According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association, “An accent is the unique way that speech is pronounced by a group of people speaking the same language.” The United States is a country of great diversity and each of us speaks with an accent whether English is our first language or not. An individual’s accent represents the nuisances in how they speak the same language and there are a variety of different accents within each language. Some accents have very subtle differences and other accents have extreme differences that can influence the language, and make understanding the speaker difficult. An individual’s accent is based on many factors and influences, however, it is generally accepted that accents are divided into separate categories, regional accents and foreign accents.
Even though English is the official language of the United States, regional accents are readily identifiable as you look at various regions of the country. Most of the regional accents have very subtle, yet distinguishable characteristics and can be compared and contrasted to other regions of the state or country. My own life experience bears out the differences within state of New Jersey that demonstrate subtle and distinct regional accent differences between the northern and southern parts of the state. As a lifelong resident of southern New Jersey, I’ve been accustomed to hearing references made about the” New Jersey” accent on TV comedy shows or the popular reality TV show, The Jersey Shore, which underscores this point. Even though I’ve lived my whole life in New Jersey, my “accent” or speech isn’t reflective of the stereotypically “North Jersey” accent, because I grew up in the southern part of the state. Even in a state as small as New Jersey there are noticeable regional accents between the north and south. Numerous examples of regional accents exist within the United States, such as the southern accent, Texan accent, mid-western, etc., however, all may speak English as their first language.
On the other hand, foreign accents may produce a much more noticeable communication barrier when compared to regional accents, because English is not the first language. The native language may infuse the accent with pronunciation that sounds differently because of the tone or emphasis or stress placed on certain vowels or consonants that are unfamiliar to the listener. In becoming better acquainted with the various types of accents, I’ve listened to a wide array of both regional and foreign accents on YouTube to prepare for this paper. This has been fascinating and I’ve drawn the conclusion that every accent is unique in some way. It appears that certain identifiable accents carry with them certain stereotypes and bias that need to be understood and explored to gain greater understanding of how an individual’s accent impacts them.
When I first started watching videos and listening to the different accents that were put up by various different...