Pardon me; your accent is still showing.

In Belgium at 5 or 6 years. ( to put on weight).After the war.

In Belgium at 5 or 6 years. ( to put on weight).After the war.

‘Tell me honestly, where is your ‘real’ home?’ I don’t really ask that question immediately whenever I meet someone who talks with a foreign accent. Generally, I wait for an opportune moment. It can’t come quick enough. My grandchildren squirm in embarrassments whenever I fire up engaging with foreigners about the original birthplace and talk about other countries. Fortunate for them both their parents are without any accents, both were born in Australia. Grandpa and grandma are a different country altogether, but I do remember when much younger, also being a bit apprehensive when my parents tried to speak English in my presence to a neighbour or an Australian.

The ultimate was for my mother calling the baker ‘bugger’. Dutch is a phonetic language and of course English is not. You could not blame my parents for calling him the ‘bugger’ even though he would just be called upon to leave 2 loaves of white bread. We kept trying to correct my mum’s pronunciation but never succeeded. The baker must have just put it all down, good naturedly, to those ‘continentals’ and their lascivious manners and ways.

Of course, the need to blend in and be invisible is often keenly sought when growing up. It is such an embarrassing business. When old, one wishes for more attention, but the young just race past the old.

One just never knows with old fogeys what kind of stupid remarks they might still make. Alzheimer can’t come quick enough, just give us our money and then piss off. Has anyone read recently about old folks getting ripped off by their own children. They end up fighting over the antique clock or box with jewellery and wedding rings that no longer fits those gnarled shrunken fingers? It happens in close knit communities. Can you believe?

Even though I was fifteen on arrival here, my foreign accent is still here and will never go. The odd thing is that my Dutch has an Australian accent. Years ago while in Amsterdam with Helvi, I asked direction to a cinema. To our surprise we were asked if I perhaps could be a Dutchman who was living or had lived for a long time in Australia. I was stunned. How could you tell, I asked the man? Oh, he said ‘I have met  a few Dutchmen who came from Australia.’ They all speak Dutch with an Australian accent. Even more intriguing is that Helvi’s English has a mixture of both Finnish and Dutch with Dutch being more dominant.

In any case, my question about trying to suss out what people’s ‘real home’ is can be put down to many still having a foot still in both continents. I am always somewhat curious what it means to have soaked up enough of the real Australia way of life to have totally blended in with the locals. Most of the locals come from somewhere, unless rooted in the ‘real Australia’, the traditional owners of this land we call Australia. In any case, my question is often met with pleasure and surprise. It makes for interesting conversation and it passes the time!

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36 Responses to “Pardon me; your accent is still showing.”

  1. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Even within the US, native English speakers have regional accents. When I moved from California to Connecticut as a 10 year old, the other kids asked where I came from. Once a Scot we met told a fellow from Georgia (the state) to “speak English!” his regional southern accent was so thick you couldn’t understand him. We live in an ethnic community where Asian accents abound.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I find accents and languages very interesting. For some odd reason people often are the language they speak. I mean, who could ever miss that the Irish are great with words? I mean with that accent one can only be poets or magicians, often both.
      The Scots are hugely funny and make me laugh. The Californians, kind and giving.
      The French sound smooth and amorous. I could go on.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Master of Something Yet Says:

    At the end of Grade 6, we spent two and a half months in Europe, most of it in England. When I started high school the next year (where I knew no one), I spent the first few weeks having to explain I wasn’t English.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      After arrival, I was asked if people in Holland sat in chairs. He thought the Dutch were on high seas holding up sails or when on land filling dykes with large shovels.
      I did not think my accent was that strong indicating no one ever sat down!.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Carrie Rubin Says:

    I enjoy learning where people are from, especially those from other countries. It’s always fascinating to learn about other cultures. The subject can get even an introvert like me talking.🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      The oddest thing is that the language in my dreams is always Dutch and often about having anxious moments being lost in Amsterdam and getting chased by unruly Dutchmen. Fortunately, at the last moment, I can get up and fly away. Such a relief! ( The Dutchmen that are following can’t fly at all.)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. berlioz1935 Says:

    I’m sick being asked where I come from. I usually answer, “Dapto!” To which Tim Fischer, the former minister said, “A good place to be!”

