Where on earth is your accent from?

“I don’t mean to be rude but… where on earth is your accent from?” asks a colleague I’ve never worked with before.

“Guess!” I laugh, both amused and unsurprised by the question.

“But… I just can’t place it. Are you from the moon?!”

Okay, barring the moon comparison, this has been the most frequent question I’ve been asked ever since I moved to England in 2009. I have been asked if I’m American, if I grew up in America, if I went to an English school, if my teachers were American, and after having shaken my head no to all the aforementioned questions, if I have any link whatsoever to an English-speaking country.

Some people have even asked me where in the UK I’m from and… “oh, is that an Irish twang I hear there?”

Really?

Original photo by Bianca de Blok (Adapted by Writer’s Caravan)

Upon revealing my place of birth, 99% of people’s reactions have involved a gasp, frown or a wide-eyed expression.

“But… you don’t sound Bulgarian!”

“Thank you.” I always say because, let’s be honest, a Bulgarian accent is rather hard and thick.

The same scenario plays out when I greet customers in French (one of the few perks of working in Gatwick Airport is how often I get to practice my languages).

“Your name isn’t French” they frown at my name badge, blatantly confused, “how come your French is so good?”

This time around, my answer is easier.

“I grew up in Morocco” I say with a chuckle.

“Ah, that explains it!”

I smile. Thank you for boiling down a year of struggles, mispronounced words, mockeries, misunderstood questions and lonely lunch breaks spent surrounded by children speaking an alien language to a single “that explains it”.

“So you’re Moroccan?”

*sigh*

wtf

The conversation unfolds and seldom varies. Some people seem in awe by the international childhood I’ve had, others seem to live a life based on prejudgements. They draw conclusions from one single piece of information and assume that life is a string of logical events and that if I speak with an American twang, it makes sense that one of my parents must be American.

“We moved to Casablanca when I was 7.”

“Oh how fascinating! Was it your father’s job that took you there?”

*Deeper sigh*

“No, my mother’s” I say calmly. Women can work too, did you know?

I keep this reflection to myself.

sexism-meme

When I go back home and visit my GP, she greets me with a grin and a “Oh look, it’s the child of the world!” and it makes me smile. Because yes, I am a child of the world.

My Bulgarian friends laugh at very British the way I pronounce “water” while my British boyfriend likes to remind me that “the right way” to spell ‘mum’ is indeed with a ‘u’ and not, as I would spontaneously write it, an ‘o’.

I guess I will always have a little bit of everything in my accent. I will always cause confusion and you know what? I like that.

If this post read a little too angry, it was only the dry, sarcastic British humour I seem to have adopted… 

*

Thanks for reading.
Hop on my Facebook and Twitter caravans.

38 responses to “Where on earth is your accent from?

  1. Hi Ellie! It was lovely to meet you at the Bloggers’ Bash! I get the some question all the time as well, having been born and grown up in Germany, but lived in New Zealand as a teenager, travelled the world while working everywhere from Ghana to Ecuador, and then living, studying and working in the UK for 6 years. Nobody ever places my accent correctly, lol. People usually think I’m British (from the wild North West – Lancashire or Cumbria, which is fair enough as I studied in Cumbria, then moved to Merseyside but worked in Lancashire), Canadian and one confused individual thought I was either South African or Namibian….

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Connie this is Ali from the BB, it was so lovely to meet you. I thought you spoke English perfectly and fluently, but to me I thought you had a clear German accent although you spoke better English than a lot of English people lol! My brother in law is Dutch, and he definitely speaks better English than the English! Coming from Cumbria, I would say you definitely do not have a Cumbrian accent, but to be honest, even most English people would not be able to distinguish a Cumbrian accent… they usually think anything north of London is from Yorkshire!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Connie! Thanks for dropping by!
      Wow, talk about international!!
      Namibian? I mean… that is VERY confused! :D Your life sounds fascinating though, the places you’ve seen must’ve marked you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed your “dry sarcastic British humour” and your riff on the judgements people make. My daughter speaks fluent Polish and she’s fielded comments from “Oh. You’ve worked overseas. Where?” to “When I first met you I thought you had a speech impediment”, in both cases presuming Polish is her native language. I love your doctor’s greeting and I’m saddened at the thought of the struggles of a little child.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I’ll just say ‘you have lovely eyes’ and leave it at that!!

