1. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    How long would it take for an accent to develop?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Duchess-Yukine-Suoh, Aug 29, 2013.

    Alrighty, so I have a story that takes place in the Irish countryside. One of the major characters moved to Ireland when he was 5, and lived in the U.S. prior. However, being as he was in the U.S. during many of his formative language years (i.e. Toddlerhood), how much of an accent would he have?
     
  2. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wthin a couple of years, probably none. Our voice boxes develop until the age of 8, maybe 9, so kids younger than this will easily lose the accent. Since it's all the same language, probably older, teenagers and talented young adults even, could learn to speak Irish dialect as natives. But yeah, 5 is definitely going to speak Irish, as long as they are exposed to it most of the time.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    As much as you'd like. I've spent a little time in Australia and found myself changing my accent without trying in just a short time. But not everyone does that. Look at some actors who change accents for certain roles. So you can have it either way.

    If a person speaks a different language as a child, that's a different matter. There's a certain age when learning language when certain sounds are learned. These differ by language so for example, it is hard for Spanish speakers to say the sounds in the word, 'girl', and it is difficult for some of us English speakers to roll an 'r'. An accent due to speaking a second language would be different.

    You might also PM Jannert if she doesn't see the thread. She moved to Ireland from the US as an adult, but she'd still have experience specific to your question.

    I agree with Jazz, that at the age of 5, a child is still absorbing language and would likely have an Irish accent within a couple years.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's probably very easy for children to pick up accents. I know it's practically impossible for me. One day I was working in the front yard at my house here in SoCal and a stranger drove up asking for directions. I told him what he needed to know, and he asked, "How long have you been here from Canada?" I asked how he knew I was from Canada and he said it was my accent. I'd been living here for fifteen years!

    I guess I'll never lose my Canadian accent, and that makes me happy. :)
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    As @GingerCoffee has already stated, it's going to depend. I grew up in the USAF, which means all over the place. Neither my English nor my Spanish has an accent that one can discern is from a particular place. It does make me a wicked accent magnet, though. And it's something of which I have to be very careful when I am at work. I'm an interpreter. If my client is Argentinian, within half an hour of interpreting for them, I find myself slipping into the silky sh-sh-zh-zh that is part of their regional dialect. If care is not taken, it can sound like you, the interpreter, are mocking the interlocutor. Other interpreters with whom I have worked, who have very distinct regional accents of their own, tend to fall prey to this much less, some of them not really even understanding how it can happen.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I have even accidentally adopting a laugh, and had to work at not adopting it.

    On the other side of the coin, I can still tell the difference between Aussie and So African accents in friends that have been here many many years. And Canadians, they are very subtly different, but it's easy to hear it especially in words like 'about'. :p
     
  7. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    Oh, this was very helpful. Thank you all!
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I did just see this thread. And yes, Ginger is nearly correct about me ...it's actually Scotland, not Ireland where I live.

    Adults ...well, I don't think my accent has changed all that much in 28 years, although people 'back home' think it has. However, when I hear my own voice played back to me on an answering machine, or whatever, I think I sound just like 'myself,' and while I occasionally get mistaken for a Canadian (Scots are so polite!) nobody here thinks I'm Scottish. I've picked up the local patois, though, and now phrase things in a Scottish manner, use Scottish words and expressions, so maybe that gets confused with accent.

    Children? I'm amazed at how fast children pick up local ways of speaking. You see it in the Asian community a lot, where the parents have a very strong accent from their old country, but the children speak English EXACTLY the way it's spoken by native Scots in this particular town. Also, children of English parents who have moved to the Highlands nearly always end up speaking with a Highland accent. Not always, though. Makes me wonder what different 'ears' are like.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Just an aside: I have no talent at all for imitating accents, and this is sometimes a bit of a problem for me. I am, among a few other things, a folksinger, and I have a particular love for some traditional Scottish folk songs. Of course, I can only sing them in my standard Canadian accent. The problem is that some of the rhymes in these songs only work if you sing them in a Scottish accent. This I can't do, so I wind up singing like a Canadian who keeps mispronouncing words ... it's all very embarrassing.

