As an American traveling around Australia, I haven’t encountered any difficulty being understood. Pronounced Rs at the end of syllables and odd Californian vowel sounds don’t faze anyone. Australians watch enough American film and television that the accent is very familiar to them. Someone even complimented my accent today, which sounded very strange to me as Americans generally complement Brits and Australians on theirs!
Of course, not every foreigner or new arrival in Australia gets a similar reception to their oral English. I met a Taiwanese doctoral student this morning who had learned American English in Taiwan and studied abroad in California. (Let’s call her Sally.) Sally’s English is fluent, grammatical, and idiomatically natural, but her accent marks her as a non-native speaker of English.
Sally and I are of the same race and ethnicity, and we’re both foreigners here in Australia, but the reactions to our language use are very different. She told me that when she first arrived in Australia to start her PhD program, local people would correct her Americanized pronunciations on a regular basis. She was informed of the proper Australian way to say words like “tomato,” “masters,” and “advertisement” so often that it was disheartening. Eventually, she adopted a more Australian-sounding accent, and the corrections became less frequent. Continue Reading →