Can You Guess The Accent?

by Kevin Jon Heller

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The Language Trainers Group has a great new on-line game: trying to guess what country 16 people with different accents are from.  It’s called, not surprisingly, Can You Guess Where My Accent Is From? I scored a 28 — a full 10 points higher than Blake Hounsell, who tipped me off to the game at FP Blog.

And yes, I could tell the difference between a Brit, a Kiwi, an Aussie, and a South African.  Seems I’ve learned something in my two years in the southern hemisphere…

4 Responses

  1. Drawn level with you at 28, with a great deal of blind luck.

    Is it really possible to exactly identify accents in non-native speakers of the same mother tongue? Argentina and Chile strike me as likely to be very similar.

    Also, there is no one Belgian accent, is there? I guess it would depend on whether someone’s first language is Dutch or French.

  2. I’m sure it is possible to some degree, although it’d take a great deal of familiarity with said countries.

    20 for me, too many of the European accents stumped me.

  3. Cool game!  I got a 20 – the European accents confused me, but surprisingly so did some of the English lang accents – my family is Canadian and I grew up with it, but I didn’t hear the Canadian accent.  

  4. I’ve always considered myself pretty good with accents and I scored significantly higher than the 28s mentioned here (to save embarrassment I won’t say how much though). I think it comes down to (a) natural ability and (b) exposure (which often comes from TV and Radio programming and also living abroad). For example, Americans tend not to be as exposed to non-American varieties of English on TV as people in other English speaking countries.

    I got all the Native English speakers right by country and mixed results on their regions. But it’s not always possible to pick someone’s region based purely on accent. I’m from Australia and obviously very familiar with Australian English but more often than not you can’t tell which part of Australia someone is from based purely on accent. While there are differences in accent, with a few notable exceptions they are generally not regional. As it happens I did get the one Australian right by region (but it was partly a lucky guess). I got all but one from the British Isles right by region (but then I’ve been living in this part of the world for a few years) and had mixed results with the North Americans. The one Canadian obviously sounded Canadian to me but I couldn’t tell which part of Canada he was from. With the Americans I got some right and some wrong and those I got right was more by way of an educated guess based on a process of elimination given a choice of places and rather than immediately recognising the accent as belonging to a particular region.

    The thing I found a bit unfair about the non-native speakers was that you had to guess the speaker’s country and not just his/her native language. With languages spoken in only one country (eg Hungarian) it is easy to guess which country the person is from. But with languages spoken in several countries (eg German, Spanish) guessing the country was much harder. Maybe if I had a bit more than two lines to go on I would do better at distinguishing between an Argentinean, a Chilean and a Spaniard or between an Austrian, a German and a Swiss German speaking English. (Of course if I had heard them speaking Spanish or German respectively it would have been much easier to pick the country).

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