    Back to your regularly-scheduled thread ...
     
  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I also have to echo this "it depends" sentiment. I don't think you can go terribly wrong with this because people seem to absorb or reject accents very differently. At the age of 10, I spent a week in Western Finland, and I came back home speaking like a West-coaster. When I moved to the capital city area to the South at 18, again it took a couple of weeks to absorb the Southern accent. My brother is the same, but e.g. one woman at my workplace who came from the same city and has lived here for decades still speaks like an Easterner.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    at only 5, he could be speaking like a native within months...

    at 13, i moved from new york to st. petersburg florida and in a matter of weeks, i had a southern accent that took me over a year to lose completely, after we went back north... i've always had a keen ear for accents, though and sound like a native in any country where i can speak even just a few words of their language...

    so, much depends on the individual, but at such a young age, he's most likely to be a parrot and pick it up quickly...
     
  12. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    My stepson moved to Belfast from California when he was six. Now an adult, his accent doesn't stand out like a sore thumb, but he doesn't quite sound his vowels like a local, even now.

    Most people with a good ear would be able to tell that he is American, not British or Irish.

    EDIT: Ah... just had a thought... although he hasn't returned much to the States, he regularly hears American accents on the T.V. I wonder whether that's been a contributory factor.
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Just a side-note given your mention of how 'the local ear' does or doesn't hear things...

    I had a conversation with another terp once who insisted to me that most Americans completely dropped the subject pronoun in the contracted form of 'It is'. He was working on a translation project with me and insisted that it was idiomatic to write Is the last thing she said for It's the last thing she said because that's the way most Americans speak. That was just one occurrence of many in the document for the same structure. He didn't want to hear from me that it was simply that he wasn't picking up on the subtle difference between it's and is when spoken at regular conversation speed. He was very much from the other side of the linguistic divide, with English as his second language. Interesting, at least to me, how our early training can affect what we do and don't pick up in other languages or in other ways of speaking our own mother tongue. :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2013
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  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Whoops.:oops:


    Those two countries sometimes blur a bit from this distance. ;)
     
  15. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    At the closest point, we are only 13 miles apart. In fact, viewed from the place where I camp, the Mull of Kintyre just looks like another rise in the Northern Irish coast rather than a Scottish peninsula.

    It's an easy mistake to make even when you are looking directly at it. ;)
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm sure it is... plus, if he's living in a household with only adult americans, then he's not likely to lose the accent as quickly or as thoroughly as a child who spends most of his time with locals and watches local telly fare...
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just to provide another data point:

    I lived in Missouri until I was five, and then moved to Tennessee. It took at least a couple of years before my Tennessee classmates stopped telling me I "talked funny", so presumably it took me that long to pick up a southern accent. I moved back to Missouri when I was eleven, and the southern accent vanished within days.

    Ever since then, it has taken me two or three days to pick up a mild southern accent when I visit Tennessee, and just minutes to drop it (and thus presumably "pick up" my midwestern accent) when I leave. When I say "it takes me", I don't mean that I try to make the change; it just happens. I hear accented voices,and the accent comes back.

    This is all no doubt tangled by the fact that both of my parents had southern accents, one much stronger than the other. So maybe in terms of accents, I grew up bilingual until I was five?

    As another data point, my brother is three years older than me, so he had a longer grounding in the midwest. But now he lives in Tennessee, and has more of a southern accent than I do.

    So _for me_, it appears that my native accent is midwestern, in spite of my parents, and that it was set before I was five years old.

    (Ah! I was wondering where I got the midwestern accent despite mostly being at home with southern-accented parents. Of course--I got it from my brother, who got it at school.)
     
