I’ve written a few posts on this blog concerning language and my experience with it as an expat, even though I live in an English-speaking country. Obviously, English is the predominant language in many countries, but in each of them it’s spoken just a bit differently.
There are, of course, different pronunciations: tomAHto vs. tomAYto, baaazel vs. BAYzel, fill-et vs. fill-lay. But recently I have been thinking about a different language conundrum – that of the accent. If I was living in a country where I’d also need to learn their language, part of that language learning would be spent in getting the accent correct. When I am in Paris, I do my best to speak French with as close to a Parisian accent as possible – the fact that they switch to speaking English the second I start conversing leads me to believe I have a lot of work to do in this area, but I digress.
The point is, when we learn a new language, getting the accent correct is part of it. But what am I supposed to do in Ireland? Most of the American expats I’ve met still have their American accent no matter how long they’ve lived here. And it doesn’t seem like people here are expecting me to learn how to speak with an Irish accent. But why not? Shouldn’t part of fitting into my new home be trying to sound like those around me? Or is part of my identity so tied up in the accent with which I speak that I need to hang onto it with all my might?
Some American accents are nice, but mine is not one of them. I speak very nasally with hard vowels – it’s not elegant, it’s not pretty. And I love the Irish accent – I would be very happy to adopt it, or at least try to. But I fear this would be met with derision and mockery by friends and family on both sides of the Atlantic. Look at how people ridicule Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, and they’ve both lived in Britain for years now.
So, I guess the conclusion I’ve come to is that, even though I am living in Ireland, I’m supposed to keep sounding like an American. And I’m not sure how I feel about that.