Sep
08
Why the Aussie accent is so hard | Did You Know?


Aussies have a pretty distinct accent. And it’s one that Hollywood finds hard to
imitate. Imitate *well*, that is. But every now and then, we get something like this. Here’s Liev Schreiber’s own accent, for
comparison. Not that you did, Liev. So what makes the Aussie accent so hard to do properly? It is really challenging because it’s
similar to a lot of different accents, it has components of a lot of different accents and I think that’s where people get derailed. Leith McPherson is a dialect coach, and the Head of Voice at the Victorian College of the Arts. I always find it quite pleasing when I
listen to accent tapes where one person is demonstrating 17 different accents, and
you go wow, impressive, and they get to the Australian and you go, nah. To understand the intricacies of the Aussie accent, we have to look at how it was born. The Australian accent started more than 200 years ago in January 1788, when the first European settlement landed. Aboriginal Australians were already here at the time, of course, but English was a foreign language to them. The first colonies of Australia mainly came from south-eastern England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It was the children of these colonists who
would’ve created the Australian accent. These children had their parents’ accents,
but also would’ve been influenced by the other children around them. By the 1830s, these different sounds caused a new and distinct accent to emerge. Even as late as the mid-1900s, you can still hear that British influence. But overtime, those traits decreased as people embraced the Australian identity. Sorry, Mr Keating. Anyway, this constant change has evolved the accent into what we know today as Australian English. So why is it so hard for others to get right? I think it’s because of that familiarity,
so your brain will always, is always looking for patterns. It’s always looking for things that it already knows. Take for example, Robert Kazinsky: he’s a British actor playing an Australian character in Pacific Rim. And it ends up sort of sounding like
a weird kind of Cockney sort of thing that people are doing, and you think ‘ah, that’s
what your brain is hearing’, your brain is hearing that pattern and then grouping it
all together. Compared to something like this. Now, before you get all defensive in the comments, no, there is no “one” Australian accent. There are three general groupings of the accent: cultivated, broad, and general. But nowadays those definitions aren’t really adequate, as we’ve shifted towards a more general accent. A better way to group the accent would be Standard Australian, Aboriginal English, and Ethnocultural Australian English. That last one reflects the fact that everyone has an idiolect — your own accent is shaped by the history of where you’ve lived and
who you’ve grown up with, so we all sound a bit different from each other. But there are plenty of common traits. Maybe because he’s a New Zealander, but
that’s not quite right. The back of the mouth, at least, should be
really open. So you can feel like you’re almost sitting
on the edge of your seat looking down a little bit, like you’re feeling like you’re looking
over the edge of something, and that’s going to lift your tongue up at the back and give
you that warm kind of bright quality that really distinguishes this accent. You don’t hear a lot of Australians sort
of talking like that, you don’t hear that kind of dull, what we call a denasal sound,
Australians are much more likely to have a level of nasality. So when people are actually making a statement, but they’re actually going up in tune, as they’re talking to you. And you may notice that quite a lot, but again it doesn’t happen everywhere, it’s not a distinguishing characteristic but it is
a trait which American speakers for example would have to learn. And finally, ahh what was the last one again? The hesitation sound, which is a really
good way of figuring out how someone’s mouth works in a different accent or language. Ahh, that’s it. So to know that that’s where the Australian tongue rests is hugely helpful for like if, um, like for Scots if I’m doing like a Scottish accent, um, like that’s their hesitation sound which is really high
and forward, takes a lot of effort for us but that’s where their tongue rests, so
for them to just drop back to ahh gives you a sense of the whole landscape that you’re working with. And there are plenty of other common traits, like our lack of enunciation and our sing-songy flow. But who knows — with technology connecting us to other cultures and ways of speaking, maybe in 100 years we’ll sound totally different. It’s interesting to see that maybe we might have more of an American influence coming in and less of a British influence. But where that takes us, oooh I don’t know. What an exciting journey. Hi there, thanks for watching! Before this video ends, it’s important to
quickly mention that learning any accent is a difficult task — and sometimes actors
aren’t given enough time to learn an accent during a busy production period. So while they might’ve been able to do the accent off set, they weren’t able to do it on set. Maybe. Or maybe they were really just bad.