  18. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Grew up in Delaware, Maryland, Tennessee, now live in NY. The TN accent is the most prevalent for me, though I've mostly lost it. Some words though, well that's just the way I say them, lol. It takes about 15 mins near someone southern for it to come back (unintentionally) and about 4 days to lose it again, depending on exposure. After spending 2 weeks in Tennessee last year it took me about a month to lose it again when I returned.

    I pick up accents VERY easily though.
     
  19. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    I grew up on the East Coast of the United States. During my childhood I would spend a week of my summer in the hills of Western Tennessee where there is a very distinctive accent. By the second or third day I had acquired a bit of the accent and can still revert to it quite easily if exposed to it.
     
  20. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    Ah, thank you guys all so much! This helped me quite a bit!
     
  21. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    There’s a useful point to draw from this discussion about “making stuff up.” You can make up “factual” stuff as long as most of your readers aren’t likely to know any better. What I gather from this thread is that most of us don’t really know how long it takes a child to gain or lose an accent, at what age accents tend to “stick,” and so on. A few have had direct experience, but most of us really don’t know.

    So my educated guess is that you can safely make up “facts” if they aren't likely to be questioned by most readers. If you have a character who can state authoritatively that “children up to about age seven will lose a native accent within six months of moving to a place with a different language or accent,” very few readers would have any basis to question it. A few professional linguists might, but I sure wouldn’t.

    An example: In The First Impression [spoiler alert] the protagonist is having his face remade by a surgeon in the Cayman Islands. He’s at the doctor’s clinic:

    [The doctor’s] first order of business was to take a set of X-rays and examine Bolt’s face. This included extensive measurements with digital calipers that automatically recorded the various dimensions in a computer. Then he showed Bolt into a small room with black walls. He sat bolt on a stool in the center of the room. A digital camera mounted on an overhead arm revolved slowly around Bolt’s head like a satellite, taking several dozen images as it completed a horizontal orbit six feet in diameter.​

    I guessed that most readers were like me: They had no idea whether there was any such thing as digital calipers that record measurements in a computer. But you can easily imagine that it’s possible. Same with the rotating camera taking a series of pictures. I do know that software can combine a bunch of 2D images into a 3D image, so that was good enough. Other than a few specialists, who knows?

    Later in the same chapter:

    The doctor’s fingers danced rapidly over the keyboard, and a photo of Bolt’s face appeared. “These are the pictures I took earlier. While we were talking, my assistant merged them into a 3-D image.” Bolt’s head and neck floated eerily in dark space on the huge screen. By manipulating a trackball, Pendleton could rotate the head 360 degrees and tilt it any way he liked. He stopped it on a side-profile view and zoomed in on the nose.​

    Again, I don’t know whether cosmetic surgeons can do this. I got the idea from watching a dental technician fashion a crown for me. The model tooth floated in space on a black screen. She could rotate it every which way. Using dimensions taken from my jaw, she chipped away and reshaped the model tooth until if fit the space it would occupy (as reckoned by photos and measurements taken inside my mouth). Then some machine ground the ceramic crown down to the proper shape. I figured if they can do that with a tooth, they could do much the same thing with a head.

    The point is: just think it through. If the facts are so esoteric that most people wouldn’t be familiar with them, then you’re probably safe in making up a scenario, so long as it sounds plausible.
     
  22. HarleyQ.
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    HarleyQ. Just a Little Pit Bull (female)

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    I accidentally developed a New Jersey accent by watching videos with Jersey/New York/Philly accented people being the only people speaking in the videos. (Mouth full, that was.) It took a few months to develop and erase my Southern accent I had previously, but since I stopped watching the videos, my accent is disappearing. Since the child character is so young, he will surely adopt the Irish accent, though it will definitely have a more American twist in it.

    I'm falling asleep. Please excuse the horrible structuring.
     
  23. Huck
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    Huck Member

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    Not sure, just want to put out there that sometimes people change there accent on purpose so its easier to fit in & have people of different cultures understand them.. do that for long enough & i'm sure it becomes second nature quite fast.
     

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