OK, as an American, and I think I speak for many of my countrymen, I often get confused between the Aussue accent and a Brit accent. There are obviously lots of different accents within each country (just as there are in the us), and those are fairly easy to distinguish–say, Mick Dundee vs. a Cockney.
HOWEVER, as Aussie and Brit slang is often very similar, those who speak in a “flat” or “normal” Aussie or Brit accent sound very similar. I discussed this once with an English friend and he was completly confused by this. He said that to the English, Aussies sound like Americans!
Another observation: Scottish and Irish accents often sound the same. I ran that one by my hot-headed Irish friend years ago and I thought he’d rip my head off.
I think well spoken Australians are sometimes mistaken for being British. Generally though, I’d say the main difference between the accents is that a lot of us Aussies have a habit of tacking on a raised tone to the end of sentences, as if we’re asking a question. We also have a habit of abbreviating words down to their first syllable and then tacking on a random vowel, eg; postie (postman), journo (journalist), muso (musician). Those with a broad Australian accent tend to not move their lips or jaws much when they talk. This tendency to “frontalize” many vowel sounds (that is to sound various vowels farther forward in the mouth), makes the accent sound like a nasally twang because the vowel sounds are elongated and flattened.
I find it interesting that some foreign actors can do a decent British accent but find the Aussie accent hard to tackle, for example, Meryl Streep sounded more like a New Zealander when she attempted it.
Some Glaswegians can sound quite similar to the Northern Irish accent but that is I think simply because there are great many people of Northern Irish descent in Glasgow.
In the main, Scottish and Irish accents sound quite different.
The biggest difference in the Australian accent to the English one is the raised tone at the end of sentances. However thats getting quite common here now. The daytime media chat show types blame the current huge number of Auzzie soaps that we get. Since I just had that argument with Ruadh I won’t have it again .
It always surprises me how so many posters from the USA can’t tell the difference between English-language accents from outside North America. I have to assume it’s due to a lack of exposure. In the same way, those of us from this side of the water are likely to get confused between different regional accents from your side.
We had a similar conversation in a thread a little while back in which an American couldn’t tell the difference between a Birmingham accent and an Australian one. To those of us who are familiar with them they don’t sound alike at all, but I suggested that it was because the listener was latching onto one or two distinctive flags and extrapolating from there.
I don’t believe an Australian accent sounds American to most English people (they don’t sound similar to me). Necromancer’s made a good effort at trying to explain a few of the distinctive qualities of Australian speech, but this subject is always very difficult to discuss in writing.
Rest assured that you’re far from alone in your confusion, Vlad, but it’s still mystifying to many of us.
Most Brits can’t tell the difference between a Canadian and US accent, either. I identify them by certain flags - “oat and a boat” for “out and about”. Furthermore, most Brits can’t tell the difference between Kiwi and Aussie, either. “Pin” for “pen”, but I’m not as good at identifying that.
When in doubt, I always go for the more obscure country (Kiwis/Canadians will be delighted and grateful, and Aussies/Yanks won’t care; doesn’t work the other way round. ;))
Who you calling obscure! But yes you are probably right
One of the best ways to tell an Aussie from a Kiwi is dance/chance (and the rest of the words that rhyme with those). Aussies pronounce those words more like Americans, Kiwis pronounce them more like Poms do.
Who says, “oat and a boat”? Phonetically, that sounds more Scots, to me.
Anyway, obvious difference to this Canuck’s ears between Scots and Irish, and Ozzie & Brit. P’raps it’s from growing up in a multi-cultural area back when “multi-cultural” meant Irish, Scot, Brit or Ozzie.
Same deal between Murican & Canuck accents. Sometimes it’s more subtle than others, but it’s there.
When I was a kid, I was once stumped by an Afrikaaner, for a little while. Then I suddenly realized she sounded just like this guy that used to be on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. (No, not Marlon Perkins. Some other guy.)
Speaking as an American who learned how to tell the difference between an Australian and an English accent as an adult, I think everton has it right. Those of us who are not gifted with accents tend to latch on to one or two distinct “tells” rather than perceiving the accent as a whole. We simply memorize the fact that people from Place X tend to say “pahk the cah” or “Loondoon” or “abaoout,” and most of the time it works. The trouble is that most Americans are only familiar with the BBC-announcer type of English accent, and we tend to perceive the unpronounced final r as the distinguishing feature of this accent – and this also happens to be a feature which is common to Australian accents, though not, in fact, present in all British accents.
However, I do think Commonwealth residents are generally more adept at perceiving regional differences in speech than Americans are, probably due to greater exposure. (A couple of months ago, while traveling in Alaska, I spent several days hanging out with a group of Australians and one Canadian. I couldn’t hear any difference between my own speech and that of the Canadian and the many Alaskans we met along the way, but the Australians all insisted that we sounded nothing like each other.)
Well, I’m afraid I’m going to have to take issue with several of your comments here, too. Nothing personal
Speaking as someone who spends a lot of time in Glasgow and generally travels there in the company of Northern Irish - the two groups sound absolutely nothing like each other. Sorry, but you are just wrong here.
Eh … I’ll come back to this one, need to double-check a couple facts first
The book I recommended in the other thread, Language Myths, discusses the “uptalk” phenomenon. Apparently its appearance in England predates its appearance on Australian soaps.
Oh, and everton, ten years ago I would have been completely hopeless at telling all these accents apart too. Even now I still struggle with a lot of the regional accents, but I’m a lot better than I was just two years ago. It’s definitely all about exposure.
On a very few - and admittedly very few - occasions I have met people from either NI or Scotland (Glasgow in particular), who I just can’t tell, on the basis of their accent, which side of the water they’re from. I’m pretty familiar with both accents.
I’ll take your word for it jjimm, but I really cannot imagine that a Glaswegian - speaking in a genuine Glasgow accent - could ever be mistaken for a Nordie. Then again, I can’t imagine how I’ve ever been mistaken for an Australian, but it’s happened …
I’ll admit to having made the Northern Irish / Scotish error. There was a Northern Irish guy at work about ten years ago whose accent I just couldn’t place, but it sounded more like maybe Glaswegian (at a pinch) than anything else. These days, I wouldn’t make the same mistake. The two seem very different now. The Northern Irish accent is very cool.
For the Aussie / Kiwi thing, I know a lot of folks on both sides of “The Ditch” will cringe at what I’m going to say, but the cliched “fish and chips” is a good way to tell, usually. If the vowels seem shortened or even missing altogether, you’ve got yourself a real, live Kiwi. If they are strangely lengthened, it’s an Aussie you’re talking to. Granted, the phrase is not likely to come up in the first few seconds of conversation, but any short word with an ‘i’ in it will do. Other vowels also get similar, if less obvious, treatment. Kiwis live in “Nzlnd”, and Aussies in" Austraaaaaaylia".