Friday 14 March 2008

The way it used to be

Most mother tongue English speakers can spot, or more precisely hear an Aussie a mile away. It is our broad twang (which is a mixture of British, American, South African and New Zealand)that gives us away. When it comes to Italians, regardless which language I am speaking, most of them think I am either British or American which is a natural response as these are the biggest English speaking groups of foreigners in this country. I don't mind if they can't tell where I am from, however I am a little worried if 'native' English speakers cannot tell where I am from.

I left Australia in 2002 with a big back pack strapped to my back, and a big broad Aussie accent coming out of my vocal cords. I have proof that I used to sound Australian as back in the days before I left the country I was a radio presenter for a big community station. I still have the tapes and it is so funny to listen to how strong my accent actually was! Well naturally it was strong as I had never left the country and I had no friends who spoke English with a foreign accent.

After backpacking for a few months I moved to London at the end of 2002 with my twin sister and her husband (then boyfriend.) We got jobs and I had to speak to many customers over the phone (in particular from Ireland) who could not understand me! As time went by we began to make lots of British friends and day by day, without realising it at first my accent started to sound a little less like mine, and a little more like theirs. I lived in London for just over 2 years, and when I went back to Australia everyone thought it was hilarious that I sounded British.

Let me point out that I sounded British to the Australians however to the British I still sounded Australian.

I only stayed in Australia for 8 months before moving back to London for 6 months, and then starting my time living over here in Italy. Since making the move back to this side of the world in 2006 I have only spoken English (face to face) with British people (or Italian's but that doesn't count.) Of course I may speak to the odd American, or Australian here or there, however my whole life seems to revolve around British people as I work for a British company. I have no control of my accent and it is SO annoying as I can hear that my accent has changed. I can hear (frustratingly) that I sound British! It is the intonation in my voice and I do not know what to do to get my old intonation back.

To make matter even worse, I had one of my British customers the other day who asked me what part of the UK I was from. So now it not just the Australian's who think I sound British, but the British too.


LULU said...

Ciao Leanne..I can imagine how this situation might annoy you!!!! do not get me wrong, I personally Love english accent...But no comparision between Oz chaps and English chaps.. Leanne u R Oz inside no matter which accent people think u have..un bacione darling.. xxxx lulu

Delina said...

There's nothing wrong with sounding British ;)

It is weird how the way you talk starts to change after being away from your home town for so long. My way of talking has definitely changed. Not so much my accent, more the words and phrasing I use because I'm so used to talking Italian.

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Ciao Lulu,
Thanks for the comments! I think I need to just befriend some Australians as if I speak with them, I am sure my accent might start to change :)

And Delina...or course there is nothing wrong with sounding British! However, my accent may be changing but I still say soccer, thongs, dooah and lollies...none of this football, flip flops, duvet and sweeties!

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Very interesting. Perhaps I'm lucky to have so few English speakers around me that I'll get to keep my Mid-Atlantic American accent...but I'd definitely be freaked out if I started having a British accent (no offense to the Brits of course) ;)

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Michelle,
Maybe the American accents are more 'unchangeable' then our Aussie accents? Or maybe you are just lucky being surrounded by no other foreign mother tongues!

Kataroma said...

I have a weird American/Australian accent (from living in the US for half my childhood and Australia the other half). To Australians I sound American and to Americans I sound Australian. Not sure what the British think of my accent...

Anyway - I currently work with a lot of Americans and can feel the American side coming out but when I was back in Oz for my wedding I sounded more and more Aussie every day.

The only bad thing is that I often cop flak for being an American from bigoted Aussies. It gets old pretty quickly. Americans, on the other hand, are very accepting of outsiders and tend to love my "Australian" accent.

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

I know what you mean with your accent changing back when you are in OZ. When I was back there last year for 3 months, my voice seemed normal, however it is just when I come back here it changes again!

Yvonne Anderson said...

Just munching my way through your rather delicious blog Leanne.

I am a Scottish chick who moved to Australia (Melbourne) in 2004 and lived there for 5 years. I travelled around it for a year in 1999 and hung out with a lot of Canadians. Anyway, now I have lived in NZ for a year and I still get asked what part of Canada I am from. Then they say, oh sorry are you American then I look at them with a stupid face and tell them I am bloody Scottish!
It's funny, I have an Australian passport and feel more home there than I do anywhere!

Enjoying your blog x