Just the other day I found one of the coolest blogs on the web: dialectblog.com. Of course you do have to like English language variation for this, but I think it’s pretty neat. Not only does it list American, British and Irish accents and their features, but the author also delves into language variation phenomenon, such as the disappearance of the New York accent or whether the accents in period TV series are actually spot on. I find it a fascinating website, not in the first place because language variation is something that I’m interested in.
The funny thing about language is that it changes all the time. Not only that, but language variation is a basic feature of language production. Language can be linked to geographic locations, personal and social identities and even to time. It’s these features that make you speak the way you do and it’s the ability of language to deal with this variety that makes it possible in the first place.
I wrote this massive blogpost back when I first started blogging on language & identity and language variation is one topic I’m very passionate about. I’m a non-native speaker of English with an American accent teaching in an environment that is ruled by British English standards. It’s a good thing than that I can at least explain all the differences, because back in the day of my Bachelor’s degree I went through 2,5 years of British accent training.
In teaching English I think it is important to bare in mind that there is not one English. Just like there is not one type of Dutch. Language is a strange thing in that sense which doesn’t let itself get captured very easily. But just ask yourself: isn’t it fascinating that we each speak our own language that is pretty much unique to us as individuals? A person’s accent can give you instant information on where that person grew up, where they are from, what their occupation is or even how they view themselves. It’s not WHAT you’re saying that matters in this, it’s HOW! So next time you say something, better think twice ;-).
Do you speak a certain variety of a language? If so, which language do you speak and can you name the variety? In Dutch I speak Standard Dutch with a nice sauce of Southern influences mixed in with it. I will never get rid of that Southern soft ‘G’! In English I tend to speak General American or Standard American English. How about you?