Acquiring an Accent

By: Alexandra Tregre

As an international student entering Edinburgh, Scotland I was immediately immersed into a new culture of language and diversity. Although I was aware of the preconceptions that non-Scottish speakers had about the local accent, I was surprised to hear that it was more of a tangent of the English language I know as an American. After encountering a plethora of other languages and accents while living in the international student accommodations, I began to wonder how it is that we acquire different accents…

Throughout the many conversations I’ve had with international and local students there has been a large amount of deciphering on my part due to the various accents that come with each different language students’ may speak. Upon further exploration I believe an accent to be a harmony of grammar and pronunciation, both of which are necessary to develop an accent or a language in general. To gain more insight upon the matter I contacted a linguistics enthusiast and expert by the name of Alan Perlman.

Alan expounded upon the subject by explaining that when people in the English speaking world travel or live in a different locality they can actually adapt the same accent “unconsciously.” He continues to explain this by confirming my previous explorations that “a dialect has distinctive pronunciations, words, rhythms
and intonation patterns,” all of which create a particular accent. Although this explains how one can adopt an accent, there are other ways in which this task can be accomplished.

Dr. Perlman further embellishes upon his statements adding that accents are just as typically acquired by learning them through books or tutorials.  He states, “actors do it all the time; they have access to instruction,” indicating the flexibility acquiring an accent may have. Dr. Perlman suggests that to fully acquire an accent or language would require one to both study the language and to have an environment in which to practice which could be either the particular country, or a classroom filled with other studious linguists. After hearing myself use a bit of the British accent already, I realize with a little practice and studying I could be heading back to the States with an accent of my own…Cheers!