British (and Aussie, Kiwi, Jamaican, etc.) Dopers: Can You Do a Convincing American Accent?

Brit here; I voted “Nope, couldn’t pull if off if I tried” (oo-er missus!).

There’s something about an American accent that’s somehow qualitatively different from a Commonwealth accent. When I was on holiday for a few weeks in New Zealand, I started to unconsciously develop a Kiwi twang, much to my embarrassment when I realised. And when I lived in Oz, I developed an Aussie accent sufficiently well for me to constantly be mistaken for a fellow-countryman by ex-pats when I moved back to the UK. But having accumulated about six months’ time in the US over the years, I’ve never been able to develop any sort of American accent.

I think the real problem is the vowel sounds, I suppose because Aussie/Kiwi vowel sounds are relatively recent spin-offs from my own accent(s), whereas American vowel sounds have had much longer to develop from a more different set of English accents.

Another problem, not directly related to the actual sounds themselves, is the different cultural environment. Aussies/Kiwis and Brits have a surprising amount of cultural baggage in common. Americans vs. the Commonwealth is a much bigger difference. Anyone thinking they know or understand American culture (or rather: cultures) from nothing more than the big or small screens is fooling themselves.

I suspect that I might eventually be able to acquire a decent American accent, though, if I could figure out just how to do it! I certainly have found myself speaking differently when in the US so perhaps the process has gotten (!) underway; just far more slowly than it did for when I was Down Under.

How would you compare it to an Irish accent, which is also rhotic? American and Irish accents seem more similar to my ear than either is to a British or Australian accent (although not necessarily word usage). Someone actually mistook me for Irish when I was in Dublin; I’m from California.

Probably not. On a couple of occasions my choir has been asked to sing with American accents. I doubt that we sounded very authentic.

Hm! You may have exposed some inadvertent Anglo-centrism on my part!

However, I think it would be a lot easier for me to pick up some sort of an Irish accent than an American one. On the other hand, I don’t feel that about a Scottish accent. I don’t think that I can usefully analyse why that should seem to be the case. It may be related to the fact that I’m often the last to notice that someone is a Scot, though. In contrast, I’ve found myself picking up Irishisms in the past when spending any sort of time with Irishmen around. No doubt if I moved to Scotland, people who knew me down here would start to notice a difference in how I talked, but I feel sure that I would Irishize much more quickly if I moved to Ireland. Whatever process affects the adoption of different turns of phrase, and particularly of different rhythms of speech, must surely be related in some fashion to the adoption of a different accent (phonology).

Maybe for me it’s simply some sort of psychological thing to do with degrees of “foreignness”! Just foreign enough, but not too foreign…! :slight_smile:

At the theatre where I work, there are often amateur and semi-professional productions of American musicals. Most of the performers end up with the same tortured sound, you can almost hear them holding their jaws in a particular way to get the vowels out. I’m not a fan of musicals anyway, and I know they’re doing their best (and it’s no doubt adequate for the purposes of local theatre) but I hate it! :frowning:

I was an actor and as a kid I liked to do accents, reckon I would be able to pass as a southerner to a bostonian etc.

You don’t really have to for choir. The choral accent is different, a hodgepodge of all other accents. I know few people who can tell the difference between choirs from different sections of America.

What I’m saying is, even Americans sounds inauthentic.

Irish here, and I believe I can. Although I’m not sure if I could sustain it. I think Hugh Laurie’s accent sounds a bit ersatz but then I’m not American.

Nope, and I’ve acted for years, but accents of any kind aren’t my strong point. Was a bit of an issue when I directed “Six Degrees of Separation”, but luckily we had a couple of genuine Yanks in the cast, and anyway, as I told the actors, we were only needed to be good enough to convince a British audience!

Laurie’s phonemes are right for a generically American-sounding accent, but he always sounds like he’s trying very hard.