Speech Communities

Moving to the United States as a twelve year old, helped me really connect to the piece “The Speech Community of Children”. In a way I experienced this twice in my life, once when I was growing up in South Africa and the second time when I went to school here in America. I was faced not only with culture shock, but also forced to start communicating like all the other American kids I came into contact with. I had to change the way I talked and I had to understand certain aspects of American English that I was never exposed to, such as slang words and ideas associated with certain phrases. About three years went by before my parents and I realized that I was Bi-Accented. This meant that I was able to speak in a so called “American” accent, but also in my “South African” accent. The interesting thing is that its subconscious switch, so I don’t choose to sound a certain way, I just do. Countless people have asked me to speak in my “South African” accent, and the problem is that it is incredibly hard to talk in my “South African” accent to someone who doesn’t speak in that accent. Through the years I have discovered that the only people that I still talk to in my “South African” accent are my family and when I visit go to visit South Africa.

I found it interesting that it is so easy to relate my own life the writing of “Speech Communities by Paul Roberts. The way talks about The Class as a Speech Community and Confronting the Adult World, really made it easy for me to relate my literacy history to how he explained the development of language skills throughout our lives. What I found mind blowing is how, the smallest changes or differences in the environment that one learns a language in can have a profound impact on how a person communicates and uses that language.


22 thoughts on “Speech Communities

  1. I think it is really cool that you used to live in South Africa. I feel like South Africa and the United States are completely different. I don’t know for a fact, but I bet that was a huge change for you. I actually didn’t know there was bi-accented people. I think that is pretty cool too. I think its interesting that you can only talk in your South African accent to your family and when you visit South Africa. I only have one accent, which is American, but i do think it would be really neat to have multiple accents.

  2. I find it really interesting reading what you have to say about moving from South Africa to the United States. I had no idea there was such thing as being bi-accented, however when you talk in class it’s really interesting to hear your accent come out when you think it may not. I too moved from out of the country to the US- from Mexico to the United States, but I had perviously lived in the US before Mexico, so coming back wasn’t so much of a culture shock. I’ve grown up in the north most of my life until moving down to North Carolina 3 years ago. Once I moved down here and was surrounded by people with southern accents, I’ve picked up a little southern “twang” myself. When I go visit my friends back up north they all say I talk different and my accent is weird. It is crazy to think, like you said, the smallest changes or differences in the environment that one learns a language in can have a profound impact on how a person communicates and uses that language. However, the changes can impact ones life even after learning the language they grew up with like Paul Roberts expresses in the “Speech Communities of a Child.”

  3. As a huge fan of traveling and having to travel internationally for soccer, I too have found myself in situaions similar to yours. I find it interesting that you have found a way to not only adapt to the American accent, but that you also managed to keep your native accent as well. I have always wanted to visit South Africa would eve like to learn other languages as well; however having an accet would be pretty neat as well. Overall I found your responce to be very relatable and rather fuid, well done.

  4. I think its interesting that you moved from S. Africa to America, I know there was some type of accent differences and language differences. When I read your literacy narrative I gained a bigger understanding of your bi-accent and understand the differences not nation to nation but different regions of states. Im from eastern North Carolina and found that some of the sayings I have dont always register with people that grew up near Charlotte or the mountains.

  5. I really like how you connected you life to Robert’s article. You had a very interesting and unique experience moving from South Africa to the United States. I can only imagine how difficult it was to adjust and learn how to speak in a completely different way. I’m sure it was stressful and uncomfortable at times. I agree with Allie, it is really interesting and cool to hear your accent in class. I have family from Michigan, California, New York and South Carolina so my whole life I have heard different accents from different family members. I completely agree with you that it is mind blowing that just a change in the environment has a huge impact on how a person communicates. Its so weird that just living in a different state can change the way you speak.

  6. I think it’s really interesting that “Speech Communities” by, Paul Roberts is so relatable to your life in having to change the way you speak. I can only imagine how hard it would be to adjust from the cultural aspects of one country to another, let alone adjust and conform to the speech of a different country. Part of the reason English is so hard to learn is because of many of the slang terms and little nuances that are different from other languages. I had never even heard of the term bi-accented before this but now can see it in many people that I know.

  7. This is a perfect blog for you to do because of your experience with a drastic change in speech communities. Coming from South Africa to America is probably not as hard as coming from other countries but I’m sure it was still challenging for you to make the transition. I’ve never heard of a bi-accented person before but I do know people who can speak in a lot of accents just because they are good at doing accents.

  8. It is always intriguing for me to read or hear about people’s adventures or lives in other parts of the world. I, myself, am a fan of international traveling and was lucky enough to experience it at a young age. I love to learn first hand about other cultures. You enter a whole different atmosphere with no experience or knowledge of what life is really like until you see it for yourself. Common questions I get asked are; “Is it hot there?” or “Was it all like a desert?”. Not the most intelligent questions, but I find it interesting that most of the people on this planet are completely ignorant to the other cultures of the world.

