That’s the way we say it…

I’m not sure but I have probably mentioned this before…over the past few years, everytime I have met new people, they have generally assumed  I was born and brought up in Australia (except during my first year here). Why? Because I have the Aussie accent. In fact, my close friends sometimes forget I have been here just for 5 years and they will talk about some big event that happened years ago and look at me with a How-can-you-not-know-that look and I have to remind them that I have just been here since 2005.

Anyway, I digress.

The reason I am writing this post is because I found out I have the ability to pick up accents.

As those of you who follow my blog probably know, I have been learning the Italian language. I have done about 18 hours so far. I am enjoying it and it’s great…except when I shut the book and then I cannot remember anything. But yesterday during class, the teacher (who is Italian) said I have picked up the accent and pronounciation perfectly (albeit while reading with the book open!) 

So turns out I have the Aussie accent 99 percent of the time, Italian accent in the language class and the Indian accent when I talk to mum and dad.

And it made me wonder: What is it that makes some people pick up accents faster than others? I mean, personally, I have always loved the Aussie accent and made an effort to pick it up because I wanted the kids and teenagers I worked with to understand me. There is an Indian lady at my workplace who is probably my mum’s age…I thought she had come to Aus after marriage because she has a pretty thick Indian accent…but I was surprised to find out that she actually came here when she was a child! On the other hand, I have an Asian friend who came here when she was a child and who has the Aussie accent.

One of my colleagues asked me whether I had musical ability because apparently he has read research that suggests people with high musical ability are able to pick up accents easily.

I don’t think I have high musical ability. At least, not that I know of.

But I am curious as to what makes one person pick up an accent with ease and another to not change their accents throughout their lives.

What about the rest of you? If you are in a different country from where you grew up, which accent do you have? If you have parents who speak with a different accent but you have grown up in a country with another accents, which one do  you have?

And do you know why we pick up accents if we do?

Do share!

Until next time,


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  • Lazy Pineapple
    14 May 2010 at 10:59 am

    I am from India currently living in UK since past 2.5 years. I am yet to pick up the accent. I have an Indian accent but Brits do understand me even when I am speaking fast.

    I guess it will take a few years for me to capture the British accent properly.

  • Psych Babbler
    14 May 2010 at 11:12 am

    I would think the British accent is harder anyway! 🙂 I don’t think it’s a necessity to attain the accent of the country one chooses to live in…I just always loved the Aussie accent and wold practice it even back in India 😛 And I think personally, while adults understood my Indian accent, I doubt kids I work with would understand it.

  • Titaxy
    14 May 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I think I have Indian accent still after years of being. My sisters have picked up American accent, but I haven’t (at least not totally) and I’m not sure why…maybe I’m just too slow to pick up these things. Also, I have no musical ability or whatsoever 😛 Anyway, it’s not like I have a thick accent that people don’t understand me. I get my point across clearly, and that’s all that matters…

  • Tavish(
    14 May 2010 at 7:24 pm

    I havent been to any country other than India. But accents vary within India big time. The punjabi accent is different from any of the south indian accents, whcih again differ depending on the state. I, ebing a punjabi and lived in Hyderabad all my life do understand the accents very well in bothy parts of the country. The best part is that I switch accents so easily that it makes me wonder…. when am at home I speak in the punjabi accent with my parents and nobody beat me in speaking the hyderabadi was when i speak with any of my hyderabadi friends. in fact mom cant control her laughterr when am speaking to my frnds on the phone…. hehehe
    On the other hand my parents have never been abole to catch the south Indian accent ever and it still feels so funny to them…

  • Sam Liu
    14 May 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Very interesting topic, one that’s confounded me for a while. I cannot honestly say what dictates who picks up accents and who doesn’t. What’s more, I think it depends on the accent…I learn French and have been able to pick up that accent naturally, quickly and without much difficulty. However, I also learn German – and I simply cannot master a German accent. Having a British accent, I have found learning other accents somewhat harder, I have no idea why. Mmm…definitely some food for thought here 🙂

  • Richa
    14 May 2010 at 10:09 pm

    I have been in US for 6 years now. I constantly talk to my friends in Britain who say I have an American accent. My American friends think I have a mix of Indian and British accent. I think I have my own accent now that no one can understand! Just my luck..

    However, I did try to pick up Tamil when I was in Chennai (for 2.5 years), and the words I did pick up, I was told I deliver them with proper Tamil accent and pronunciation: at times better than the locals. But I guess, it has more to do with my fascination with Tamil accent ever since I was a kid.

    I guess it varies from person to person and from language to language..

