This is something I hear a lot as a Scot living in the USA. Usually followed swiftly by ‘My Uncle’s cousin’s step-father’s sister was from Edinborro so I have Scottish roots’. I’m exaggerating, slightly, for comic effect but it is often a pretty tenuous connection to Scotland! Also, for anyone reading this who is unsure… Edinburgh is pronounced, Edin-burr-a, not Edin-Burr-o…but I digress!
When I lived in Scotland, I really wasn’t aware of my accent unless I was travelling, but I have found it is a very important part of our identity. Although I sound Scottish, I was actually born in England and lived there until I was around four years old. My parents joke that one of the reasons they moved to Scotland was so that I wouldn’t have a Norfolk accent (I was born in Norwich). It worked – most people wouldn’t guess that I was born outside Scotland and I certainly feel Scottish. I would say I even feel more Scottish now than I did living there – see You Can Take The Girl Out Of Scotland…
This age – four – is the same age that my daughter was when we moved to the USA. We did wonder how this would affect her accent and boy did it! At first she said the odd word that sounded American, mostly ones that she was learning at school, but after a while she became an all-out American girl. I guess it makes sense because she was adapting to fit in with her friends at school and she was in school full-time when we arrived.
It started with learning the Star Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance. Obviously, these were both new to her and didn’t make a whole lot of sense to a four year old, so she learned them by rote and largely copied her, Pennsylvanian, teacher’s accent. She was also at a stage where she was learning the sounds letters make and how to sound out words, all of which she learned in an American accent because that was how she was being taught. Looking back, it was inevitable that her accent would change dramatically.
Her brother has only been in (pre)school part-time and his American accent is definitely not as obvious as hers. Now, he is at the stage of school that his sister was when we arrived so he has only just begun to learn the American sounds of letters and words. That said, friends back home tell us he sounds American already, so I think we are too used to him to hear the difference. To be fair, we don’t think he sounds Scottish either but perhaps somewhere mid-Atlantic…
It’s kind of strange when your child has a completely different accent to you. We talk to them all of the time about their Scottish roots and we regularly discuss home and the traditions that we have there. If you asked Big Wee Face, she would say she is Scottish, but she really doesn’t sound it. Unless she puts on a Scottish accent for comedy effect, which she has been known to do. The weird thing is that the accent she puts on, isn’t the accent she had before we moved to the USA. Our best guess is that it is an accent copied from the movie Brave. What a girl!
Obviously, we talk to our families back home a lot but aside from that, we don’t hear any Scottish accents in our everyday lives. I didn’t really know how comforting it is to hear accents like my own until I had to call our Letting Agents, in Glasgow, about our property we rent out in Scotland. During the call, I spoke to a receptionist and two different agents, all of which were Glaswegian, and it felt like the Scottish-ness was laid over me like a comforting blanket. I was smiling when I ended the call, even though I had been paying an invoice!
In a few months, we will be moving again. We don’t know where (yet) but it is most likely to be England so we are waiting with anticipation to see what effect that will have on the kids’ accents. I wonder whether they will have a mix of Scottish-American-English or whether they will be able to switch between accents like Lulu and John Barrowman – if you don’t know what I mean, google it!
Right now, Wee Face has lived in America longer than he lived in Scotland. It makes me a little sad that he doesn’t really remember living there but we will do our best to make sure he still feels Scottish. Even if we have to feed him haggis and shortbread at regular intervals to do it…
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