First Collab Post: English Dialects

 

Hello everyone! This is the first collab post I have done! Please welcome Pooja Gudka from Lifesfinewine. Our post is about our experiences with different English dialects. Pooja hails from Kenya and is studying in Canada.

Our Experiences with English Dialects:

Pooja: My mum is from India and my dad is Kenyan and I was born and raised in Kenya but now reside in Canada. I have had the opportunity of hearing many different dialects and I think my dialect changes depending on who I am talking to and which country I am in. Like Winteroseca, I had to adjust to how people talk in Canada and it has been quite interesting to observe their dialect and how it differs from my own. 

 

Winteroseca: My parents are American. I have adjusted to dialects in the US and UK. I am now adjusting to how people talk in Canada. Additionally, when I was living in England, I knew many people from former British colonies and it was interesting to talk about how our dialects differ.

When did you start learning a new dialect?

Pooja: I sounded a lot like my parents when I was younger but as I got older I started reading a lot and watching a lot of American shows as well as listening to American music so I think my dialect changed a lot between 10-18. After that I think it has remained the same and I still sound like I did when I was a teenager- just less teenager-like haha. 

Winteroseca: I was 5 years old. My parents and I had just moved to Texas and I picked up on their way of talking so fast! I thought it was cool. The most significant change was when I moved to London at 10 years old. That was a complete overhaul of the way I talked. 

Did your accent change too?

Pooja: Not particularly. I think it changed when I was about 10 and started to get more into American culture but I think it has remained pretty much the same since then. 

Winteroseca: Yes, and no. When I was in London, there were certain words I had to say a different way or people wouldn’t understand me. I got to a point where my accent would change depending on who I’m talking to and what I’m saying. Third Culture Kids get to a point where they frame-switch between their cultures, and I have done that for a very large portion of my life. Since moving to Canada, I have been reconnecting with a lot of British English while learning how people talk in my new country.

What challenges did you face?

Pooja: I speak four languages fluently and I am currently learning a fifth language and one challenge I face because of this is not having the right words to say in English. Sometimes I will know what I want to say in a different language but I won’t be able to translate it well in English which can be frustrating. Another challenge is that I did a British curriculum at school so I ended up learning words in the traditional/British way and a lot of times I will talk to someone American or even Canadian and be confused about what they mean and then be like “oh wait we call it blah blah blah”

Winteroseca: I had to learn to speak slower and more clearly when I moved to London. There are a lot of immigrants in London. Additionally, the variation between different British accents was huge! Whenever I answered the phone or started talking to someone new, I didn’t know what dialect or accent they would have. I had to learn to adapt my way of speaking to match theirs. Sometimes, the person I was talking to wouldn’t be speaking slowly enough for me to understand, and that would be awkward when I had to ask them to repeat themselves. Typically, the challenge I have is when I need to recall a different way of saying a word. Like, “What do we say in the US instead of trainers?”

Example:

What are some things about learning another way of speaking that surprised you?

Pooja: I think I was surprised by how many people have been through this- I have talked to multiple friends who have immigrated from countries where English isn’t their first language and they share a lot of my frustrations or even just thoughts. It’s actually helped me bond with some people which is nice. 

Winteroseca: One time, I was talking to my grandmother in the US after I had been living in the UK for several years. She commented, “You speak so beautifully!” It had been years since I had initially trained myself to speak more clearly and deliberately. Eventually, I automatically spoke that way around everyone.

When I repatriated to the US, I made a few friends who had recently immigrated to the US. A friend of mine from China said that one of the first things she noticed about me was that I talk slowly and clearly enough and she could understand me. That was one reason she wanted to get to know me better. She heard my UK accent too, but she was most relieved about the fact I could communicate well with people whose English was a second language. Other friends of mine who were immigrants said they really appreciated the fact I spoke in a way they could understand me. And I told them I was happy to explain things they didn’t understand, like slang or if someone was talking to us and they didn’t understand what they were saying.

How do you have fun with different dialects?

Pooja: I think it’s always fun to try something new and learning a new dialect can be a lot of fun! Like Winteroseca, I like to switch between accents/dialects for fun sometimes and it can be nice not to take things so seriously. I think it also opens you up to new experiences, new people and can be a fun way to learn more about the country/area you are currently in. 

Winteroseca: I love comedy that tastefully jokes about language and dialects. Even if I don’t speak a certain language, I can appreciate comedians that can use a language they speak to make humour translate between cultures. I like to make up some jokes of my own. When I was in London, there were so many ways of saying different things in different English dialects that I tried them all. It was rich in different ways of talking. Plus, I kept needing to frame-switch depending on who I was talking to. 

Sometimes, I can get a little sassy with my frame-switching. If someone says something, and I want to politely tease them, I put on a different accent and pretend I don’t understand what they are talking about. What’s the point of speaking in different accents and dialects if you can’t have a little tasteful fun with them?

Example:

What are the annoying things about speaking in a different dialect and/or accent?

Pooja: It annoys me when people judge you based on your dialect or accent. Like, a lot of people will tell me I don’t sound “Kenyan/African/Indian” which is so weird to me because we don’t all have one dialect/accent. People also sometimes assume that if you speak differently you are not as smart/good at English as they are which is something I experienced at university which was a bit frustrating. Sometimes it feels like you have to try to be better than everyone else just so you can get on the same level as them or so that people will take what you are saying seriously. You have to work harder because every mistake you make will be a reflection of your culture/race/nationality instead of just a mistake you made. 

