by Tricia Clarke
I’ve heard lots of parents say they don’t believe what comes out of their kid’s mouth, but sometimes I literally don’t. You see, my children have a completely different accent to me and every now and again I have to remind myself that they’re mine.
I’m British and I moved to America 7 years ago. My kids are 5 and 3 and are just starting to drive me crazy with the endless questions.
To their teachers and friends there’s not a remarkable difference about the way they speak but to me they are some of the most American-sounding children I’ve ever heard! I hear all the variances in pronunciation, the unique phrases and even slight drawl they are developing.
Before I had kids I remember being asked what I thought they would sound like. Of course, there was no way of telling. Would they pick up my intonation after hearing mainly my voice 24 hours a day or would they start speaking in a completely different way, as if they’d been adopted?
It’s definitely a conversation-starter, especially when we’re in a grocery store or restaurant. Some people find it fascinating and some even do a double-take. I wonder sometimes if people think I’m a babysitter who’s been employed to discipline them Supernanny-style!
The most humorous part for me is my kids have now started incorporating British expressions into their speech, like asking their pre-school teacher to use the “˜toilet’ instead of the “˜potty’ and complaining to their Grandmother about “˜hay fever’ instead of “˜allergies.’ When my son recently complained to an American friend of mine that his brother had thrown his “˜trousers in the bin’ she looked at me with a confused expression, almost begging for a translation.
If I’m honest I like the idea that my kids’ vernacular will become a fusion of American and British-English (especially when I start shipping them off to London for the summer) even if their mother tongue is different to their mother’s.
Tricia Clarke is freelance print and broadcast journalist and creator of the websiteBritsAcrossThePond.com, a site that celebrates the British experience in America.