Story of an Accent

speech bubble some rights reserved“Then you need to have an accent that makes everyone stop and stare at you. Most of these people should say, “I just love your accent.” Any old accent will do, don’t worry. My accent is from Boringtown, Boring County, England, and it’s worked well for me.”
— from page 2 of Split by a Kiss by me

In Split by a Kiss, Jo moves to the USA and finds that her English accent gets her a lot of welcome attention. Split by a Kiss was my first novel and possibly features the heroine who is most like me. (Possibly not, though. Really they’re all a bit like me, and none of them are remotely like me in the slightest. It’s complicated.) One thing Jo and I definitely have in common is our accents, and the fact that we’ve both had experiences of travelling to the States and finding that people there seemed to be entranced by the way we spoke, when back home… yeah, not so much.

I had a mixed upbringing. I was born in Glasgow but I moved to Sicily as a tiny baby. My mum spoke English to me in Italy and we visited ‘home’ regularly, but even so, when I moved permanently to London shortly before my seventh birthday, I don’t think I exactly blended in at school, accent-wise. In fact, I sounded a bit Italian. I know this because after a couple of years of full-time English school, one of my friends’ mums kindly pointed out to me that the word is “It-AL-ian”, not “ITALY-un”, as I had been saying. Quite a lot.

Of course, I soon adapted to sounding like a proper suburban Londoner, so much that my Glaswegian mother still teases me for the way I pronounce ‘banana’. (“Ridiculously long ‘a’ sounds, Luisa!”) But it’s much harder to change the way you speak once you’re an adult. So when I had my Jo-like experience in Massachusetts – where my voice definitely stood out, and a few people told me I sounded ‘classy’ (ha ha ha!) – my accent didn’t change at all. In fact, I can’t even attempt any kind of American accent. Well, I do sometimes. But it’s rubbish.

When I do author visits to schools and I read from Split by a Kiss (set in the States, English main character) and Swapped by a Kiss (set in England, American main character), I always choose extracts that mean I don’t have to try to sound American. So I was very impressed when a brilliant actor called Penny Rawlins did voice recordings for both of these audiobooks*. You can listen to her accents below, and bear in mind that this is the same person reading both extracts. Actors are amazing! (*Note: these are teen novels.)

Split by a Kiss audiobookSample of Split by a Kiss audiobook

Swapped by a Kiss audiobookSample of Swapped by a Kiss audiobook – same voice actor!

Can you do different accents? If so, lucky you – and would you like to be a voice actor working on audiobooks? I think it would be a fascinating job…


Speech bubble image: Β Some rights reserved by StreetFly JZ

48 thoughts on “Story of an Accent

  1. i’ve barely moved but I was born down south and moved up north when i was 3. Still, after 11 years, not got the accent from here!! Most adults like my accent saying ‘Oh that accent accentuates your vocabulary’ then laughing at their poor attempt at a joke. But kids I find aren’t always as responsive: they choose to tease me about the way i say room without the extended oo sound from around here instead using rum. But when I was 5 I went to a speech therapist with my brother (who didn’t speak much at all) and she was enthralled by my accent and placed it as northern, southern and scottish!! (no idea where Scotland came from lol) I think one reason for my accent not changing is that I spoke very early- when I was just over a year old I said Hello. The health visitor didn’t belive my parents untill I said Hello when I went into her room; to her this was very suprising because noone had spoken as I went in to see what my reaction was and she said I shouldn’t have been using speech in context for at least a year or so. Thus begins the supposed early developing brain of moi!! And my accent is used to confuse people but I’m terrible at any other accent πŸ™‚

      • I said hello (not very in context, and it was more like “awwo, awwo”) when I was two months old, and “Daddy!” while pointing at my dad when I was about six months old. I didn’t actually talk coherently until I was well over two though (but I babbled a lot, and once I started talking I never shut up again!)…
        I can’t do accents at all, but my dad can do them brilliantly (he can have us all in fits if he quotes from a book, because he can get the mannerisms and everything just right too) – my sister is even worse at accents than I am but won’t stop trying, which is annoying if she tries for Scots/Welsh and ear-frying if she tries for German (her attempts sound like someone has had their throat cut while in the middle of gargling).

  2. As someone who describes zirself as linguistically enamored, I love accents of all varieties. I focus on the speech patterns of my conversation partners as a way to help my add brain stay focused on the conversation.

