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Old 04 January 2014, 05:44 AM
MisterGrey MisterGrey is offline
Join Date: 26 September 2002
Location: USA
Posts: 4,992
Default Can you regain a lost accent?

I've realized that, over the past four years or so, I've lost what was once my very pronounced St. Louis accent and now speak in a Midwest Standard. I have no idea what caused it to suddenly disappear; I haven't even been to St. Louis for 18 years, but it stayed with me through nearly a decade exposed to strong rural Oklahoma accents and for several years in Texas. I'd like to get it back; it was something that I felt was a part of me, and it saddens me to have lost it. Additionally, I think that my constantly being mistaken for a woman on the phone has to do with a softening of my voice that's come with it "standardizing;" I'm told that my voice had a much sharper pitch before. Since my voice is the one thing about myself I don't like that I can't change (since I'm consistently told over the phone that it's feminine), I think that getting my old accent back would also make me feel somewhat better about myself.

So I'm wondering, is there any sort of conventional "re-accenting" that I could do to try and reattain my old voice? I'd thought that if I could maybe find old recordings of my voice, I could listen to myself talk, but the only ones I know of in existence are family movies from when I was a kid, and it doesn't seem like listening to my six year old self speak would help me in sounding the way I did when I was 19. Does anyone have any ideas?
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Old 04 January 2014, 08:59 AM
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Skeptic Skeptic is offline
Join Date: 16 July 2005
Location: Logan, Queensland, Australia
Posts: 1,800

My residences were as follows for the ages listed.
0 - 18. Australia
18 - 25 Ireland.
25 - 30 Australia.
35 - 46 Ireland.
46 - 53 Australia.

Despite living for so long in Ireland, I never lost my Australian accent although it mellowed a bit. If I moved from Ireland back to Australia my family and friends would say I sounded Irish, but my Australian accent would get stronger within weeks. But going back to Ireland, my Australian accent would take much longer to wear off. I guess it never really goes away.

I'm back many years now, so it's true Aussie. Just occasionally I use words or idiom and then realise that people don't understand what I said.
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Old 04 January 2014, 01:02 PM
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mags mags is offline
Join Date: 23 February 2006
Location: Springboro, OH
Posts: 5,104

As I doubt your accent was changed by listening to yourself speak, I wouldn't think you need to listen to yourself. More clearly, listening to people with your old accent should be enough. Find stuff on YouTube of people from St. Louis speaking. Visit, if you can. It may trigger your accent coming back.

I tend to somewhat take on the accent of people I listen to, it helps me to understand them through the accent.
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Old 04 January 2014, 02:02 PM
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Lainie Lainie is offline
Join Date: 29 August 2005
Location: Suburban Columbus, OH
Posts: 74,530

I second mags thought. Also, re: being told you sound feminine, it is possible to lower the pitch of your voice, if that's the issue. I did it, not to sound masculine but to sound more mature. I don't know if I can describe how I did it, though.
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Old 04 January 2014, 03:32 PM
Magdalene Magdalene is offline
Join Date: 30 October 2001
Location: Colorado
Posts: 5,693

As another native St. Louisan, I take it the accent you're attempting to regain would have you talking like this?

Befar we go to the stahr, wouldja warsh dem farks overdare in d'zink? And doya think dis melk is sahr? Far Pete's sake, it's only been in the ice box 'bout fahr days. Guess I'll write melk, flahr, and park steaks on the groshry list. Hey... on ahr way to the stahr, we could drive through Farest Park and lookit the golf carse!
Cuz I'm told this is the 'traditional' St. Louis accent....and despite my mom's family having been in the area since the late 1700s/early 1800s and my dad's family having been there since immediately after the Civil War.....a lot of this never applied to myself or anybody I ever knew. Some did--several people note I say "Wouldja, zink, doya, groshry." But the mythical "Farty-far" for "Forty-four" that supposedly all St. Louisans say isn't something I've ever said, nor have I ever heard it.