Winteroseca: The thing I really can’t stand is people who won’t talk slowly enough so you can understand them. Either that, or if you ask them to slow down, they talk to you like an idiot. To me, it’s disrespectful to either not slow down, or talk to someone like they’re an idiot because they have an accent. It’s embarrassing enough to ask someone to repeat something anyway. After I repatriated to the US, it was more embarrassing to ask people to repeat what they said. There was more pressure to understand Americans because sometimes, they couldn’t hear my UK accent. Since I have American parents, I felt like I should be familiar with how Americans talk and others thought the same about me as well. People often associate accents with intelligence and that’s absolutely wrong. Sometimes, when people make fun of the way you talk, it can be in bad taste, and I hate that as well.

I also hate how people have stereotypical thinking about certain accents or dialects. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to correct people on their thinking. The good thing is I am not afraid to call people out and some people do listen to me. I hate how other people don’t listen though. My trick for calling out Americans is to say, “Don’t say that. It makes you sound like a Trump supporter!” That works, especially if the people I talk to are not Trump supporters!

After I moved to Canada, I was confused about how to talk or spell for a while. Thanks to influences from both the US and UK, it felt chaotic! Now I know that context and regions are a factor in how people talk.

 

What are your personal tips for adjusting to a new dialect?

Pooja: My main tip would be to dive into their culture. If you are moving to a new place watch their local shows, listen to their music, read their literature, etc. Get a feel of what it’s like and what people there are like so you can assimilate better. It will be a bit hard at first but once you actually mingle with everyone you will be able to adjust over time and you will feel like one of the locals before you know it. 

Winteroseca: The best thing you can do initially is to listen to how people talk. It’s important to not make assumptions either. For instance, you may have been exposed to stereotypical thinking, and you might not know if it’s true. Now is the time to question whether or not something is a stereotype. It is good to do research beforehand of dialects, but even then, it can be incomplete. There’s nothing like getting out in the world and doing things. You will make mistakes while learning to speak in a different way. It can be tough to not be hard on yourself, especially if you aren’t in a supportive environment. But it’s important to remember that you aren’t the only one who has struggled with a new way of talking. It can be helpful to find others to share stories with.

Author: winteroseca

I'm a Third Culture Kid who has lived in four different countries before and recently moved to Canada. Follow my blog about my life in Canada, plus expat life hacks and more!

35 thoughts on “First Collab Post: English Dialects”

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s interesting how you evolve when you are immersed in a language or dialect. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  1. I don’t hear much difference between American and Canadian English with a few exceptions. I love Canada! ❤️🇨🇦

    1. True, but the exceptions really stand out. Some of them are stereotypical too. Although, sometimes I don’t know how to talk here knowing both American English and English English. I love Canada too! 🇨🇦 Thanks for commenting 😊

      1. The letter O is pronounced differently, and the use of Aye, or Eh are different.

  2. What a wonderful post. I really enjoyed your experience of English dialects in places other than the UK. I am from the North of England and can spot someone from the next town (which adjoins my own town) because they have a different accent.
    I love the richness of language and dialects. My north of England dialect evolved because it was a cotton milling area. The noise of the machinery was so loud that people spoke very slowly and deliberately with much facial expression – and sometimes they just mouthed the words without sound because the noise was so great.
    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for sharing about the northern English dialect. I really love hearing that dialect, especially as an immigrant because people do speak slower than in London. People speaking fast was a constant problem in London. Although, you’re right that no matter where you are in England, you can pick out where someone is from by their accent. I love the variety there! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. This is an interesting post I have lived all over the USA and have picked up many dialects that thing is when I hear one IU slide into it like I never left. it was quite funny a while back when I was doing some vollenteer work calling around the country. Folks would stop by my cube to hear how I was talking
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    Laugh You’ve earned it

      1. That’s understandable. I have got embarrassed too. That’s one reason I love Trevor Noah’s tacos routine and had to include it in this post

  4. Great post. It reminds me of graduate school. There were ten of us in the MFA sculpture program. All from different parts of the world. I grew up in northern New Jersey (USA) When I described my fellow students, I included the people from Texas and California (southern California surfer dude.) as from another country. It was easier to understand the guy with the Scottish accent than them.

    1. I get it. It is natural to lose it a bit, particularly when you’re excited about a new way of speaking. I know it leads to an identity crisis, but ultimately you become a well-rounded person. Thanks for commenting 😊

      1. It’s always important to remember who you are and where you come from. It is how you can decide where you want to be and how you want to get there. It is an important part of who you are. Don’t let society or anyone take that away from you.

  5. Great collaborative post. Yes, I love all the different dialects and the fun to be had when someone doesn’t understand 😉 I moved around a lot as a kid and I had to change my accent/dialect often, just so I could fit in. Now I find my accent/dialect changes depending on who I’m talking to.

    My boys always knew I was talking to my mum or sister in Scotland because my accent and words changed!

      1. It was mainly around the UK, London, up North and Scotland so my accent changed regularly – I was always being laughed at in school 🙁

  6. I enjoyed reading about your experiences with different English dialects from living in the US, UK and Canada. It’s funny how there are so many different accents for the same language. I happen to love accents and have always wondered how my Canadian accent is perceived (or even noticed) by others.

    1. I think it says a lot about human ingenuity that there are so many accents and dialects. I think the only way to find out how your accent is perceived is to travel or live in another country and interact with people in that country. Thanks for commenting 😊

  7. Really intersesting post. I think some people can’t understand accents because they’re not used to them, if they live in a small town for example. Others are just socially ignorant. I love accents and loved reading how both of you are adapting. Hopefully you don’t feel you have to lose a part of yourself to fit in and be understood, but it seems like you have adapted great techniques. Maggie

    1. I see your point there about not being used to accents. And no, you don’t lose a part of yourself. If anything, you become more open because of it. Thanks for commenting 😊

  8. Interesting post and perspectives! I love how you share your experiences in one post and I can certainly relate to your experiences as well!

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