The Accent

Okay, now there’s reasonably large amount of recordings of my voice available online, I figure it’s reasonable to talk about one thing about me that has been thrown into sharp relief this past decade of my life. That is, my parents somehow raised me, in Australia, surrounded by Australians, speaking only Australian English, and yet, I don’t have an Australian accent.

When I bring this up to Americans, I often hear the immediate response of Oh, really? I think you have an Australian accent, which is nice, but. But but but. See, the thing is, that sort of thing happens in a moment of priming. It’s like if I handed you the image of a clock’s back and said ‘can you see the face in that?’ You know what you’re looking for. If you hear my voice and I’m saying ‘I don’t sound Australian’ you’ll be inclined to check it against ‘Australian’ in your mind.

Further to that, American listeners, broadly speaking, do not deal with Australian voices a lot. There are some of you, and that’s fine, I don’t want to sell your experience short. But you know what group of people do hear Australian accents, regularly, and think that my voice stands out as ‘wrong,’ routinely? Australians.

It actually made me fairly selfconscious at bus stops. It’s an odd experience, to have a Vietnamese girl and her mum sitting next to me on a bench after a little chatter about the weather, and have them both ask me ‘when I moved to Australia.’

Now, thankfully, an Irish linguist with an amazing accent of his own once listened to me for a little while and offered an explanation that made some sense. I don’t use nasal pronounciations for many common words, and I have very distinct diction – which is in keeping with an upbringing full of correction, and archaic media like recordings of hymns and historical preachers. Choir practice, where we were drilled very hard by a British woman to sing our Australian national anthem with a British accent, played into it, too.

This isn’t a big deal, it’s just odd.

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