Have you ever met anyone from a different country? Or watched TV shows with characters who live in different places? You might have noticed they speak differently than you. Those little (and sometimes big!) differences are because people who live far away from each other often have different accents.

 

Have you ever met anyone from a different country? Or watched TV shows with characters who live in different places? You might have noticed they speak differently than you. Those little (and sometimes big!) differences are because people who live far away from each other often have different accents.

What is an accent?

There are two kinds of accents. One is the kind where people are speaking a different language they normally speak. For example, people who grow up speaking German don’t pronounce the “w” sound the same way we do in the United States. Their w sounds like our v. They also don’t have a “th” sound, like we use in the word “they.” They fill that in with our z sound. So when they speak English, instead of saying “I wish they were here,” they would say, “I vish zey vere here.” The same thing happens when English speakers learn a new language. There are sounds in other languages that we don’t use, so it’s hard to pronounce some words the way a native speaker would.

The other kind of accent is noticeable when a person is talking with someone from a different place. People who live in England and Australia speak English, but it sounds very different from our English in the United States. And because the United States is so big, people who live in different areas pronounce things differently.

Everybody has an accent

If you live in a place where everyone sounds like you, you might not think you have an accent. But the truth is, everyone does. An accent is simply the way people pronounce words, and every place is a little different. And it’s not just the way we say our words — people use different words, too. If you’re taking a trip, you might say you’re going “on vacation,” but a kid in England would say they’re going “on holiday.” If you live in Boston and are visiting your cousin in the Chicago, they might ask if you’d like to go to “the show” and leave you wondering what show they’re talking about. But in some places, that’s how people refer to “going to a movie.” Similarly, they might not understand it if you say something is “wicked good,” because only people from the Boston area use the word “wicked” to mean “really.”




Activity: Do you know what these words mean?

How well do you know your regional vocabulary? Certain places in the United States use special words for things. Match these words with their meanings.

1. Hoagie/grinder/submarine

2. Bubbler

3. Davenport

4. Pop/soda/Coke

5. Tennies/sneaks

6. Put up

7. Jimmies

a. Sneakers

b. Sprinkles

c. Soft drink

d. Water fountain

e. Sandwich

f. Couch/sofa

g. Put away

Answers:

1., e; 2, d; 3, f; 4, c; 5, a; 6, g; 7, b