    Because of this, I pick up and mimic accents easily and often without realizing I’m doing it. I’ve been told I should be a voice actor but I’m hoping that when I record an audiobook, I will be recording my own work.

  3. I can try at an American drawl but only manage a few words. Usually a little dramatic and put on! I am from Derbyshire and no kind of accent whatsoever. Sometimes, though, when Americans attempt a English accent, it comes out all posh. And I’m a loong way from that!

    • Ha, yes, it’s like when people in the US called my accent ‘classy’! I can assure you it isn’t. πŸ˜‰ I bet Americans would say you had a very classy accent… πŸ™‚

  4. Well, I’m naturally Welsh, and lived in Wales for the first eleven years of my life. Then, a year ago, I moved to England. At first, I really hated the way I stood out, but now I’ve lost my accent almost completely. I WANT IT BACK!!!! I can ‘put-on’ the accent, which is what I want to do (anything to keep it!!!), but people will notice and think me weird. What should I do?

    • Oh, Amy, I feel your pain! I’m Welsh too but have now lived half my life in England, and my accent is all gone. *sniffs* I find mine comes back a bit when I’m around other Welsh people, so find some Welsh friends! And if you’re like me, I bet you’ll always say certain words in a Welsh way without you even realising it. (Apparently me saying ‘feathers’ or ‘toothbrush’ is hilarious to some people.)

      Great post, Luisa! I always loved that ‘any old accent will do’ line in Split By A Kiss.

      • Thanks a lot, Susie!

        Amy, I think Susie is right – your Welsh accent might come back if you surround yourself with similar accents! Still, being able to put on the accent is a useful acting skill…

  5. When I went on holiday to America, I took great joy in mAking my English acccent more strong. e.g. “mother daaaarling. Can I use the lavatory?” someone told me I sounded like “the late princess Diana!!!!”.

    Apart from “British” I can’t do accents very well!!

    Fab post!!!


  6. I lived most of my life in Scotland but moved to England, so people say I have a “British” accent more than anything else. I don’t think you can really put a label on mine! I can do a fab Glaswegian accent (obviously because I’m used to that one) and Cockney too, but other than that… I’m awful at accents!

  7. I’m glasweigan but i sound sooooo English ! My mum is English so i think that’s where is comes from but both my brother and sister sound very Scottish and not English at all.
    It always confuses people when i tell them that i am not English πŸ™‚ But it helps in the long term because i never write in slang or write glasweigan words which pleases my English teacher who is fed up with people writing phrases such as ‘gonnae no do that ” Overall though, i don’t think it matters to much what accent you have just as long as you are polite and respectful. πŸ™‚

  8. I don’t really have an accent – just a boring, south of England, non-specific one, but I find that I tend to pick up other people’s lilts and inflections if I talk to them for a long time. Which can be embarrassing, as it can appear as though I’m taking the mickey. I’m hopeless at deliberately trying to do accents though, which is why I could never be an actress. Great post!

  9. Hi Luisa! πŸ™‚

    I don’t think i have a set accent. not sure really.

    I carn’t WAIT to read all of your books! I ADORED Extreme Kissing πŸ˜€

    When my story is published, i’d LOVE to do a recording of me reading it! πŸ˜€

    Now, back to writing ❀

  10. Lovely post, Luisa! Bonjourno.
    #I’ve inherited my love of- and, hopefully, talent for- accents from my lovely dad. He’s a Scot, via Essex and Kingston in Surrey. When I was yoiunger, he used to read me stories, doing all the voices.

    Often, when I’m writing characters, their voices and accents come first. Which is probably something to do with my Radio 4 fixation, but, hey…

    My central chnaracters in my latest book are a boy with a Geordie mum and a dad from British Ghiana (sp?) and his half-Russian girlfriend. Should be…interesting.

  11. I am sooo impressed with voice actors who can do other accents well. Am I the only American here? *looks around* I have to say, Penny Rawlings did a fantastic American accent–wow!

    I’m from Boston and I find that most actors trying to do a strong accent tend to overdo it. Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Mark Wahlberg are really from here and sound real, but most of the others sound kind of over-the-top.

    What do you think of Americans like Gwyneth Paltrow who do British accents in some films? She sounded pretty good to me!

    • I’m extremely impressed with actors who can do accents too! I’m not sure about Gwyneth Paltrow… will have to do some research!
      I agree with you about Boston accents too – just from my limited experience. πŸ™‚
      Thank you for your wonderful comment, Kip!

