Very shortly after returning to the United States after living abroad for five years, I was buying some new eyeglasses. The saleswoman asked me where I was from. I named a town a few miles away.
“No,” she said, “What country are you originally from?”
Without even realizing it, I supposedly sounded ‘foreign’, which amused me because I had just been trying to identify her foreign accent. So I paid closer attention to what exactly I was doing, and that’s when I heard it: subtly changing /th/ sounds to a soft /t/ (voiceless) or /d/ (voiced); saying ‘yah, yah’ instead of ‘yes’; clipping my diphthongs ever so slightly so they sounded more ‘pure’.
Oh! I was mimicking her. And apparently quite well. Continue reading