(My mom grew up in Belleville and my dad grew up in North St. Louis. I grew up in NoCo. To be fair, my mom's family had a habit of adding a direct-from-England immigrant to the family tree every generation ending with my grandma's, so I don't know if that would affect their speech pattern. But my dad's Irish Catholic family in the city never spoke like the above quote either.)

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Old 04 January 2014, 04:00 PM
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Beachlife! Beachlife! is offline
Join Date: 23 June 2001
Location: Lansing, MI
Posts: 28,622

I think you can regain at least part of your accent by concentrating on how you say some words and making sure you always say them in the accented way. It takes time, but it will stick if you want it to. To my ear, most pronounced American accents aren't flattering to the speaker.
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Old 04 January 2014, 04:46 PM
Aud 1 Aud 1 is offline
Join Date: 05 October 2005
Location: Missouri
Posts: 7,162

I agree with Magdalene that the stereotypical St Louis accent is a bit of a myth or at least now so dispersed that you only get the occasional word. What I have noticed that there is an element in St Louis that sounds a bit more posh than the surrounding areas. I was asked a few times when I was younger if I was from the east coast. With the loss of so many big corporate jobs and the university associated professionals becoming more insular that upper crust sound has wained. I think my accent has become more rural or midwestern standard and I've lived here the whole time. So I wonder if your frustration with your voice has more to do with perceived class and gender rather than location.

That said there's noting like a couple pints and a heated discussion to make one's original accent reappear.
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Old 05 January 2014, 02:06 AM
MisterGrey MisterGrey is offline
Join Date: 26 September 2002
Location: USA
Posts: 4,992

Originally Posted by Magdalene View Post
As another native St. Louisan, I take it the accent you're attempting to regain would have you talking like this?

More or less. Most of my "o"s became "a"s, or had "w"s attached... "Cops" became "caps" but coffee is "cawfee" (it's one of the few words that I'm told still retains my old accent). Similar to you, I never heard the mythic "farty-far" that's supposedly one of the cornerstones of the accent, nor "warsh" for "wash."

A problem for me is that I had a very strange relationship to recognizing my accent... I didn't even realize I had one until after moving to Oklahoma, when numerous classmates misunderstood me when I spoke and teachers told the class that it was because I had an accent (the "cap" for "cop" example comes to mind). Then it took me years to hear it for myself- it wasn't until I was 18 and had recorded an audio message to send to someone, and played it back to myself, that I was able to hear it for the first time. Then it wasn't until late last year that several people told me I'd lost my accent; asking a few of them when that'd happened, they ballparked it over the past four years or so, saying they noticed it around the time I took a trip back to Oklahoma. Since it always came so naturally to me, I'm afraid that it'll sound artificial and affected when/if I try to intentionally pronounce words the way I used to.
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Old 05 January 2014, 08:11 AM
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marrya marrya is offline
Join Date: 11 January 2003
Location: Nelson, New Zealand
Posts: 10,300

Maybe for the first few times, but then it will become something that you just do, and people will go back to thinking the new way is the way you always talked.
If someone comments, you can admit to it [and why not, it's a mannerism, a quirk, sure, but IIRC you're not a guy who steps out of his way to be mainstream in the first place!] or handwave it away with the truth 'Yeah, I've been watching a whole lot of videos from home, and it's kind of stuck' without the motive ...'because I wanted it to '

As regards lowering your voice, it can be learned. My ceremony and/or telephone voice is significantly deeper and stronger than my regular blethering. Mucking about with it now, I'm not sure whether posture is the cause or the effect, but, I'll try and explain...

For me, it starts with a decent amount of air in the lungs, not overfull, but still generous.
My chin tucks in, just a little bit - my whole head goes back vertically, just a few millimetres, and if there was a string at the top-back of my head, it would be pulled tight to the ceiling. This all happens on my inbreath, without me thinking about it anymore. It's a very subtle kind of 'looking over the top of my granny glasses' kind of movement.
And then I speak, using that lungful of air, slightly louder, slightly slower, and, yes, lower than before - not an octave lower, just a couple of hertz down from normal speaking pitch. If you can crank it down just a smidgen, and make that your new normal, after a while you can crank it down another smidgen, and so on.
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