Brits: How is Gillian Anderson's British accent?


You can see Gillian Anderson in the recent spy spoof The Spy Who Dumped Me. A small part but she does well with it. At 2:08 here:

Moving back and forth between countries is a lot more common than you might think. Saoirse Ronan spent the first three years of her life in the U.S. before moving back to Ireland with her Irish parents. Nicole Kidman spent the first four years of her life in the U.S. before moving back to Australian parents.

I agree with this. I note the Parkinson interview is over ten years old - I think she probably sounds less mid-Atlantic these days. More 100% British. Certainly in the British shows I’ve seen her in.

I realise that I’m responding to an old thread, but I’ve just googled this guy, and he doesn’t sound British at all. Some weird stuff going on there - bit Aussie, but American, bit god knows what. But not British!

Sorry, I screwed up a sentence.

I wrote:

> Nicole Kidman spent the first four years of her life in the U.S. before moving back to
> Australian parents.

I meant:

> Nicole Kidman spent the first four years of her life in the U.S. before moving back to Australia with her Australian parents.

My daughter (raised in London by two American parents) has two accents. When she’s around us or in America she speaks with an American(-ish) accent. At school or with her friends she speaks with a British accent. Her teachers find this hilarious, as she immediately switches when we arrive to pick her up from school, and we have to eavesdrop from outside the room (say, when she has a friend over) to hear what she sounds like when we’re not around.

Recently I spoke with a woman with a surprising accent. I was at a restaurant in England. The waitress came over to take my order. She spoke with what was clearly to me an American accent. Later, when she came back to put down the food I’d ordered, I asked her where she was from. She said that she had spent the first twenty-two years of her life in Brazil. Her parents were British. Her father had moved the family to Brazil to start a business there, and she was born there. Her father wanted her to grow up speaking English. There was a British school near where they lived and an American school. Her father checked out the British school and decided it wasn’t very good, so she did all her elementary and high school education at the American school. That was the accent she picked up. She never lived in the U.S., and eventually the family moved back to England. She said it was now kind of funny when she got together with her family, since she’s the only one who speaks with an American accent.

My twin nieces (in-law) are like this. Their mother is Welsh, father Swiss, they’ve lived in England, Germany, Brazil and only now the US (in the last 2 months). They’ve spent most of their lives in International Schools, and speak with a weird American-ish, Euro-English-ish. They sound like they’re speaking English as a second language, even though it’s their first. You could never guess their nationality (which is strange in itself - one has a British passport, one Swiss).

There are a number of well-known “facts” about changing accents. Most of them are true to some degree, but keep in mind that these particular “facts” bend and break with practice, skill, and determination. (Certainly there are people who can’t change their accent, or who don’t want to, but for those with both the ability and the desire, surprising things can sometimes be done.)

This discussion may have moved on a bit, but as a native Brit with a Linguistics degree (wherein I had a particular leaning towards Phonology and Forensic Linguistics), I’ll wade in with a direct response to the OP: when she’s being herself the accent may flit around a bit, but when she’s in character being English it’s impeccable.

Absolute off-topic tangent, granted, but still: that always strikes me as odd. Oh, I know it’s a thing - apple pie being American - but it feels like such a traditionally English thing too (because for hundreds of years it has been) that its being symbolically American seems strange.

Like, I don’t know…saying “It’s as American as beer and pretzels” to a Bavarian.

I’d have thought “American as…” would be better completed with something that’s not just typical, but which is atypical elsewhere.

Yeah, for what it’s worth, the expression “as American as apple pie” doesn’t make much sense. Apple pie is common in many countries. A more reasonable expression would be either “as American as pumpkin pie” or “as American as pecan pie”. Pumpkin pie originated in the U.S. and Canada, and pecan pie originated in the southern U.S.

snicker I have a certain facility in picking up language when I hang out with people - I suppose it is the whole Canadian vacation thing where I needed to speak with the local kids to play with them, but they spoke French, so I picked up French. I spent my first 5 years in Germany, and we had a german maid of all work when we got back to the US [my grandparents imported her back in the early 20s and she stayed with the family, and is buried in the family plot] so I can speak a moderate amount of German which I had been augmenting with self teaching … and I have a good copmmand of Spanish from managing to do 3 years of textbooks in one year [ my school required French, but caught on that I was using French class to flake out in, so they got the books, found me a teacher that spoke Spanish and so I had a private tutor and managed to speed along at a good clip. Love MOntessoru schools for individualization of learning =) ]
So … if I am hanging with a Canadian English or Francophone, I start sounding like them. If I spend too much time on teamspeak with my Danish buddies, I start speaking English with that ‘mashed potato’ effect If I hang with my Norwegian buddies, I get the ‘Swedish Chef’ singsong inflections. I can end up sounding like I use a classic ‘recieved’ English accent … My normal ‘dialect’ is the Western NY ‘broad A’ because I spent 15 years living in the Rochester NY area. I moved to Virginia and ended up sounding like a mid Atlantic coastal southerner. I had managed to confuse a Canadian from Ottowa at a large SCA camping event - he couldn’t understand why I wasn’t familiar to him, as the number of active SCA members that was in the Ottowa CA area was moderately small and ‘inbred’ and he knew most all of them. giggle


Gillian Anderson will play Margaret Thatcher in an upcoming season of The Crown:

And I expect she’ll do very well in the part, too!

She was in The Fall:

I’m a linguist and occasional actor. I have the same capability, which is not always appreciated. One Irish guy with whom I was having a beer thought at first I was mocking his accent, when I was just unconsciously picking up on his pronunciation and rhythm of speech.

My daughter was born in Moscow. Between the ages of one and two and a half, she lived with her Russian family and picked up the language perfectly, with almost no baby talk. She then came to live with me. She understood English because I had always talked to her in it, but she spoke it very poorly. I forbade her to speak Russian when she was with me and got her a Canadian nanny for while I was working.

She was speaking perfect, and I mean perfect English within two months. In both languages, it was like talking to an adult. Her accents were also absolutely perfect.

She moved to Canada with her mother in 2005, at the age of 10. When she talks to friends back in Moscow now, they say her Russian accent has changed. They say the same thing about her mother’s accent, but I honestly cannot hear it in either case.

In Moscow, I was friendly with a British gentleman and his Russian wife. They had a son the same age as my daughter, but he spoke virtually no English. The reason being, his mother would translate everything into Russian for him. He had absolutely no incentive to learn English. Both Derrick and I told her he would never learn English if she kept on translating, but it did no good.

The last time I talked to Derrick was in 2010, after they had moved to Cyprus and were living by a British air base. From what I gathered, the boy had picked up English very quickly from socializing with the UK service personnel.

Here’s the S4 trailer, with her looking (and sounding) pretty damn Thatcheresque.

Jeez, I think that was better than Meryl Streep’s take. Gave me the creeps.

I’m a bit of a parrot too, so I have to be very consciously monitor myself when I’m talking to someone with an accent.

I was born and raised in New England, but later moved out west. I very naturally pick up the accent when I go home, or talk to family, and then switch back to a “neutral” voice otherwise.