    You gotta admit, to many of us who are landlocked in the middle of a giant country like the U.S., finding someone born in Bulgaria who was raised in Morocco and now lives in London speaking fluent French is quite exotic. We just have to get a little bit more sophisticated (yawn) about hiding our naive curiosity 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Ellie! I have to say you have a beautiful accent, and I could close my eyes and listen to you talk all day! If I had to guess, I would have thought maybe a very slight Italian influence, (shows how wrong you can be!) but your English is very fluent and flowing. I would love to be able to speak more than one language well and with confidence, and admire those who do. BTW way, we have a big Polish community here in Ireland, and I find them to be very friendly and love the way they speak English… perhaps that is something to do with my Polish roots.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Ali, what a compliment. I’m flattered.
      That’s interesting. I am surrounded by quite a few Polish people at work and their accent is definitely recognisable. Much softer than the Bulgarian one…
      I didn’t know you had Polish roots (unless you mentioned it in which case I’m clearly a terrible listener…..)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Haha, I can sooo relate to this. People never guess my accent, and are usually convinced I’ve lived in the US (whereas actually my slightly American accent is merely a result of watching American TV series a lot). I usually think that having a musical ear helps to be an accent chameleon: when I was briefly living in Ireland I totally adopted the Oirish way of speaking English, and whenever I spend some days surrounded by Brits I start sounding like them, too.

    But yeah, when someone expresses their surprise that I have no accent of my country I usually make scary eyes and say I’ve undergone a thorough KGB training.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So sorry for replying with such delay, I was actually convinced I had!! Whoops..
      You know, I think you are right. I have a musical ear too and it makes sense for it to help with accents.
      When I meet an Australian person, I notice I twist my accent a little to mirror theirs. How crazy is that?!
      Hahaha! I’m totally stealing your “KGB training” response next time I get that comment. :D

      Like

  6. I think it’s actually very interesting how accents can form because I haven’t travelled anywhere yet and has always lived in the exact same small town but people still ask me what accent I have.
    They ask me if I’m sure my parent are South-African to which I have to say yes. My accent comes from being home-schooled and never having a South-African English teacher to show me how to pronounce words. I read a lot and sort of just guessed how to pronounce the words.

    The post was great, I love sarcasm. My own sarcasm has gotten to that level where people just think I’m stupid though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha! “Are you ABSOLUTELY sure your parents are South-African?” :D
      That is fascinating though, I guess the fact you were home-schooled played a big part in the way your accent formed. I tend to mirror other people’s accents and it clearly shows now… I probably have an amalgamation of about 5 accents!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve only lived in and across e southern parts of England so my accent is a bland nothingness of various cities. But I still gave the ingrained habit of thinking all non indigenous accents speaking English are exotic and enjoyable. And often much easier to understand than the Scouser, Brummie, Geordie, Manc, Woolyback, Mackems… Pretty much any regional English in fact

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Personally, I was intrigued when I heard your accent, but was happy to wait for your story to come out as we chatted. It’s a wonderful mix, and I can only hope I get to hear what happens to it when you’ve spent some time in Scandinavia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Graeme! I guess I can’t complain. If my accent intrigues people, then that can only be a positive response.
      When I go to Scandinavia, my American twang will probably become more pronounced! Don’t ask me why but all the Scandinavian people I’ve met have had the most amazing American accents!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love it. I’m a gypsy of the US I suppose and even in every state- even as small as counties, people have the oddest remarks about where you’re from. It’s like they want a google earth location of the house I was born in. People are very territorial. Can’t I just be myself and move? LOL

    Like

  10. I can relate, Elissaveta, thank you for articulating this so beautifully. Sadly, I’ve developed an accent in every language I speak these days :) Last time I visited my home country, someone said, wow, your Azerbaijani is really good, which country are you from? And a friend of mine always knows when I am upset. Apparently, my English has a strong Russian accent in those moments… I remember a few years back I did a course on presentation skills. The facilitator filmed us and when I watched it, I was shocked at my accent. In my own head, I didn’t hear it at all! Anyway, I could keep going on about this. Many thanks again for sharing it.

    Like

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