    Being an international traveler I have been a part of multiple types of speech communities and the differences are huge. Even in the US people’s speech communities differ from Northern Yankee to Southern Slang. I agree with you completely on how incredible it is to see what an environment or setting can do to alter a speech community. People continue to pick up different types of slang as they enter new friend groups. It’s truly amazing to see the extremes of speech communities. Well Done on your blog!

  9. I find interesting that you have been able to be “bi-accent” since you have moved here from South Africa. Also being from another country, I to have realized when I talk with my family members or anyone from the motherland I get my original Canadian accent opposed the bland “American” accent I have gained. I think that “Speech Communties” can be relatable to anyone that has moved in their lifetime. It is very hard to find people in different areas that talk the same way.

  10. Your personal connection with this excerpt was really cool! I think its crazy how sometimes we say words a certain way just in an everyday conversation, like how you can somehow speak with your “south african” accent with certain people, and not have any conscious control of how you’re doing it! That happens to me all the time, usually when I’m talking fast, I’ll pronounce words in some of the oddest ways. Sometimes I’ll say a word super “southern” and the person I’m talking to interrupts me and calls me out and laughs. Other times I’ll pronounce, not even a word but just a vowel within a word, in a “northern accent” and I have no idea where it came from. The study of linguistics is kind of blowing my mind right now.

  11. That’s really cool that you are able to use two separate accents. It’s one thing to be able to speak in two separate dialects, but I feel like accents are much deeper and have a stronger effect on words than dialects do. It’s as if you have two separate speech communities within you that only pop up when they are appropriate. Just like when you visit your family in South Africa and your accent from there comes out. They only appear when the time is right and when they match their surrounding community.

  12. It was really cool to read about your adaptation of language from living in South Africa to living in the United States. I have never heard of someone being “bi-accented.” Sometimes, I feel like I can hear your South African accent, but I think it is stronger at some times than others. Also, I think it’s really cool that your accent changes subconsciously, depending on where you are and who you’re with. After reading your blog, I feel like I also speak in a different accept when I am with close family and friends. However, I do not choose to sound different; it just happens.

  13. I really like how you related to “Speech Communities,” by Paul Roberts from your transitions to American culture. Your adaption to the American accent displays the shaping of your speech community. I also agree with the idea that you said that normally when you do speak with a South African accent with your family is different than when you speak with your friends. You say it subconsciously happens which shows how you have innately adapted to the different speech communities you’re involved in.

  14. I can relate to your experience because I also was born in a different country. My family moved here in 1999 and I had to teach myself to speak English before I could start school. And just like you I had to get accustomed to all the slang words. However, I don’t have an accent but my parents do. But just like you, when I go visit my family back in Europe, my Bosnian becomes accented the longer that I stay there. It’s weird, but I think it’s something only people that are in our situation understand because it happens subconsciously without really thinking about it.We both had to adapt to English speech communities but we also can relate to our other speech communities because of where we are from.

  15. I really find it cool how you don’t have to think about switching accents. Thats a really interesting and helpful trait. You don’t have to really think about it, you just do it. The only thing that I can relate to with you is learning different phrases and slang words. I go to VA Beach a good amount to visit friends and they use the word “weak” to express that something is funny. I did not get this at all until about my third week there, but once you learn something it never seems to go away.

  16. I could relate to the part when you wrote about the slang words and getting accustomed to them. Learning the english language was hard enough for me but getting used to the slang was even harder. Growing up I lived where slang was used pretty much every time someone spoke so hearning the slang was definitely not an issue, it was just understanding what those bizarre words meant. I remember the first time i heard the word “ight” I was so confused, because i thought they meant to say alright but just forgot the first part of the word. But eventualy I started using the word as well, I became accustomed to how my peers used “slang” and eventually adapted it into my vocabulary.

  17. “Through the years I have discovered that the only people that I still talk to in my “South African” accent are my family and when I visit go to visit South Africa.” I start to talk with a much more southern accent whenever I visit my grandparents’ house. They’re from Kentucky and their southern accent is definitely there. Although my parents are from Ohio and don’t have much of a southern accent, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house growing up and that southern side of my voice always comes out when I go over there.

  18. I thought it was very interesting when you were talking about being bi-accented. I have never heard of that before. Especially when you mentioned that it was subconscious and you couldn’t control it. I completely understand how you only talk to your family and friends in that accent because it is natural to you. I speak a different way in front of my family as well.

  19. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how you related to Paul Roberts’ ideas of speech communities. The fact that you were able to stand as a prime example of everything that Roberts talks about makes what the both of you have to say even more interesting and exciting to read. I personally cannot relate to Roberts’ writing to the magnitude that you can, but I found my own connections and those minor relations made my own time reading this enjoyable, so I know you must have found even more fun in reading about the speech communities! You provided an image that our class can depict while reading and that’s definitely beneficial!

  20. I can relate to this because I too enjoy traveling and have an accent. Unlike your experience, I am not bi-accented because I have not been able to alter my thick southern accent. No matter how hard I try there are always some words that reveal my southern twang. I would love to travel many places and learn the languages. Growing up in a different country would have been awesome. I think your response is on point with the passage that was assigned.

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