It all started as an extreme fascination with the way the foreigners sounded and the fascination was almost spellbinding. I still remember it very vividly as our old TV set (it was one of those which had its screen bulging outwards) blared at a high volume in a euphonious penetrating voice “Could you stop it before it travels to other students”. If you still remember her, it was the teacher from “Powerpuff Girls”.
There was no distinction in my head between an American accent and British accent or any other accent of the sort. All that I knew was that the woman sounded elegant and remarkably sophisticated.
All I could think of was the rapturous sound of her speech. How she said “travel” in her shrill voice. How the syllable at the end with “el” abruptly ended. How she didn’t drawl the vowel “a” as we Indians did. She spoke very differently and it was oddly appealing. I noticed how her “stop” was rather flat and how subtle the “o” was. She took almost half the time to enunciate the sentence than any other Indian would. It seemed very effective and I wanted to sound like her.
To my surprise and my mother’s, with some unaccustomed twisting of the tongue and consistent practice, I found that I was able to emulate that sentence. My accent was inchoate, I missed one syllable every now and then as my thick Indian accent promptly propped up quite often when I tried with different words and sentences.
Thereafter, I assiduously listened to the pronunciation and speech patterns of the characters and I promptly switched all my cartoon shows to the English language. I practiced as I listened and would you believe it within a month I was able to emulate the accent to a remarkable extent! And thus started my ‘bidialectal and accent’ frenzy and it brought with it a ‘bidialectal’ adulation.
With time I eventually switched to American sitcoms like “The big bang theory” and “Two and a half men” and the accent gradually perfected itself.
One fine morning I accidentally tuned into “BBC world news” and a pretty presenter sat behind the desk riffling through a bunch of papers and spoke in the most symphonious accent that I had ever listened to. A “BBC” accent, as you may know, isn’t as commonplace as it used to be. If you are thinking Benedict Cumberbatch from Sherlock, that I should tell you is actually “highly received pronunciation” and isn’t as clear. I suddenly felt to urge to “pick up” this accent without further ado. It seemed to strike the perfect balance of enunciation and seemed to be as clear as it could get. Quite like this:
I practiced it over time till it came naturally to me. Listening to a lot of BBC news and reading out the newspaper out loud didn’t hurt. It was, in fact, closer to my Indian accent in comparison to American as it stressed quite a lot on enunciation. Bit by bit the American accent faded away as I honed my English accent to the point that it came out naturally as I read out loud or conversed. By natural, I mean the accent that comes out with the curses as someone wakes you up with splashes of water on your face in your sleep.
I am now effectively bidialectal. I have an English accent when I converse in English and an Indian accent for my mother tongue Hindi.
I can alternate between either accent at will. What is interesting is that when I tried learning German on Duolingo and it didn’t take me much time to emulate a German accent. I got a hang of it within a week. I can probably pick up a new accent to a satisfactory extent within a month if I try. Just give me my cup of tea and a month worth of movies!
What do you think of accents? Drop your opinion in the comments section below.