1. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Languages and accents?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by JTheGreat, Aug 16, 2011.

    Long time no see, folks!

    A character in my story, Camilla, has an... interesting childhood. At the age of four she leaves where she lives (it's ravaged by a fire) because her mother takes her to her homeland, where they speak a different language. When she lives in this country she is assimilated into the new language, and eventually completely speaks it at home.

    At the age of fourteen she moves back to where she was born. My question is, how would this moving around affect her speech patterns? I theorized that she would have an accent in both languages, and therefore be very succinct and shy. But, because of leaning her first language rather early in life, I do not know if that would be the realistic case. FYI, the country she moves to is a fantasy mish-mash of a few different Asian countries, so the language would most likely follow rules and syntaxes of a language like that. Thoughts?

    --J
     
  2. The_NeverPen
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    The_NeverPen Member

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    How, when and why people develop accents is a complete mystery. Some bi-lingual speakers acquire their second language fairly early on and still have an accent. Others can learn very late in life and have near-native competence. I met a German exchange student who started noticing an American accent in his German despite only learning for a couple of years. It's entirely possible for your character to have an accent in both languages, so if your story calls for it, I'd say gopher it.

    As for the specifics of how each language has affected her speech, don't get into it. The particulars of "Asian" languages are maddening, so just loosely describe how she's speaking in the narrative and move on.
     
  3. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've read that people who learn a new language before the age of six, can speak it exactly like a native, while there usually is some accent if they learn it later. There may be exceptions, though.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that she'd have an accent in the second language - age four is, I believe, early enough to learn a second language with complete fluency, down to the accent. I don't know about her first language - if she completely stopped using it, I don't know if her early use of the language would make it easier for her to re-learn it, and more likely to speak it without an accent, or not.
     
  5. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is an interesting subject.

    I know my youngest sister is fluent in both languages she picked up before age 5. Our family moved a lot... On the other hand, had we not continued speaking both, she would have no doubt forgotten a lot of language no. 1.

    Accents - this can depend as well. It's not always so clear-cut.
     
  6. skeloboy_97
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    skeloboy_97 Senior Member

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    My german friend moved to Australia from Germany at the age of 4, and he still has a slight accent.
     
  7. Marranda
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    Marranda Senior Member

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    I don't have a constructive suggestion for the main point of the thread topic, but I do have an observation from personal experience I'd like to share.

    When I was in 4th grade (7 or 8 years old) one of my classmates had a Russian accent though he didn't speak fluent Russian. He was born there, but his parents moved to the States before he learned to talk. His accent was picked up from his parents who made a point to speak English all the time even though it wasn't their native language.

    I don't know if this counts, but this thread reminded me that boy from my class.
     
  8. walshy12238
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    walshy12238 Senior Member

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    I guess it would work something like this: English is my native language, but if I moved to, say, France, then I'd learn to speak French, albeit with an English (Australian) accent. Over time, that might change because of me being around it for so long, and all the time.
    Eventually it might get less noticable, and might even disappear completely (I'm only 16, so I have a lot of time to hypothetically do this).
    If I then move back to Australia, or to America, Britain or Canada or something (basically any English speaking country), I think my English may be slightly affected. Probably not majorly, like, I may just have a slight French accent, or pronounce sounds differently sometimes, but I don't think it would be too bad; most likely because English is my native language, and I've been speaking it for what, 15 years now?

    If you could be bothered reading all of that, then I hope it makes sense :)
     
  9. JoenSo
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    JoenSo Member

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    It really depends on how much she is able to speak the languages. If she's not allowed to practice her first language in all those years she will probably develop an accent, or even forget it. I know a lot of people who have totally forgotten a language they used to speak during their childhood, because they never had a chance to use it.

    I don't think she would develop much of an accent in her second language though, unless she is surrounded by people with an accent. Having worked in pre-school I have jealously listened to 3-year old kids switching effortlessly between languages, with no signs of accent in neither language. Bah, unfair...
     
  10. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just met the daughter of one of my work colleagues yesterday. She's five. Her father is Scottish, her mother Swedish-German. Her accent, however, is neither of those. Very London, slight Cockney...

    I must say was a bit surprised at that. I'd have thought children pick up something of what their parents speak? Then again, I know little about kids...
     
  11. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    This is tough to answer, but from personal experience, I have different accents for the different languages I speak.

    When I speak English, I have a regular American accent << I have been told this.

    When I speak in my native language, I drop my American accent and have a natural accent adherent to my native tongue. << people are are surprised that I speak I discard my American accent completely.

    Even when speaking Spanish, I can modify my accent to fit a "Spanish accent" and I do this will every other language that I have some mutual intelligibility with .

    Rarely will someone notice something about my English and that less to do with accent but more with pronunciation. Oven, Tuesday, aunt are a couple examples of words that I pronounce differently than most natural born Americans.

    But this is because I speak all of these languages daily so I'm use to it. But i do have a tough time assimilating to another language after not using it for a long time.
     

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