accent

Going Going Gone! Diphthongs are on their way out.

Where have all the diphthongs gone?
Long taaahm passin’

Let it be said, I do not doubt that spoken language evolves over time. But I assumed it would be undetectable, like watching the hour hand on a clock.  Perhaps it’s that I live in London; melting pot of people, cultures, races and languages.  Or maybe I’m naive about just how long I’ve been around with my ears open (comfortably over half a century – GULP!)  But the shocking fact remains, diphthongs are dying out.  The biggest casualty is the sound ‘eeeyerrr’, as in ‘here’, ‘year’, ‘fear’.  This vowel sound has morphed to a strange, flat ‘hiiiih’ (somewhere between ‘hair’ and ‘heee’).  It’s at its most distinct in MLE speakers, but by no means restricted to this group. I hear it up and down the land, in and out of private schools.  I even hear it daily on Radio 4 for goodness sake; the bastion of RP (received pronunciation) … or so they think.  Are our tongues and jaws getting tired?  What’s so tough about travelling from eeeee to aaaayyy, as in ‘create’?  And yet Nick Clegg would far rather enthuse about everything he’s ‘crated’ (24 secs in).

I’ve only recently become aware of the glorious irony embedded in the spoken English language.  Generally mocked for lacking rhythm, it turns out we English possess one of the most beautifully rhythmic languages on earth.  A stress timed language such as ours is not the norm. Think of the even pitter-patter of Spanish and French; both ‘syllable timed languages’ and then reflect on the glorious diddly-dah-dee-diddly-dum-di-doodee-diddly-dum-de-daaaah of our own.  Diphthongs are an integral part of this linguistic musicality, and I’m putting my hand up to say “Ih-eeem reeeyerly sad to heeyerrr you goh-ooo”

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Speaking English without an accent is a misnomer. Speak it with an accent … an English one.

The vast majority of my clients grew up speaking a language other than English. They all now speak English, and for a multiple of reasons wish to ‘lose’ their accent.

The process of learning to speak English like a native-speaker is better conceived as acquiring rather than losing an accent.  If your mother tongue is Spanish, you’ll be speaking English with your natural vowel sounds, rhythms and stresses.  These can never be taken away, nor should they. Your ambition should be to acquire the additional skill of mastering an English accent. With effort and concentration you can master its vowels and rhythms and with mouth gymnastics you will even conquer our consonants!

Just as walking in someone else’s shoes is a disconcerting experience at first, so it is with speaking with an English accent. Expect the process to confound, contort, and confuse. But with practice, patience and plenty of repetition-tition-tion-n-n the shoes you’ve acquired will give in to their new feet, and as well as your native accent you will be the proud owner of a sparklin’ new English one.

English is goin’ ashtray

A rampant vocal virus is on the loose and spreading fast. It’s running amok across our screens and over the airwaves.  Tune in your ear but be very careful not to catch it.  Strong becomes shchrong, students turn into shchewdents, and Strictly Come Dancing becomes simply, Shtrickly.  It’s safe to ashewm this shchrange phenomenon isn’t going away any time soon and although the experts tell us to accept the endless evolution of language, I have to confess I’m shhhhchrugggelllingg!