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Old 06-21-2014, 01:22 AM
 
14 posts, read 124,222 times
Reputation: 44

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Hello, I am a non-native English speaker living in the United States. I have lived in different regions and have been exposed to the different American accents.

When I lived in the Midwest I found the people to be the most difficult to understand. This is in spite of being told that the Midwestern accent was the supposed standard on which the General American has as its base. When I told my Midwestern coworkers that they were hard to understand because of their accent, they always had the same reply of not having an accent. They are the only Americans I know who regularly would tell me that they did not have an accent.

Despite reading many times that TV presenters supposedly speak with a Midwest accent, I never met anyone in the Midwest who spoke like a TV presenter. Even the TV presenters on the Midwest stations spoke in that difficult to understand accent.

I will try to explain what the Midwest accent sounds to me as a second-language English speaker. The most notable trait is a nasality (is that a word?) which they apply to the vowels; this nasality is the one thing which makes the accent the most difficult to understand. It is also higher-pitched compared to every other region of the country.

Midwesterners also have the habit of refusing to speak up; they mumble words and get mad when people cannot understand them. A lady at a grocery store got mad at me because she mumbled a price to me and I could not understand a single thing she said. In addition, they pronounce words very differently from other regions. The word "dollar" is pronounced more like "dawllar" (the first syllable rhyming with the name "Al"). The word "not" sounds more like "nat" and they use the word "yet" differently to replace "still" which confused me endlessly.

Example of yet/still usage:

Standard English: We still have the item on sale.
Midwest English: We have the item on sale yet.

In no other English accent did I ever hear this usage of "yet" to replace "still". It is annoyingly confusing to someone who already struggles with English not being his/her first language.

The purpose of this post is not to vent but rather to try to understand why Midwest is considered standard when it's the hardest accent to understand for a non-native and why people in Arizona sound more General American than Midwesterners.
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Old 06-21-2014, 01:44 AM
 
Location: Minneapolis (St. Louis Park)
5,991 posts, read 8,719,887 times
Reputation: 4295
Well the "Midwest" is an enormous region, so perhaps you're having trouble with a particular area. Still, your anecdotes do not jive with what most people know about how Midesterners speak, so perhaps your sitatuion was unique, or now you realize just how much of a "melting pot" America truly is, and that no one place in this country has any one uniform accent or even language.
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Old 06-21-2014, 02:00 AM
 
14 posts, read 124,222 times
Reputation: 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Min-Chi-Cbus View Post
Well the "Midwest" is an enormous region, so perhaps you're having trouble with a particular area.
I lived in the St Louis area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Min-Chi-Cbus
Still, your anecdotes do not jive with what most people know about how Midesterners speak,
Can you tell me where I can find this information on what "most people know about how Midwesterners speak?" I also do not quite understand the meaning of the anecdotes not "jiveing", does that mean be in agreement?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Min-Chi-Cbus
so perhaps your sitatuion was unique, or now you realize just how much of a "melting pot" America truly is, and that no one place in this country has any one uniform accent or even language.
That is the exact OPPOSITE of what my post said. I found that 99% of all the people I met in St Louis spoke in this fashion (excluding non-natives like myself). I also don't see any melting pot in the USA. Everyone sticks to their own kind. In my native country we are very multiracial but do not have ethnic neighborhoods and people do not only have friends of the same skin color. While exceptions exist, I find that in the USA whites hang out with whites, blacks hang out with blacks, Mexicans hang out with Mexicans, Asians hang out with Asians, etc. We also don't use hyphenates to identify our racial background like Americans do when they talk about "African-Americans" or "Asian-Americans". I don't see a melting pot at all in the USA.

But this post was about speech, not about a melting pot.
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Old 06-21-2014, 02:42 AM
 
Location: Minneapolis (St. Louis Park)
5,991 posts, read 8,719,887 times
Reputation: 4295
You live in St. Louis, you can't speak on behalf of the entire Midwest. Go visit the country some more and then post here on C-D.

P.S. who is "we"? What almighty region do you hail from where all people are equal and friends?
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Old 06-21-2014, 03:06 AM
 
3 posts, read 40,622 times
Reputation: 15
When I first moved from Kansas to California some million years ago people were telling me that I was speaking too fast. iow my rate of speech was the problem.
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Old 06-21-2014, 03:10 AM
 
14 posts, read 124,222 times
Reputation: 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suzannegia1000g View Post
When I first moved from Kansas to California some million years ago people were telling me that I was speaking too fast. iow my rate of speech was the problem.
The speed was never the problem for me as much as the different way of pronouncing vowels that sound nothing like TV presenter vowels. Most people from India also are incomprehensible to me despite speaking slowly. The tech support call I had to make once was the most agonizing process almost like pulling teeth as not even my American boyfriend understood the Indian tech support man.
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Old 06-21-2014, 05:22 AM
 
Location: Currently living in Reddit
5,655 posts, read 5,977,117 times
Reputation: 7291
I find the lower midwest (Kansas/Missouri region) to be nasally, but easy to understand and without a significant number of regional dialect conventions. Probably the clearest/easiest to understand American English is in the Pacific NW/NoCal.

Heck, even moving a few hundred miles can mean a big change in dialect. I moved from New England to Pittsburgh a decade ago and sentence construction went out the window ("The lawn needs mowed") along with words I'd never heard of (e.g. "nebby"). And born-and-raised Pittsburghers often use "yet" instead of "still" too.

