The Idiot’s Guide to the USA – Language, Accent, and Communication

The Idiot's Guide to the USAOn Spanish
– this is widely used throughout the southern states, such as California and Texas
– even in the more northern states, signs such as “wet floor” and packaging are bilingual English and Spanish

On “R”
– there is an over-pronunciation of the “r” sound
– vowels before an “r” are dropped in favour of over-emphasising the “r”, as in water (wodrr) and girl (grrl)
– the exception is when the “r” falls between two vowels, in which case it is dropped almost completely, as in sorry (saah-ee) and mirror (mee-uh)

On Australia
– no-one can pronounce it correctly, even if they have been there

On badmouthing
– Americans often do not notice if you do this loudly right near them
– provided you do it in an Australian accent
– or in a different language
– a Kiwi, Cockney, Northern, or Scots accent would probably work, too

On public announcements
– these are even more difficult to understand than live people
– invest in a translator for these

On American
– this should be reclassified as a language rather than a dialect
– to be honest, broad Doric Scots is probably easier for an Australian to understand

On comprehension
– there is a difference between understanding or hearing the words and understanding what is being said
– even if you do think you understand the words, the sentence probably doesn’t make sense
– asking, even if just to make sure that you understand what you are being told, will probably annoy people

On intonation
– even if the tone rises at the end of the sentence, it is usually still a statement and not a question
– if the tone falls at the end of the sentence, it might still be a question

On intelligibility
– Californians are very, very difficult to understand
– Texans have a thick accent, but are quite easy to understand due to the speed with which they speak (that is, slow)
– people from Arkansas and Tennessee are almost impossible to understand, as they have a thick accent and they speak quickly
– the accent gets easier to understand as you travel further north

On chameleonism
– when your sister starts saying things like “zeebra”, “tomayto”, and “jenu-wine” three days in, you know you’re in trouble


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