Monday, December 3, 2007

The Accent

After living here five months, I am increasingly less conscious of the Aussie accent(s).  That is, I don't really think about the fact that other people sound different until either (a) someone comments on my accent or (b) an Aussie utters a word or phrase that requires some translation (e.g., "we always try to find the daggiest bar at the conference").  In fact, this past weekend I started watching season 1 of "Lost" on DVD, and was immediately struck by all the American accents of the actors, and how familiar Claire, the only Australian who survived the flight from Sydney (!), sounded.  As an American, I find that I have to repeat myself quite a bit to others who aren't expecting to hear my accent, as if the other person has to stop and put on their American listening ears.  Given that I'm a pretty fast talker, I have also learned to slow down my speech a tad and to enunciate a bit more.  I still find some Aussies difficult to understand, and I'm not sure whether it's because of a particular accent or that they're just mumbling.  It seems to me that there is quite a range of Aussie accents, but apparently there are 'officially' just three: broad (like Steve Irwin or Crocodile Dundee), general (like Nicole Kidman or a news reader), and cultivated (a nearly extinct accent, closer to British English), which supposedly reflect a rural versus urban background, rather than regional or class differences.  A quick search on the web revealed several sites that will teach you how to speak with an Australian accent, such as this one.  I particularly like the last tip: 
"Keep your tone light and jovial.  When speaking with an Australian accent, you should convey happy enthusiasm."
As opposed to that depressing Midwestern American one I have?!


Audra said...

Do you order "pop"??

Mooselet said...

My accent must be some bizarre amalgamation of various accents because I often get asked by Aussies if I'm Irish! The first few times I thought the people asking me were pulling my leg, but I've had it often enough now that I don't miss a beat when I reply that I'm American.

Like you, I find American accents a little jarring now, especially when it's not expected.

Danielle said...

My tip for speaking Australian? Just end every sentence as though you as asking a question? (Drives me crazy though.)

Brett said...

I tend to think that the "cultivated" accent is alive and well here in Perth. Especially with the "here's" and "there's" (hee-yuuhhh and the-yuuhh, or something like that). I get frustrated when I can't understand someone's Aussie accent. I'm amazed at the patience shown me as I say "what? hunh? pardon?".

The Prof said...

Audra, I used to order pop and wear my tennis shoes before I moved to L.A., when it became soda in my sneakers.

Mooselet, I sure do like your Irish accent!

Danielle, I also find that annoying. Some older Aussies have told me that they attribute that to (a) the 'younger' generation and (b) the influence of American television!

Brett, I think that you are mistaking the cultivated accent with the official Liberal Party accent of WA! :) People here are much more tolerant of our foreign accents than they are back in the States, where my wife (who is in English) would constantly get, "Where are you from?"

Audra said...

Now you have to learn to order fizzy drinks and wear trainers.

V said...

On that series "The Adventure of English", they said that one of the unique characteristics of an Australian accent was...ending sentences with a question! It's amazing how many will attribute undesirable things to "American influence" (don't get me started on THAT..)

Anyway, I know exactly what you mean. When I speak to strangers, clerks, waitstaff... 90% of the time I'll get a "Sorry?" I have to get my husband to order at drive-thru windows because it becomes like a game of who's-on-first, LOL. I think you're right, they are just genuinely not expecting to hear, like, a REAL LIVE American accent not on TV.

Speaking of whom, my husband and I still misunderstand eachother sometimes... we just laugh and say "separated by a common language". :)