My accent is obviously not British or Australian!

Hi, my name is Samuel Marticotte.

I grew up in on the north-shore of Quebec, speaking French in an area where it is spoken by over 90% of the population. As I grew up, I picked up some English in school, in video games, on the internet, but only really learned it later when I started working in the navy in Halifax, N-S and Victoria, B-C. After a year of software engineering, I stopped my studies to go to Japan, where I became somewhat fluent in Japanese over the course of nine months; travelling, working in a restaurant and helping an elderly woman with her farm work. When I came back to university, I changed program for one in which I could study two modern languages. I decided to keep studying Japanese and chose Russian as a second language. On my second year, I did a nine-month exchange program in Russia where I had the occasion to improve my reading and listening abilities. Upon my return I was not perfectly fluent orally, but I could read novels and translate literature from French or English. Upon completion of my B.A and certificate in Russian Studies, I was chosen to participate in the JET program. I left for Japan and taught in an elementary school for two years. In Japan, I worked in Japanese, every week explaining to my coworkers lesson plans, and engaged with friends and the local community, sometimes in the local dialect (Kansai-ben), sometimes in standard “Tokyo” Japanese, a more polite variety of the language. When I returned to Canada, I moved to Montreal and started the M.A. in second language education I’m actually in. Being at McGill is an interesting experience, because it is my first long-term experience in an “English community” in Canada.

One of the sociolinguistics question I have always been fascinated by is: What is my accent? In French, in English, in Japanese? I don’t know where to start to answer this question. I often ask native speakers and the answer never satisfies me. For example, since I was exposed mainly to both Canadian and American English, which one is it closer to? It is obviously not British or Australian!? Is it only just “accented”? Am I using Canadian expressions? Same for French: when am I using a more local version of the language? Am I sometimes using different varieties of French? Is my French more like the standard “Quebec dialect” or closer to the dialect spoken in the northern region I grew up in? I find all those questions fascinating, I hope to find some new ways to answer these questions through this course!

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1 thought on “My accent is obviously not British or Australian!”

  1. Melissa Enns- Thank you for sharing your story! I have an interesting thought regarding your “what is my accent” question. I always find it interesting with babies, because I feel that the father’s friends and family tend to see more resemblance to the father in the child, while the mother’s circle may see more of her. It suddenly struck me that perhaps this happens in reverse with language. I met a fellow Saskatchewanite last week. She has been living in Montreal for six years, and I noticed that she has picked up a French accent in her English. However, I’m willing to bet that a native speaker of French would be less likely to notice a French accent in her English than an English accent in her French. I suspect that native speakers of a certain dialect are probably more attuned to differences from their dialect than similarities. All that is to say, I feel that there is no one answer to your question, but rather, it probably depends greatly on who you ask.

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