One of hubby’s jokes when people ask him about his accent is to say: “I don’t have an accent, you have the accent. I speak English.”
Having been in the States for almost 8 years now, I find my ‘r’s rolling a bit more than they used to, and sometimes I say “half past eight” with the ‘a’s sounding like the ‘a’ in ‘cat’, instead of sounding like the ‘ough’ in ‘cough’.
Yet, still, I often get the comments about my accent and questions about where I am from. Most people guess Britain or Australia, unless they have actually met a South African, which is not too uncommon in our city. We have run accross the odd person who is incredulous that we are South African born and white-skinned, and one was flabbergasted that hubby works in the computer industry: “Oh, so you have computers there?” 😀
Accents are interesting things. My American friends say I don’t sound like an American, my South African friends (If they heard me speak to an American, when my ‘r’s are really rollin’) would say I’m picking up an American accent.
When I was in SA I thought the American accent was all about the ‘drawl’. Now I realise the biggest differences are in the vowels. This is where my American friends catch me out…my vowels are still very South African.
It also took me a while to learn to say our pastor’s wife’s name with a ‘d’, when it is spelled with a ‘t’… her name is Katie. I tried to figure out if there’s any word that Americans spell with a ‘soft’ ‘t’, but none are quite as soft as mine.
I have grown so used to hearing American, that it is the norm for me now. For the first time in my life, I can hear my own accent objectively. Sometimes when my son turns on the Discovery Channel and some South African game ranger is talking away, the accent immediately grabs my attention as out-of-the-ordinary, and I can hear as an outsider would.
The strange thing is that the accents of South Africans whom I don’t know stick out like a sore thumb to me, yet the accents of my mom and dad and family are so familiar that I don’t notice them at all.
Another weird thing is that I have completely lost the ability to do a fake british accent. I get all mixed up when I try. I get this kind of Southern-Georgia-marries-Worchestershire-England type thing going. Mixed up vowels all over the place.
You’d think I’d have a real identity crisis with all of this going on, but no. When I’m around my American friends, I slip into American-speak. (Sumi-style) Around my family and friends in SA, I speak sort-0f South African-ish. It isn’t really a concious thing…it happens, chameleon-like.
Now if the Lord ever sent us to Down Under, or to Scotland or wherever, it could get really messy!