The Problem with My Accent

22 Aug

I have never thought that my lovely Northern English accent was much cause for concern. But lately, living in Switzerland has made me more aware about accents and how I speak.

I have recently upped my German learning intensity and I have been taking classes online with native German speakers, who live in Germany. I have been more than a bit surprised that all of them (without exception) have commented on my German accent. All of them describe me as having a Swiss-German accent. This is strange because as soon as I talk to a Swiss person they will say that I have an English accent when I speak in German.

I’m not so naive to think that I have been speaking the equivalent of The Chancellor’s German but I have still be shocked about how noticeable it is that I haven’t learnt my German in Germany.

One of the teachers that I had a lesson with this week gave me the feedback that she “enjoyed my unique British-Swiss-German accent”. I’m speechless. Is British-Swiss-German even an actual thing? Or have I mistakenly started a whole new dialect all by myself?

I think I have picked up some of the vowel sounds from Swiss-German, which are quite different to standard German, because I hear these sounds all the time when I speak to people in Switzerland.

I also have problems with my vowels in English when I speak to non-native speakers. The vowel sounds that I use tend to be longer in words like ‘lunch’ and I have made a few people confused when I have said things because my accent isn’t 100% like The Queen’s. Some have even asked me how is a certain word meant to be said. To which I have replied that how I have said it IS the correct way to say it. I refuse to modify my accent – I have been working on refining it to its current state for the best part of 35 years.

Sometimes I think that a lot of the stigma related to accents is down to snobbery and nothing more. And while I have been teased about the way I say certain words in English and now in German, perhaps it’s not my accent that is the problem. Perhaps having a unique and distinct accent is something that people should be proud of instead of thinking it as a negative thing.

However, I would like to make it clear that I am officially the founder of the British-Swiss-German accent and you heard it in all of its uniqueness here first.

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3 Responses to “The Problem with My Accent”

  1. Confuzzled Bev August 23, 2018 at 7:28 am #

    I think my dad’s cousin might challenge you on who the inventor of the British-Swiss-German accent is… although his British accent is Middlesborough so his version is probably slightly different to yours 😉

    I was once asked on a train in Austria whether I was Swiss. At the time I was living in Vorarlberg and had never spent more than a few hours at a time in Switzerland. The asker was from Vienna though so I suspect he had no idea what a Swiss accent actually sounds like 😉

  2. The Canadian Pronunciation Coach August 23, 2018 at 11:36 am #

    Totally agree about snobbery. We should celebrate diversity. Accents are definitely an important part of our identity. If the accent is getting in the way of intelligibility, well that’s another issue. If the accent is getting in the way of professional communication, then it warrants some change.

    • ourgirlinzurich August 23, 2018 at 11:48 am #

      I couldn’t agree more! Luckily, I’m pretty sure that my accent isn’t getting in the way of good communication! It’s just proving to be a bit of a novelty.

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