    Sometimes I ask people what they mean to clarify the question.

    When German people speak English you can hear an English or an American sub-accent, depending where they learnt the language. Austrians have their own accent when they speak English. It is much softer. The people who learnt the American version sound terrible to my ear.

    When I speak English in Germany, with my German accent, Germans don’t understand a word I’m saying. It is all Double-Dutch to them.
    They reckon we don’t speak proper English at all in Australia.

    When my daughter was speaking in England people there thought it was cute. Not as cute as they were talking in their Lancashire accent.

    When working for the railway, I was often asked by Australians to tell them what a Scotish colleague has been saying.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Berlioz.
      I know the feeling. I am now so hard of hearing I just answer yes or no, hoping about the 50% that I might have answered correctly. I rarely give specifics now unless the questions get repeated in a louder voice.
      I hope that my words sound alright in my blogging. It looks very much that that is so, for which I am very happy and grateful.
      Many migrants are so keen to fit in that they speak Australian even stronger accented that Australians. Sadly, sometimes, migrants can be less tolerant towards other foreigners. It is as if they are somehow even more Australian. Of course to be more or ‘real’ Australian one has to be descended from the original owners of this land.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Forestwoodfolkart Says:

      I also hear the accent of the tutor of English in my Norwegian’s friends voice when they speak English. It is kind of weird to hear them sounding Irish and then switching back to Norwegian accents mid sentence when they say Norwegian words…

      Like

  5. Dorothy brett Says:

    Im born in the north of England, and I often use sub titles on TV to help me understand what is being said mainly by English people.
    In Europe recently the young people mostly spoke good English. Some mature people NONE.
    A friend from Taiwan speaks good English but with an American accent because he to,d me they watch a lot of American movies/shows to learn English.
    BUT, Gerard and Helvi, please never lose that very slight accent you both have, I like it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Dorothy,

      There are dialects in many parts of Holland that I would have trouble with.
      Many Europeans speak several languages. I can get about with Dutch, English, a bit of French, pretty good German and last but not least some Bahasa Indonesian and reasonable Finnish. Learning another language is seen by some as essential not just for the extra language but also for studying in general.

      Like

  6. elizabeth2560 Says:

    So do you think of yourself as Dutch or Australian?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Patti Kuche Says:

    An entertaining piece but what a tangled web is the floating accent. I never thought I’d hear the day when the American accent became as soft as it has to me now. I almost don’t hear it anymore but there’s no way I can pull off one.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. auntyuta Says:

    I do not deny my German origin. But I definitely do feel Australian, It kind of grew on me right from the start, I think, even though I do not speak with a ‘Strine accent, since I came to Australia when I was already close to 25. I always thought had I come to Australia ten years earlier and gone to school here, my accent would be much better!

    Did all your younger siblings go to school in Australia, Gerard, and what are their accents like?

    Gerard, I guess you never went to school here in Australia and went straight to work, is this right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I don’t feel much like any specific nationality but I don’t look Chinese, so looking Chinese can be excluded. I can’t exclude feeling Chinese. I bet we all have common feelings and values shared by most of us.
      I have no qualms about my accent or any accent. I usually prick up my ears when hearing a foreign language or accent. It rouses my curiosity.
      My children have no accents whatsoever. Most people under the age of 14/15 or so lose foreign accents, especially if they don’t use the foreign language at home. Even though my children went to school in Holland for just three years, they have lost all of their Dutch language.
      I did not go to a high school here but had my Dutch high school qualifications accepted as being on par with HSC.