  • puzzleorpuzzler
    16 May 2010 at 4:46 am

    Hey! I have lived in Aus for about 2.5 years now and I also have a strong aussie influence so much that my friends also seem to forget I am actually from India when talking to me. Any new people I meet, always ask me if I was born and brought up here. I have realised that I pick accents real quick too and have actually thought about it a few times and wondered why it happens. I have just put my finger on the fact that my social circle mainly consists of Australians and hence the strong influence. Or, just that our brains are able to super process and absorb and the output is easy adaptability. 🙂

  • SaroSena
    16 May 2010 at 5:31 pm

    I pick up the accent of the person I’m talking to, so if you’re Indian, mine gets Indian, if your Chinese, it goes Chines.. and so on.. No idea why though!

  • Pal
    16 May 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Very interesting post!!! Despite having lived in UK for 5 long years, I have absolutely no trace of a Brit accept, though I really love to hear it from my little 3 yr old 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    20 May 2010 at 1:42 am

    That’s interesting. I thought the American accent was the easiest to ‘catch’ since people seem to land there and pick it up =P I don’t have a problem with different accents…as long as you can understand people.

  • Psych Babbler
    20 May 2010 at 1:43 am

    Oh yeah…I was always told by people “Oh but you don’t sounds Tamil” because I didn’t have the exaggerated Tamil accent they saw on TV. But yeah, Indians from different regions pronounce things differently and speak quite differently…but it’s interesting you can adapt to both regions…

  • Psych Babbler
    20 May 2010 at 1:44 am

    Ah…that’s interesting. I learnt French for 3 years but never picked up that accent…but I think that’s because I was taught by an Indian tutor who didn’t really have the accent down pat anyway. German is a harsher sounding language, isn’t it? Maybe they are harder to pick up?? But would be interesting to find out more on this….

  • Psych Babbler
    20 May 2010 at 1:48 am

    Interesting…when I first got here some friends told me I had a mix of the British and Indian accent. Wonder where we get that?! (Given that I have never been to Britian!) You picked up Tamil with the proper accent??? Hats off to you! Even though I am Tamilian I always sound like a foreginer when attempting to speak the few words I know! =P

  • Psych Babbler
    20 May 2010 at 1:50 am

    Well, see, that’s what I thought re me picking up the Aussie accent…my social circle and workplace is mainly Aussie. But then that didn’t explain the picking up of the Italian accent given it’s for 2 hours a week and I’ve only had 10 weeks where it’s just the teacher with the proper Italian accent. So that makes me wonder if there’s something more. Maybe it’s just our brains with great powers!!! 😉

  • Psych Babbler
    20 May 2010 at 1:51 am

    Lol! Now that’s funny! That’s like mirroring to the nth degree. Would love to see the expression on a chinese person’s face when you get the accent with them…. =P

  • Psych Babbler
    20 May 2010 at 1:51 am

    Kids definitely pick it up much faster don’t they?

  • Reema
    11 July 2010 at 6:20 am

    I am Bengali and we speak that at home too but we live in Chattisgarh – a Hindi speaking state. Most of the people I meet tell me that I dont have the typical Bong accent 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    13 July 2010 at 9:44 am

    Hehe…I got a similar thing in India…didn’t have a typical Tamilian accent… 😛

  • Mlasonczyk
    9 December 2011 at 4:08 am

    My roommates and I were actually just discussing this today, and we think that we came up with something interesting. I am from Ohio, but go to school in Alabama. For those not familiar with US geography, Ohio is in the north and Alabama is in the south, and both have distinct accents. Even though the accents are very different, I tend to pick up a southern accent when talking to my friends from Alabama, and when I go home I have to readapt to the way of speech. One of my friends also struggles with the same issue.  One of the others grew up in Alabama her entire life, but never developed a southern accent, because her parents are northerners. All three of us were sitting around trying to figure out possible causes for this phenomenon, and we think we came up with something that makes sense. My friend that changes accents and I are both auditory learners. We can sit in a class and listen to a professor without taking notes, and have the ability to recall things on tests. Our other friend is more of a visual learner, so she has to see things written for them to really stick. We figured, that because my friend and I are auditory learners it would make more sense for us to change accents. We are more susceptible to the way words sounds, and try to mirror our speech with those around us, while the visual learner is unaffected by the way things sounds, and therefore doesn’t pick up various accents.

  • Psych Babbler
    14 December 2011 at 9:56 am

    Welcome here Mlasonczyk! That’s really interesting the theory you have come up with…I think there is something to the whole auditory learner bit especially when I think about the question posed to me about my musical abilities. But having said that, I know I am a visual learner so I’m unsure now as to where I stand! 😛