Thursday, October 11, 2007


Accents fascinate me. I'm not sure when I first started noticing them. I know it wasn't when I was six and watching Star Wars for the first time. Years later, I realized the film was full of English accents, both real and affected. But somewhere along the way, I started to notice the ways people talk.

There are linguists who can tell you exactly where someone is from based on a few sentences or even a few key words. I remember hearing such a person commenting on the annoyance of Dennis Franz playing a New York cop with a Chicago accent. I think it would be really cool to be able to do that.

I remember my best friend from home moving to Nebraska when we were 12. She and her sister got teased relentlessly for the way they said "water." When Hubby and I moved to Louisiana, everyone had trouble understanding him because he talks so fast, and has no Southern drawl. And I'll never forget the story a friend from college told, about going to Scotland with her father and being asked to translate. "Dad, they're speaking English," she told him.

When I went to Spain, I discovered the same is true of other languages. The Spanish I heard in Madrid sounded different than what I heard in Seville. And the Spanish in Cuba is different from the Spanish in Mexico, which is different from the Spanish I hear around town. I have to learn how to listen to each version before I can understand it.

I think sometimes it's good to remember that even though we might be speaking the same language as someone else, we still might not be understood. Everything from personal background to where you grew up can change the meaning of even the simplest words. People say things all the time that don't get heard. We find a true friend when we find someone who speaks the same language in every sense of the word. And that has nothing to do with their accent!


  1. 'Speaking Spanish' covers a wide range!

  2. Ya hey der, you betcha! Good post, eh?

  3. I love linguistics! A fascinating subject... hmmm and fodder for a blog post? Yes, accents are fun too. They do give a lot away about our background, don't they. :~)

  4. This was really lovely. As you know, I love languages and accents.

    You're right that just as English has many flavors, so do other languages.

    The Spanish I learned in school is very different than the Spanish I've learned from my husband. People from El Salvador use a lot of colorful phrases - and some of their everyday words can be offensive to other Spanish speakers. LOL.

    When we watch the Spanish language news, I can't always tell which country the reporter is from, except when they are from Spain. They speak with what sounds like a lisp on certain words.

    It's also hilarious when a Mexican friend of my husband's calls on the phone. His intonation goes up at the end of the sentence like he's asking a question, even when he's not.

    I love that there is such a variety in this world :)