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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Do English people like American accents? 
20th-Oct-2009 08:33 am
One of the things I love most about my home in the United States how I'm never overtly treated like a foreigner. Perhaps it's a function of the diversity of faces, but you're never made to feel as if you don't already belong.

Not all of the US is like this. Much of my time interacting socially with the locals in New England made me feel acutely marked as foreign and out of place on the basis of my physical appearance. And now, so is my time in England proper. This in itself is nothing I haven't experienced before. No big deal.

Besides, I get it. Legendary university town, millions of poorly-Englished students and tourists from East Asia moving through every day. And sure enough, the way in which people either pretend I'm not there or visibly brace themselves when I try to engage them is palatable. It's annoying, and I could whine at length about it (cue the violins)...but I won't 'cause it just ain't worth the trouble.

What is new to me is how people react after I open my mouth. Back home, if people were expecting some Asian girl forcing out a string of halting, broken English and instead they get the pera pera Jersey girl, you could see the inward shrug and readjustment, but it was always very matter of fact. Here, though...sometimes I get the inward shrug, but more often--I'd say half the time--it's more like an inward sigh of relief...and then for a split second they look almost obscenely pleased that they don't have to deal with a really foreign foreigner.

(Did I mention that the university has no international society for Americans? Even though there is one for Australians? I cry foul!)

If you didn't know better, you might think they were happy to see me. Or that they like my accent.

Still, it does make me wonder what English people really think about American accents.

Interestingly, my accent thus far has not proven to be a barrier to communication here. No one ever asks me to repeat every other sentence when not in a crowded room where you can only hear every third word anyone says anyway. (By the way, crowded rooms are very popular in Cambridge.) There was even one time, while in a group conference with a lecturer who is neither English nor American, that I noticed said lecturer kept asking one particular Brit to repeat his questions--but when I asked a question, no-problem-immediate-answer!
20th-Oct-2009 10:15 am (UTC)
We're taught British English in school (I'm Swedish), but because most imported TV programs are from the US, people often have an easier time understanding American accents than British ones.
20th-Oct-2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
Well, that's ironic.

The politics of accent. I would've never have had an inkling. ^^;;;;
20th-Oct-2009 11:19 am (UTC)
It might be that the American accent is flatter and more easily understood precisely because the US is a more diverse country. Sure, the UK is in Europe, where there are different nations with different languages very nearby, but in the US for hundreds of years we've dealt with people of diverse languages living literally next to each other (particularly in the northeast). Few other countries in the world are like that.
20th-Oct-2009 12:53 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't expect British people to be worried if they saw an asian and expect broken English, since we have quite a large asian population, particularly Chinese, Indian and Pakistani, in fact it's much larger than our Afro Caribbean population, and in Leicester, a city not far from Cambridge, White British is a minority!
Maybe it's different in Cambridge, maybe they get a lot of people with poor English at the university, but honestly I'd be amazed seeing as I live in the Lake District, like really in the countryside and we still have a 1% Chinese minority who speak perfect English, and plenty of exchange students working in the hotels in holidays or tourists who are asian and speak Egnlish. I'd expect people to be used to it?

You accent shouldn't prove a barrier. In fact, I've always found the opposite problem. As an English person, I've grown up watching a lot of American shows and films from a very early age. I used to watch Sesame street when I was a toddler, for example, along with American cartoons as well as British children's shows. So I'm way more used to recognising American accents than Americans seem to be at understanding us. Harry Potter is an absolute boon, since now most young Americans seem to be a bit more familiar with the English pronunciation and some basic dialect words.

British English varies HUGELY from area to area, with some cities, like Liverpool, Newcastle and London, having very strong, almost impenetrable dialects. The majority of people speak fairly standard, midlands English, and people with particularly strong dialects are quite rare. Not to mention British English mutates at a faster rate than American seems to, so new dialects pop up all the time. Don't be surprised if your tutors have just as much trouble understanding somebody with a strong regional or cultural accent as you do! I have to tone down my rural northern accent all the time when visiting other parts of the country, or other countries, as a matter of politeness, since I can't just expect people to understand my obscure Cumbrian dialect! ^_^;

If they look very happy to be serving you, I'm sure it's more that dealing with an American is a nice change. You know, breaks up the monotony of their boring shop job. They're probably just thinking "ooh! It's an American! I normally only see them on telly!"
20th-Oct-2009 06:30 pm (UTC)
So I'm way more used to recognising American accents than Americans seem to be at understanding us.

I haven't yet encountered anything accent-wise here that I find impenetrable...but give it time, I suppose.

A woman I met last week from the northern part of England told me that she didn't like the extremely middle class, white people atmosphere of Cambridge. Take that as you will.

They're probably just thinking "ooh! It's an American! I normally only see them on telly!"

That might be a possibility elsewhere, but there are a lot of Americans (and Canadians) in Cambridge as well!
20th-Oct-2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
Ahh, I dunno then. Southerners are quite different from us Northerners haha!

By the way, Cambridge is the manga capital of Britain, with a huge majority of the UK's pro and amateur manga artists living there, including most of Sweatdrop (and so a lot of the artists who worked on the 'Manga Shakespeare' books):
I believe some members of the circle run Cambridge anime club. They're a really nice bunch of people, so if you ever feel the need to hang out and talk manga, they might be worth contacting.
21st-Oct-2009 03:39 am (UTC) - societies
actually there is a canadian society:


and a mexican society too

There are also student chapters of the US Republican and Democratic parties.

There doesn't seem to be a university-wide USA society, but there is nothing stopping someone forming one. Perhaps the reason they haven't so far is that there are so many Americans in Cambridge, there is no need.
21st-Oct-2009 03:45 am (UTC) - Re: societies
You're taking me way too literally. ^_~

I was just mentioning the absence of a US society or whatever in conjunction with my comment about Americans not being perceived as "really foreign foreigners." (Everyone got this booklet from the student union listing all of the international societies, which is the only reason why I know there isn't a US one.)
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