Re: [NTLK] OT - Do you speak BBC English?

From: Don Zahniser <>
Date: Sun Sep 02 2007 - 09:10:04 EDT

On Sep 2, 2007, at 7:05 AM, Adam Goddard wrote:

> In Australia, we've somehow been so disconnected from the world that
> some people think "Aussie" is our strange national language and not a
> variant of english. Although we speak english quite proudly, the
> accents of some of us can be hard to grasp. For instance, I have a
> friend at uni who has the thickest aussie accent you can find, which
> I can understand no problem. My girlfriend was born in Bangladesh,
> moved to New Zealand when she was young and to Australia about five
> or six years ago and although she now has a slight aussie accent and
> understands nearly all slang words, she never has any idea what he's
> saying, so just nods, laughs and says "Yeah". So it's not always the
> dialect of a language that you speak, but also the way in which you
> pronounce it. ;-)

Back in the late '60s, I was an exchange student to Australia (north-
western Victoria). When I first arrived, I had a great deal of
difficulty understanding everyone. I soon caught on to the 'music',
as Christian so aptly calls it, and didn't have too much trouble
after the first couple of weeks (during which I must have seemed
awfully stupid), other than a few translation errors that got
imprinted into my brain early on.

Since I was staying in a small town, the only exposure I had to
American English was through television programming and movies. I
didn't think much of this until 6 months had gone by, and I went to a
meeting with the other exchange students, pretty much all American.
All of the other kids' accents seemed so harsh to me, except for one
girl who was American, but had been born and raised in the
Philippines. There was one girl I was especially attracted to, who
was from Rochester, NY (I was from near Philadelphia, PA).
Unfortunately, I couldn't stand to be near her when she spoke because
of her accent (I hung out with the girl from the Philippines)! This
got me to thinking, and I came to the conclusion that there was an
American equivalent to what has been referred to in this thread as
'BBC English'. I thought of it as 'movie American', although it
seemed to apply almost equally to television.

When I arrived home after a year, I was almost in agony from what
came out of my parents' and other relatives' mouths! I must have
mentally embraced the Australian dialect's 'music'. Of course,
having almost 24 hours' travel time from Melbourne to New York
without significant sleep may have had something to do with it. The
following week, my parents and I hosted for a weekend a girl who was
one of my 'sisters' in Australia, who in turn was an exchange student
to a town near my home. Now, in retrospect I don't think that I had
developed any significant Australian accent, although I am good at
conscious mimicry. However, when my 'sister' and I started gabbling
to each other, none of my family could understand us. I must have
unconsciously picked up enough of the Australian dialect's 'music'...

Curiously enough, I have now lived near Rochester for the past 35
years, and find the dialect unremarkable, except when someone breaks
a local pronunciation rule (e.g. - the town Charlotte is pronounced
'Sha-LOT', and the town Chili is pronounced with both i's sounding
like 'eye'). You can always tell when a new TV reporter is from out-
of-town <g>.

  - Don

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Received on Sun Sep 2 10:20:02 2007

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