EXPAT LIFE: The first hint that my Australian accent might not be ‘easy’ to understand for Americans, came on our second day here. We were in a CVS chain pharmacy, and I was searching for a cheap mobile phone. As there was nothing I could see instore, I asked a shop assistant where I could buy one. She looked at me strangely then pointed out the door to a retailer three shops away, politely explaining that “this store sells rubber and other foam products”. My request for a ‘mobile phone’ somehow sounded like ‘rubber foam’ to her ears, which gave me great amusement but was still very surprising.
Since then, with many reminders, and prompted by a few puzzled looks from Americans, I have learnt to speak slower and try to enunciate my words. I have even started to use American terms for things an Australian would describe differently, to assist people in understanding my speech. Despite this, that tricky issue of pronunciation still seems to throw a spanner in the works at times. American pronunciation is quite different to Australian, and we in turn, even differ from Mother England. Regardless of how we got that way, it certainly helps US locals understand you better if you pronounce the words in a recognizable fashion, e.g. asking for ‘bayzil’ instead of basil. While Australians might cringe at this generally, I see it the same as learning a foreign language, where correct pronunciation helps be better understood.
So to get a grip on what people are saying in the U.S., here is a list of English words pronounced differently in America that you may need to say carefully to make yourself understood by your countrymen and women.
English Words Pronounced Differently in America (at least in North-eastern area)
|WORD||AMERICAN PRONUNCIATION||AUSTRALIAN PRONUNCIATION|
|New York City||nu-YORK-SIT-ee||NE-u YORK SIT-i|
|New Orleans||N’or-LEANS||NE-u OR-leans|
|Docile||DOSS-il or DOSS-ile||DOE-cile|
|Fertile||FERT-il or FERT-ile||FERT-tile|
|Vase||VAZE (rhymes with haze)||VARZE|
|New||NU (rhymes with MOO)||KNEE-u (said quickly)|
Of course, this list takes no US regional differences into account, and American pronunciations do in fact vary quite a lot for a particular words in certain regions, including Northeast/Boston, Midwest, Southern states or West Coast. Not only this, sometimes they just use different words for the same thing. Although it’s hard to come up with one ’American’ pronunciation for each word, this is a guide for the North-east where I currently live.
Understanding how all three countries (UK, USA and Australia) came to use language so differently, despite our historic ties, is a point of discussion for many. Since there needs to be a finite end to the length of my blog article, that will have to be a topic for another day!
What English words pronounced differently in America have you come across as an expat?