      Aunty; You wrote “had I come to Australia ten years earlier and gone to school here, my accent would be much better! ”

      I think your accent is great.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    I can only stand back and admire people who can place accents. I would have to ask this question of many people that I meet. I am accent dumb. I can hear that someone is not speaking their first language, but have a real problem placing even quite distinct ones.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      One gets the hang of it sooner or later. Italians and Southern Europeans are big on vowels. The Dutch, German with Serbs, Croats are strongly guttural with lots of consonants. The difference between Chinese and Japanese is easy. If it sounds a lot like swearing it is not Japanese. 😉

      Like

  10. nonsmokingladybug Says:

    I have to answer the question, “Were are you from” a few times a week. I have different answers, depending on my mood and depending on the way I have been ask. As for my accent, it’s a part of me and I like it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Good for you. We should have a national accent day, with flags of different nationalities together with croquets and herrings, heisse wurste, pasta and olives. And above all, the unifying garlic. Yes lots of garlic…and dancing in the streets. Free hugs for everyone, lots of streamers and singing songs of joy and happiness. And anchovies as dessert, pavlovas filled with grapes and raspberries.

      Like

  11. Julia Lund Says:

    I speak fairly fluent French and very poor German. When attempting to speak the local lingo in Bremen a few years ago, I was asked if I was French😀 An Englishwoman speaking French with a German accent … In the UK, we have very strong regional accents and people do like to guess where you’re from. With me, it’s usually either Scotland or the North East that’s guessed. The Carlisle accent is one of its own with tinges of both …

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      In my mind’s eye I can hear your German accented French, Julia. I love all the different accents and can’t understand people who wished they did not have an accent. They should make accents obligatory and it ought to be encouraged at schools.
      So much sameness now and vive le difference is a good saying. The Carlisle accent. I will try look it up on U-Tube.

      Like

  12. shoreacres Says:

    The American accent that still can elude me is the Cajun. There’s no mistaking that it’s Cajun, of course — it’s understanding it that can be difficult. Many of the tug boat captains on our Intracoastal Waterway are Cajun, and it’s important to be able to understand them. When I began sailing, my instructor made me transcribe VHF radio conversations, just to be sure I was properly sorting out what they were saying. Eventually, I started doing radio transmissions myself, and it was great fun. Perhaps it’s their French background, but the captains are great charmers.

    Like

  13. rodhart (@roderick_hart) Says:

    I have heard Australians speaking and have trouble with the powerful diphthongs some of them use – even with such a simple word as ‘no’.
    The amount of screw put on a single vowel is amazing.

    Over here, there is a segment of a classical radio programme called Bach before Seven. One of the presenters has trouble with the word Bach, and what we often hear is ‘back before seven’. Before we know it he’ll be adding Offenbach sooner.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, In Australia and decades of hordes of very fierce flies trying to get a foothold in your mouth would put a lot of stress on vowels.

      Some manage to speak with closed mouth but that is not so easy to achieve, especially for those born in more livelier countries or with more vivacious natures.

      ‘I like Offenbach before six’, could easily result in a New Zealander arrested elsewhere, as the six is pronounced ‘sex’.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Forestwoodfolkart Says:

    I am reminded of an American who stopped a tourist attendant girl wearing a muslim styled headscarf and long dress in Copenhagen, Denmark, well before the 9/11 event. He asked her, ” And where were you born?” She answered, “Copenhagen, Sir!!” – to his astonishment!
    I was told by an Icelander that my Aussie drawl was lacking in intonations, and almost a neutral accent. I have a romantic view of accents and have seen them disappear quite quickly when immigrants arrive. Such a shame. Our roots are part of our identity and are not shameful, but something of pride.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. gerard oosterman Says:

    Only yesterday Helvi asked directions to a street and the man answered and asked; where are you from? She said, Bowral. ‘No, I mean where are you from, is it Holland, the man said?
    He picked it half right. Of course he happened to be a Dutchman.

    Like

  16. chris hunter Says:

    My disguise is now complete. For many years I was asked in Australia if I was a New Zealander, and now, I’m sometimes asked when visiting New Zealand, am I an Australian?

    It all just happened, without any effort on my part, but then again SA is probably the most neutral of the accents,

    Like

  17. Intricate Knot Says:

    I agree with you on children ripping off their elderly parents. It’s terrible what greed does to people.

    I’m always curious about where people come from, as well. I just find it interesting. I think most people can tell by the way you ask that it’s merely genuine interest and nothing mean-spirited. Kids are always embarrassed by their parents and grandparents, anyway. We might as well be who we are!

    Like

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