Did you know there are over 7,000 languages in the world? There are! Of all these, English is one of the most commonly used, with an estimated 1.5 billion speakers around the globe. Even so, the many English accents sometimes make it difficult for speakers to understand each other. But how influential are accents? Why is it important whether someone speaks in an American, Latino, or English accent? Here are some telling accent facts to make your day.
1. The Character “Shrek” Was Originally Designed to Have a Canadian Accent
Shrek is one of the lead characters from the American animated comedy film of the same name. The character originally had a thick Canadian accent done by renowned actor Mike Meyers. However, when the film was nearly done, Meyers thought the Scottish accent would better suit the character, so the whole thing had to be redone. Re-animation cost an extra $4 million.
2. Sign Language Also Has Varying Accents
Unbelievable as it may sound, sign language also has accents. Dialects vary depending on gestures, speed, movement, behaviors, and expressions. In the United States, Buffalo and Boston have strong regional accents; they differ from sign language versions from other states.
3. Accents Hinder Automatic Voice Recognition Technology
From Siri to Google Assistant to other voice recognition tools, technology is rapidly evolving. However, as is often the case, voice recognition technology faces various challenges, chief among them being people’s different accents. It’s common to have varying results when using voice assistants, mainly due to accents.
4. An American Teenager Edited a Good Chunk of Scottish Wikipedia Using a Made-Up Accent
For about seven years, an American teenager named AmaryllisGardener created or edited 49% of all the articles on the Scottish Wikipedia using a made-up accent. Interestingly, very few people noticed that something was amiss on the page. If anything, it took a Reddit user known as Ultach to point out the poor linguistic quality for people to finally notice.
5. Vladimir Lenin Spoke English with an Irish Accent
Vladimir Lenin was a Russian politician and the founding head of Soviet Russian government. Interestingly, he spoke English with a strong Irish accent because the teacher who taught him the language was from Ireland.
6. The Accent You Hear in Most Old American Movies Is Called the Transatlantic Accent
Sometimes referred to as the Mid-Atlantic accent, the transatlantic accent is a form of speaking in a dialect halfway between British and American accents. It was commonly used by the elites and was a common feature in many old American movies.
Even though it was popular in the 1930s and 1940s, it is by no means an indicator of how people used to speak at the time. If anything, the transatlantic accent was taught in boarding schools and actors.
7. It Is Possible To Suffer From a “Foreign Accent Syndrome”
Foreign accent syndrome is a rare speech disorder that hinders the patient’s ability to correctly make sounds. This often leads those listening to the patients to perceive them as speaking with a “foreign” accent, hence the name. In other instances, the patient might start speaking in an accent different from the original one. Sharon Campbell-Rayment, a woman from Canada who supposedly developed a Scottish accent after falling off the back of a horse, is a perfect case in point.
8. Children Are More Likely to Adopt Their Peers’ Accent than Their Parents’ Native Dialect
Research shows that children are more likely to adopt an accent closer to that of their peers than their parents’ native dialect. The study further indicates that a child (or anyone) can’t speak in an accent they have never been exposed to.
9. Accent Is Sometimes Used As a Measure of Trustworthiness
According to a study by the University of Chicago students, it is common for people to judge the trustworthiness of others depending on their accents (of course, among other things). From the researchers’ point of view, this is so because accents affect cognitive fluency. It is hard for humans to trust people they can’t comfortably understand when communicating.
10. Most British People Perceive the Birmingham Accent as the Least Intelligent
There are about 40 different accents in the UK, with Yorkshire, Geordie, Scouse, and Scottish among the most popular ones. According to research, accents can affect how intelligent people are thought to be. In Britain, people with the Birmingham (Brummie) accent are perceived as the least intelligent– scores lower than remaining silent. People with the Yorkshire accent are perceived to be the most intelligent.
11. Actor Gary Oldman Had to Visit a Speech Therapist to Regain His British Accent
Gary Oldman is a renowned English actor and filmmaker known for his versatility and intense acting style. He is famous for his roles in Slow Horses (2002), Darkest Hour (2017), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Fifth Element (1997). Interestingly, because of his versatility, Oldman once forgot how to talk in his original English accent; he had to seek a speech therapist’s help to regain it.
12. It Is Normal to Unintentionally Mimic another Person’s Accent
Study shows that it is normal for humans to unintentionally mimic other people’s accents when speaking. Psychologists believe people have an inbuilt urge to empathize and associate with people they are conversing with.
13. Craig Ferguson Once Did a Show Using an English Accent
Born in 1962, Craig Ferguson is a Scottish actor, comedian, and television host popular for hosting the CBS late-night talk show. At one point during the Drew Carey Show, the comedian played a Mr. Wick character with an exaggerated English accent. Ferguson later claimed he did so to make up for the generations of English actors doing crap Scottish accents.
14. Actor d*ck Van Dyke’s Cockney Accent in the Film Mary Poppins Is Bad Because Nobody On Set Told Him
If you have watched the 1964 film Mary Poppins, you will notice actor d*ck Van Dyke tried to communicate in a Cockney accent. However, his attempt is horrifically bad, something he blames his fellow actors for. Not a native English speaker himself, Van Dyke was unaware of his bad accent in the film, which is now more than half a century old. He apologized for what he called “the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema.”
15. Actor James Franco Tried Different Accents on the Customers He Served at MacDonald’s Before Fame
Before his success in filmmaking, actor James Franco worked at MacDonald’s. Here, he practiced different accents with customers, which has proven useful in his acting career. He is famous for his roles in Spider-Man (2002), The Interview (2014), and Why Him? (2017).
16. Chimpanzees and Goats Have Accents, Too
Accents are not unique to humans only; chimpanzees and goats have them, too. Scientists once observed that when chimpanzees from Netherlands were moved to mingle with others from Scotland, they had to switch their accents for better communication.