Today was a day off from the office life in order to do another service project, and someone on my team had an observation to share with me. He walked over to me, as we were picking weeds at an organic farm in the area, and stated, “I’ve realized something about you.” I was a little bit taken aback by his direct statement. I tend to see myself as someone who stays in the background, who isn’t available to have conclusions drawn about me, much less stated to my face. He continued, unveiling his simple revelation. “You talk with a California accent.” I looked at him, confused. “A California accent?”, I asked, “what do you mean by that?” he tried to explain that the vowels are pronounced in a particular manner, and that I had one of the most pronounced California accents he had ever heard.
I find this statement somewhat humorous, because about six weeks ago, one of my friend’s parents had asked, “Do I detect an accent in your voice?” I had given him a confused look as well. I hurriedly denied the inquisitive accusation he extended. I’ve had people comment on my voice before. The most frequent comment is that I speak softly. Some people have said that my voice is soothing and calming, and one of my favorite comments was from a friend last year who said, “I could sit and listen to you read aloud all day.” When most people think of English, I think images of grammar and essays come to their mind quickly, as does whatever favorite/least favorite book they studied in high school or college. In reality, speaking and listening are just as much a part of English as formal reading and writing. Voice, with all of its intonations and overtones, is important to me, and in some sense, the way I sound to others is as important as the way I look to others.
After the comment from my team member, I wanted to know–what does someone from California sound like? He recommended a video for me to watch, with an actress who says a sentence in 21 accents, all under 3 minutes. I watched it, and felt like the California accent reminded me most strongly of Emma Stone’s character in Easy A. I am familiar with the idea that California (Los Angeles, to be more specific) plays a role in the standardization of pronunciation for Standard American English, but this video, and the comment that precipitated it, led me to look at the world’s finest source for more information. It’s all rather interesting to me, but I also tend to think that lots of things are interesting that others do not. Check it out, and see what you think.