  12. Great post!

    I can kind of do accents (kind of).
    Normally people tease me because apparently I have a “posh” accent-which I don’t (i think).
    I’d like to have an American accent….
    But unlike some people, who think they’re amazingly brilliant at doing accents, I don’t.

  13. I didn’t think I had an accent but I did a video on my blog and had people commenting about how much they loved my English accent – some said I sounded quite posh. πŸ˜€
    I can do accents but I can’t hold them – I start off doing one and drift through different ones, by the end of one sentence I have done about 7 different accents.

    • I do think all British accents sound quite exotic to some non-British people. πŸ™‚ I know what you mean about not being able to hold accents, but it’s brilliant that you can do them to start with!

  14. Fab post Luisa. I had a mildly Irish accent when I was 8, as we’d lived there for several years. Then I went a bit Hampshire and this can still be detected under my boring generic Southern accent at times. I’m told I sometimes screech, ‘Eh?’ in a way that gives it several syllables…

  15. Smashing post!

    I was born in Barrow-in-Furness in the North-West, but moved 85 miles away to Carlisle when I was seven – and you would not BELIEVE how different the accents were. I remember my accent REALLY standing out, so I could totally identify with Jo in the FABULOUS Split by a Kiss. But now I’m down south, I have managed to keep my accent and love the fact that I sound different AND that no one can work out where I’m from. Guesses include: Wales, Newcastle and Scotland.

    Accentwise, I’ll give anything a whirl. LOVE them all!


    PS Can’t speak Italian though. SO wish I could!

    • Isn’t it funny how accents can be so different in places that are just a few miles apart? This is what makes me laugh about the concept of a “British” accent – there are so many! There are many different American accents too, of course…
      Thank you for your great comment, Kay!

  16. I go to school in a different city to where I live, and even though it is only 20 mins on the bus our accents are totally different. When I first started, everyone said I speak ‘posh’ but I’m not!
    Your audiobooks are great. From what I heard from the samples, the voice actor is amazing! πŸ™‚

  17. Great post, Luisa, and I really loved listening to those audio recordings. I’ve got a dull “Norf London” accent and after nearly four years of living in Australia people say my voice hasn’t changed at all but what’s more interesting is that my 7 year old, who lived in London till she was 4, sounds a bit Aussie now whereas my 5 year old, who was only 14 months when we left London, sounds like a Brit. I love accents and can do lots of them if someone helps me get started – if I watch an episode of Gavin and Stacey I can keep up the Welsh indefinitely!

  18. I’m naturally a very, very posh person – Ella can tell you this – my accent is very very posh, but, I can do..

    1. I’m really good at the Irish accent, because I love it!
    2. Sometimes (because I’m 1/2 German, and biligual) my accent sounds a little German
    3. A bit of Scottish, which turns welsh, then indian, then italian…its not a pretty sight!

    Great Post!


  19. hi luisa
    my accent changes depending on who i’m with, and seeing as i’m at an international school, it changes from italian, french, american, irish, scottish, english when i’m speaking english
    and then my french accent varies between north french, south french, parisien french and “normal” french when i’m speaking french πŸ˜‰
    lots of love
    Cizze ❀ xx

  20. Hey Luisa,

    I can only do a Welsh accent and a Northern accent. When I do my Welsh accent as I sound like Stacey out of Gavin and Stacey and when I do a Northern accent I sound like my grandma 0_o I think that’s because some of my family come from Yorkshire.

    I wish I could do an American accent as well as Penny!

  21. I was born in Lewisham and had a southeast London accent for ages. When I came back from university my best friend said “oh my god you’ve got the Oxford accent!” (as if it was the measles!) and ever since then I have been told I sound posh – though I do tend to adjust to the person I’m talking with. I acted in Under Milk Wood when I was a student – and that was before I spent nine months studying in Aberystwyth! I can still do a Welsh accent, but only when I’m quoting Dylan Thomas…

    • I think being able to quote Dylan Thomas in a Welsh accent is a real talent! Thanks for your great comment.

      I’m so interested in all these accent stories – wish I could ask everyone more questions…

      • The strange thing is that if you listen to recordings of Dylan Thomas he doesn’t sound very, very Welsh – there is just a sort of lilt. But of course he wrote for the accent he grew up with.

        “And before you let the sun in, mind he wipes his shoes… “

  22. Pingback: Gold! | Girls Heart Books

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