For those Americans who know a foreign language like French, being able to speak with the accent of a Frenchman is probably a crowning glory. To sound more French than you do American. As an American visiting Paris, to speak French with a Parisian accent would likely raise a less arrogant eyebrow and invite a more moderate response than might be normally expected from a Frenchman. When I am in Mexico, I try to conform my Spanish to the local accent. I can clumsily mimic an Argentine accent with the “shha shha” sounds. Or the faster clip of a Puerto Rican accent. I try not to “speak American” (Bway-nohss deee-ahss seen-yor).
A few years ago, I had an acquaintance criticize me when I spoke English with an Indian accent (some of you know I speak some Urdu – the language of Pakistan). She felt it was “politically incorrect” to mimic another language accent (though she speaks nothing but English).
That said, it crossed my mind that when one visits London, Scotland or Ireland, why don’t Americans adopt a British accent in London (“howw dooo yoooo dooooo?”) or an Irish lilt in Ireland or a Scottish brogue in Scotland? It would seem natural for a linguist to try and “fit in” in just as with German, French or Spanish. But it also seems a little quirky that an American would “put on” an Irish or English accent and adopt the jargon (“That tosser’s a bit wonky. Probably a scouser“). As you might imagine, I’ve tried it. While in a taxi — with Donna. We were chummy with the cabbie. So I asked him if I could try talking with an English accent — and have his opinion. “Bee’s knees, Governor” he said. Well, I put on my best Prince Charles accent, yabbered on for a minute or so and then asked the driver what he thought. “You sound like a bloody snoot.” Maybe it was the Prince Charles impersonation . . . . .