An Accidental Accent

When G was a child he attended an American School in the Philippines, and for a brief time he became the owner of an American accent. In those days, holidays in Australia were often spent with cousins who lived on properties in rural Queensland. G is now lucky to see those cousins once a year, but when he does, a familiar story arises. It’s a rendition of the visit where G excitedly joined everyone inside the house and announced in his American drawl “wave ban outside hont’n bears”.

It was an unsuccessful hunt, there were no bears to be found in northern Queensland that day.

In a twist of history repeating itself, one of our little travellers has a particularly strong American accent. The girls and the youngest traveller seem to be able to adjust their accent to fit with the group, whereas the third little traveller appears to come from somewhere between California, Texas and the Disney channel.

Often his accent doesn’t match his passions. His Australian football cards sit by his bed, he sings Paul Kelly songs while having a bath, and talks about “home” in Australia. I’ve watched onlookers in playgrounds while they’ve tried to work out the relationship between my Australian husband and I and our American child.

My parents often joke about our children arriving home from their British School in Libya and politely asking Granny in a very English accent for “sweeties”. Twelve months later, after a move to Canada they wanted “candy”. Children don’t care, as long as they get confectionary of some sort you can call it whatever you want.

An Australian girlfriend posted a clip of her daughter reading a book last night. After moving from South Africa to the US only six months ago, her daughter has now lost all remnants of her South African accent. She now sounds very much like a girl from the south. Listening to her read was a thing of beauty, her adaptability shone through. Plonk me anywhere and just watch me shine.

Children are much better at moving on than adults. They jump in to situations and quickly assess how to adapt. I think it’s one of those qualities we lose as adults. Like when we stop doing random handstands on the grass outside. One day we suddenly become that little bit more self conscious,  the trampoline gets packed away and the basketball hoop comes down, we discontinue that random cartwheel on the way to the lunch.

I had never heard of Foreign Accent Syndrome until today. And I’ll confess when I first saw this clip I may have laughed out loud. The idea of waking up with a completely different accent kind of floats my boat.

I loved the quote from her husband, if we could all see the world this way it would feel a lot smaller.
“She still is her old self, except her voice has changed”

It doesn’t matter how we speak – it’s what we say that counts.

So tell me. You wake up tomorrow with a new accent, what’s it going to be? What would you choose? I’m going with French.

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