Anyway, thanks for trying to learn the language. Too many people come here and don't try to assimilate at all, which is part of why you'll find ethnic groups living close together.

Last edited by JMT; 06-21-2014 at 09:28 AM..
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Old 06-21-2014, 05:26 AM
 
7,757 posts, read 3,451,083 times
Reputation: 9277
If your having problems understanding people in the mid-west, I sure hate to see how much you would understand from people from the Bronx.
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Old 06-21-2014, 06:01 AM
 
Location: Over-the-Rhine, Ohio
548 posts, read 700,077 times
Reputation: 644
Quote:
Originally Posted by ExpatInUSA View Post
Hello, I am a non-native English speaker living in the United States. I have lived in different regions and have been exposed to the different American accents.

When I lived in the Midwest I found the people to be the most difficult to understand. This is in spite of being told that the Midwestern accent was the supposed standard on which the General American has as its base. When I told my Midwestern coworkers that they were hard to understand because of their accent, they always had the same reply of not having an accent. They are the only Americans I know who regularly would tell me that they did not have an accent.

Despite reading many times that TV presenters supposedly speak with a Midwest accent, I never met anyone in the Midwest who spoke like a TV presenter. Even the TV presenters on the Midwest stations spoke in that difficult to understand accent.

I will try to explain what the Midwest accent sounds to me as a second-language English speaker. The most notable trait is a nasality (is that a word?) which they apply to the vowels; this nasality is the one thing which makes the accent the most difficult to understand. It is also higher-pitched compared to every other region of the country.

Midwesterners also have the habit of refusing to speak up; they mumble words and get mad when people cannot understand them. A lady at a grocery store got mad at me because she mumbled a price to me and I could not understand a single thing she said. In addition, they pronounce words very differently from other regions. The word "dollar" is pronounced more like "dawllar" (the first syllable rhyming with the name "Al"). The word "not" sounds more like "nat" and they use the word "yet" differently to replace "still" which confused me endlessly.

Example of yet/still usage:

Standard English: We still have the item on sale.
Midwest English: We have the item on sale yet.

In no other English accent did I ever hear this usage of "yet" to replace "still". It is annoyingly confusing to someone who already struggles with English not being his/her first language.

The purpose of this post is not to vent but rather to try to understand why Midwest is considered standard when it's the hardest accent to understand for a non-native and why people in Arizona sound more General American than Midwesterners.
The Midwest really is a huge region with many different accents. The non-regional diction is found in the lower great lakes (Chicago, Milwaukee, Toledo) which has been called generally "The Midwest" by newscasters for a very long time. As a result people in other parts of the Midwest like to latch onto that fun fact about non-regional diction despite speaking in a clearly distinct dialect. I grew up in Northern Wisconsin and I definitely have some nasal tones in my O-vowels. When I moved to Milwaukee, I was made fun of for my "Up Nord" accent. I'm down in Cincinnati now and there's definitely a more Southern twang in peoples' speech. St Louis is also a little further South and picks up some of those qualities as well.
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Old 06-21-2014, 08:00 AM
 
Location: Paris
1,728 posts, read 2,182,939 times
Reputation: 1019
Quote:
Originally Posted by sskink View Post
So a person comes here, tries to learn the language, has difficulty with the regional accent, posts over here to discuss and then gets dumped on for being "a furriner" by the "U-S-A U-S-A" crowd. Brilliant.

I find the lower midwest (Kansas/Missouri region) to be nasally, but easy to understand and without a significant number of regional dialect conventions. Probably the clearest/easiest to understand American English is in the Pacific NW/NoCal.

Heck, even moving a few hundred miles can mean a big change in dialect. I moved from New England to Pittsburgh a decade ago and sentence construction went out the window ("The lawn needs mowed") along with words I'd never heard of (e.g. "nebby"). And born-and-raised Pittsburghers often use "yet" instead of "still" too.

Anyway, thanks for trying to learn the language. Too many people come here and don't try to assimilate at all, which is part of why you'll find ethnic groups living close together.
Except that isn't what really happened here, nice reading comprehension...



Anyways, OP, you honestly sound like you have a bit of a self-righteous chip on your shoulder and need to stop being so negative. For example, thanks for explaining how perfectly fluent you are (whatever you take that to mean...), how exposed you are to "the American accents" (please share the ones you're familiar with since you apparently think people from St. Louis, Chicago, Cincy, Cleveland, Minneapolis, etc. all are supposed to sound the same...) and how it's this massive region that's the problem... Look, I do live abroad (and I have in a few different countries), English is not my only language, so I do sympathize, but the entire Midwest??? Since you've lived in the US in several places have you still not grasped the size of the US yet? The country is about the size of all of Europe, why do people expect it to all be the same?

The Midwest is a vast region that has many different areas and a lot of older (for the US) big cities that have their own accents. St. Louis is def. one of the older ones and it does have an accent; although comparatively speaking, it's honestly not that strong and a bit faded today... Do a quick search on here for accent maps, the "news reporter neutral" region you refer to isn't too far from St. Louis, and it does share some things.

Btw, this whole conversation is really odd... debating "no accent" while not providing any background whatsoever on yours is well...
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