Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Italian accent...

... is a bit of a disaster.

I often describe it as having sponge-like qualities, in the sense that it absorbes other accents that I hear on a day-to-day basis.

Same as with my English one really. When I speak English I don't have the Welsh accent that I should have and that the rest of my family does. When I was around 7/8 years old I decided that I didn't like it and somehow - and I WISH I knew how because in my current situation it would be very useful - I ended up with a neutral English accent. Fellow Brits can never tell I'm Welsh just from how I speak. But my English accent's changed a lot, since moving to Italy it's been veering towards the stereotypical 'international' accent, influenced by American pronounciation (which also happened during my Erasmus year). At uni in England I picked up all sorts of accents, and mine changed often. Mostly it was a mix of my old neutral accent, generic Northern with a London-ish twang.

I can't remember what my Italian accent was like at university. For the first few weeks I was speaking it with a Welsh accent, but even without consciously trying to it disappeared. Even after returning from Urbino I doubt it was very marchigiano, due to the fact that none of my friends were actually from that region. When I was studying in Pisa I consciously tried to pick up a pisano accent, to try and fit in more I guess. It didn't last very long after arriving back in the UK though. My lecturers were both Italian and British, so I was exposed to all sorts of accents, and not one more than another.

I'd like to think that my accent's more milanese than anything else; obviously, after having lived here for over three years now. I guess one word to describe the Milanese accent would be 'drawl'. I don't mean that in a derogative way, but compared to many other accents the vowels are broader and seem dragged out. I think a bit of Tuscan's survived somehow from my time in Pisa, maybe partly because I like Tuscan accents so much (my personal favourite region when it comes to accents). A fairly recent addition is Roman, with its softer 'c' and 'sc' sounds; which, as daft as it may sound, I've picked up from listening to Romans on the radio. I love Roman accents, just as long as they're not too strong! I keep thinking that if I had wound up in Rome instead of Milan that I'd have the most amazing Italian accent.

I guess the reason I think about it so much is that it's also a question of identity, how much of your roots do you want to show when you speak? I'm a bit fed up of the stares I can get when I speak Italian - some people at the Post Office down the street from work are the worst culprits - but many people I know think a foreign accent is very cool and that I shouldn't try to lose it. I think the right balance for me would be that people could tell that I was foreign, but also that I lived in Milan, and I think it's going to take a lot of work to get to that point!

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