‘Locally Acquired Foreign Accent (LAFA) in Contemporary Ghana’ is the title of a paper written by Joe Arthur Shoba, Kari Dako and Elizabeth Orfson-Offei. I read the paper and decided to borrow the title for today’s article.
We do it too. Right from copying the twang to the expressions, we tend to imitate the Yankees as if we were born in the country itself. And perhaps it’s the concept of ‘American dream’ that fascinates us to American accent the most.
An American movie, a job in a call centre (that caters to the American clientele), a relative in the US or a visit from an American — any of these can trigger of the attack of speaking in that strange accent that can only come from the mouth of someone who has locally acquired the American accent.
Obviously, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or to scowl when one hears a local bloke speaking in accented but grammatically wrong English. However, despite the irritation, one can hardly admonish people for sounding weird. It is everyone’s prerogative to speak the way he or she likes to.
There is a remarkable difference between American English and British English, understandably then, the difference in their pronunciations is only natural. The main reason for this dissimilarity is the history of American English. At the time when the British established their colonies in America, there were so many diverse groups with their own distinct cultures and languages (French, German, Dutch, Italian, Yiddish, African languages, Native American languages), each group received the British English in its own way and moulded the spellings and pronunciation to suit its own purpose.
“In 1607, the first colony was established in Jamestown in Virginia (the state was named after Elizabeth I, the virgin queen). (It might also be useful to remember that this is around the time of Shakespeare’s writing, so the English that the settlers would have used then would be a kind of Shakespearian English.) Others followed, notably the group on board the Mayflower, who became known as the ‘pilgrim fathers’ of America, and settled in Plymouth in Massachusetts in 1620. New colonies were being added until there were 13 colonies in 1733 – all on the east coast of the continent.”
Thus, within America itself, there a number of different dialects, so someone coming from Texas would have a typical Texan drawl that’ll be completely different from the accent of the person who comes from Mississippi. There are supposed to be eight major English dialects in
Coming back to LAFA, when we emulate the American accent, we don’t really know what accent are we emulating.
So you see the diversity in American English makes it impossible for it to be learnt locally. If, however, there is a compulsion to sound like an American, do care to find out the specific region. A few ways to acquire the accent:
1 Watch American movies. Watch the movements of the mouth and the lips and practice the idiomatic expressions used.
2 Watch movies with subtitles. As you progress watch movies without the subtitles.
3 Select the American songs of your liking and sing along.
4 It will be difficult, but if you can, make friends with travelling Americansd invite them home.
5 Together with the accent, also brush up on your American vocabulary. You can’t speak in a fake American accent, while using British vocabulary.
I am sure following the method will help you learn American accent. But you must remember that unless it’s essential, stick to the Indian accent.