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Old 02-02-2011, 01:39 PM
Location: London, UK
412 posts, read 763,459 times
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I will be visiting the US for the first time in the spring, and am very much looking forward to getting my first glimpse of what is, by many measures, the centre of English-speaking culture.

I have one query. While my natural accent is one of received pronunciation, with mild London tones, I have a penchant, if not to say a talent, for the affectation of various British regional accents: Scouse, Yorkshire, West-country, Dublin, Glaswegian. While it is widely recognised that my efforts in putting on these accents are not without success and skill, this is really nothing more than a party-trick here, because people who naturally speak these accents are ten-a-penny.

But what would the reaction to such accents in the US? If I turn the tables for a second, I would say that I could separate a stereotypical Noo-Yowawk for a southern drawl, from a prim middle-american RP - but that's about it. So how would the typical American - and of course, I know that no such person exists - react to a broad Scottish or Irish accent? Would many people be able to identify it as such? What about the difference between a northern English accent and a southern one?

Just interested, that's all
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Old 02-02-2011, 02:11 PM
2,060 posts, read 4,684,106 times
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Honestly- 99% of Americans have no notion of different regional British accents. If you speak in any sort of British-esque accent they are going to generically think you are British. They're not going to say something like: " Hey- I bet you're from Yorkshire!"
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Old 02-02-2011, 02:26 PM
Location: New York City
4,036 posts, read 7,874,461 times
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To most Americans all British accents sound vaguely the same. However, if you use a really thick Geordie or Aberdeen accent, many people will have a hard time understanding you.

It's also a class thing (but not in the British sense). People from a wealthier background are more likely to have spent time or studied in the UK. I had two British flatmates in college (one from Yorkshire and one from Brimingham). I can distinguish between most regional British accents (I also trained as an actor).

If you use a British accent you'll most likely just get stupid questions about the Royal Family.
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Old 02-02-2011, 06:33 PM
Location: Lakeland, Florida
6,189 posts, read 10,544,632 times
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I can guarantee the majority of Americans native to this country, will have absolutely no knowledge of UK regional accents.
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Old 02-02-2011, 06:57 PM
Location: San Francisco
1,472 posts, read 2,641,182 times
Reputation: 1551
The only reason I do is I loved watching British comedies and dramas on PBS and it does tune your ear to a variety of British accents. Well, that and spending nine months in glamorous Penge, London SE20.

I will say this, Americans will fall all over themselves fawning over your accent. If you want to be easily understood, use your RP accent. Its universally understood (like a standard American accent) and some people here don't get out much.
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Old 02-02-2011, 08:21 PM
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,691 posts, read 37,560,506 times
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I think Americans are more likely to confuse the northern British accents (probably Manchester and north, Brummie sort of has features of both north and south) for Scottish or Irish accents. They are likely to get Scottish and Irish confused, and will think of Cockney and RP as the 'typical' British accents.

They'll probably think of West Country accents as Irish too.
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Old 02-03-2011, 12:01 AM
1,496 posts, read 1,684,038 times
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Haha, most of us can barely distinguish an English accent from an Australian accent. You may find that hard to believe but it's true! So you can safely assume that we won't be too discerning about British regions.

RP does kind of stand out, though, and mostly in a good way. It's associated with intelligence and sophistication.
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:14 AM
Location: Brooklyn, New York
2,583 posts, read 2,837,345 times
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Bring a top hat, a monocle, and a pipe. Then come up to a random chick and say "Hello my name is Benjamin Hubard". It will get you laid more times than you think.
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:30 AM
1,592 posts, read 2,747,159 times
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Have fun with it -- just don't use said phony accent trick on a copper!

I've travelled extensively throughout Great Britain, so I can usually tell where people are from, but I'm the exception. When not travelling, I brush up on my knowledge of British accents by watching BBC comedies. I am enjoying learning the Cornish accent via Doc Martin, which sounds somewhat Irish and/or French. I now know why us Americans stretch out our rrrrssss.
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:41 AM
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
7,298 posts, read 10,893,211 times
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Originally Posted by Benjamin Hubard View Post
So how would the typical American - and of course, I know that no such person exists - react to a broad Scottish or Irish accent?
Where exactly will you be in the US? I think in most major tourist spots or big cities, people will be fairly used to accents because they'll get a lot of tourists and immigrants. Even if British accents aren't of the most common ones, they'll probably be used to accents in general and won't blink an eye.

If you go outside the tourist areas, you'll get a lot of confused looks when you first speak - and you may get some requests to repeat yourself. My English husband has experienced this. But I have also experienced it vice versa (I'm an American living in England). It's mainly because people don't expect to hear an accent so, because they are momentarily surprised, they don't take in what you're saying. It's not necessarily because they are too stupid to understand your accent.

Would many people be able to identify it as such?
Most should probably be able to recognize the difference between an English, Scottish and Irish accent. I mean, you'd have to be pretty stupid to think Sean Connery and Daniel Craig sound the same. A Welsh accent might throw them though.

And if Americans fall short of these expectations (I notice most of the other replies don't have the faith in Americans I do), well, they're not the only ones. I have a very generic American accent and in my years of living in the UK, I have been mistaken for Irish and Australian! So it's not just Americans.

What about the difference between a northern English accent and a southern one?
No, here's where you're getting far too regional to expect any foreigners to be very familiar with the culture. Some Americans might be aware regional dialects exist within England but probably wouldn't be able to identify them. Some could maybe spot a Cockney accent since this is the most famous and maybe even a Liverpool accent if they're familiar with The Beatles. But I wouldn't expect most to.
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