HS, they gave us an inspirational story of the man who had announced when he was a student there that he would become a professor of mathematics at U. Cambridge--and did. I never believed it until I actually met him.
Old 07-02-2003, 07:59 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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Location: Chicago,IL
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I was the only one in my family born in the US. My father came from Yugoslavia after WWII and went to Britian. He learned "British". My mother came to the US. She learned "American" My brothers and sister were born in NZ.

My brothers were 8 and 12 and my sister 10 when they moved here.

I spoke with an American accent. So did my mother. My brothers and sister had the NZ accent. My father retained his British accent. Even though they lived here over a decade none lost a bit of it.

In fact I have known English and Aussies that have lived here a and don't lose it. Look at people like Olivia Newton-John that live here. They don't lose their accent.

In fact I used to watch an Aussie soap "Prisoner" and it was very easy to pick out who was from American, England, NZ etc.
Old 07-02-2003, 09:08 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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Location: NH
Posts: 22,073
You may never. I've lived my life in both NH and MA and I've had more than one person tell me that I don't sound like I'm from either place <shrugs> Maybe it was all the bouncing back and forth during my formative years (I moved to seven different towns/cities, not counting where I lived in college- from three different places in MA to NH to MA to NH again- before I was 21) that caused the abnormality. I say the same things as everyone else, but I guess I don't sound like them. Go figure.
Old 07-02-2003, 09:19 PM
DrFidelius DrFidelius is offline
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Location: Miskatonic University
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I suffer from a version of echolalia wherein I pick up a person's accent within fifteen minutes of speaking with them. If it is a fun accent, I might keep it for a day or until the Wife complains.
Old 07-02-2003, 09:19 PM
Duke Duke is offline
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Location: North of Canada. Really.
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It's different for different people. I lived in England for nine months when I was 19 and by the time I left, my accent could already "pass" as an English accent. When I moved back, when I was 22, it took about two years. (And that time it was really English, to the point where even Britishers assumed I was from the Oxford area.)

OTOH, my old boss in California moved there from the UK at the age of nine. 22 years later, she had still not lost her English accent (or, I guess one could say, picked up an American accent).

It depends a lot, I figure, on how closely one integrates into the society. When I moved to England, especially the second time, I had few friends from the US, and lived and studied alongside Englishpersons almost exclusively (eventually marrying one). My ex, OTOH, who moved to France from England when she was twelve, continued to speak English to other people from England, so she never lost her English accent. (When she spoke French, however, she usually spoke to the native French, and thus picked up an authentic suburban Parisian accent.)

So I guess the answer is "as little as nine months" or "not even in 22 years."
Old 07-02-2003, 09:22 PM
El Zagna El Zagna is offline
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Austin, Texas
Posts: 1,929
I remember reading somewhere that people pretty much learn to make all the sounds of speech that they will ever learn before they reach puberity. In other words, after a certain age your phonemes - or whatever they're called - are pretty well hard wired. This was used to explain why many people are never able to lose their accent even after decades of living in a new country or region. (Sorry no cite. I'll see if I can find one.)
Old 07-02-2003, 09:39 PM
Duckster Duckster is offline
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I am from the American Midwest and lived ten years in Australia.

I never picked up any of the Australian accents (yes, plural). Crikey!

I did come back to America with a completely different vocabulary -- some of which just does not translate -- a different view of the world and my birth country, and bloody hell glad I experienced all of it!

Old 07-02-2003, 11:28 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 67,430
I don't think the puberty thing is true... or at least not always.

I moved from England to Orlando (Florida) a little before my fourteenth birthday... within two months of starting school, my accent had begun to disappear or appear, depending on your viewpoint... seven years later, I speak in what everyone else considers an entirely normal Central Floridian accent, such as can be said to exist.

Now, here's the kicker- if I go back to Britain (as I do yearly), my English (I like to think it was Standard, although there was a little Brummie and more West Country in there too) accent returns nearly full-force in a matter of hours. In fact, it returns faster or slower depending on the accents of the flight attendants; my brother can tell whether I flew in on Delta or British Airways this way...
Old 07-03-2003, 05:08 AM
Iteki Iteki is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Sweden based Dubliner
Posts: 1,882
I pick up a new accent astoundingly fast and without noticing it.
I think people sometimes think I am taking the piss out of them, mocking their accent when I "adopt it".

I was away at a training course with some new people a while back, and when I got home mrsIteki wanted to know who was from Gothenburg. "Christian!" said I "How did you know?".
I had apparantly gained a distinct Gothenburg lilt during the 2 days away.


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