Sep 022009

(asked by Jeanine G. from Oklahoma)

Most Americans love other accents (including me) so I was wondering what French people think of American accents. I know there are many type of American accents, although they actually sound very much alike to me. I am from Oklahoma but I am told I have a Valley Girl accent. So more specifically, what do the French think of Southern and Valley Girl accents?

If I understand right, you want to know if people in France will make fun of your accent or not?
You can stop stressing now; most French people can’t distinguish between the various American accents. Can you distinguish between the various French accents (or German or Italian or else)?

To answer with more details, when they hear a foreigner speak their own language, most French people are able to distinguish between English and another language, at least in areas that are heavily in contact with foreign (and English speaking) tourists. In other parts of France, some people won’t know whether you speak English or Dutch or German or whatnot. It’ll really depend on the people and the regions.

Now, if you narrow down to French people that can speak English, most of them will be able to differentiate an American from a British accent (and an Australian one if you’re lucky), but that’ll be pretty much it.

To find French people that can distinguish between various American accents, you’ll need to find French people who have lived for an extended period of time in the US, and even I am unable to recognize many American accents.
And seriously, when dealing with such people, they won’t judge you because of your (regional) accent.

Finally, as you mention the Valley Girl accent, if you have such an accent or anything that’s more or less similar and sounds bratty, or annoying or anything else along those lines, whether people can recognize where your accent’s from will be the least of your worries (it won’t even matter whether they understand English or not), you’ll be perceived as an annoying stupid brat, so you’d better start working on your elocution now.

More Questions Answered:

  7 Responses to “What do the French think about American accents?”

  1. No French person is going to be able to distinguish that you have a hick/provincial accent, or one that's associated with stupidity (if that's the association of Oklahoma and Valley Girl accents, I'm not sure..?) However, what will make you stand out as the annoying variety of American tourist in France (if that is potentially what is bothering you) is the VOLUME - tone it down, and you'll be fine.

  2. Oh, OK, I had the wrong idea of a Valley Girl accent - it's that accent where your voice goes up at the end of whatever you're saying, even if it's not a question, and you say 'like' and 'totally' all the time. 'I was, like, totally, in the bathroom?'

    Jeanine, my apologies. You will be laughed out of France if this is what you sound like. Work hard on your French before you visit!

    And can I ask - if the Valley Girl is not a regional accent that you picked up from people round you, does this mean, you went out and actively tried to sound like this?

  3. There are many a teenage girl where I live that speak with the "like, totally" accent.They are trying to talk SO fast and are so annoyingly excited (and loud) about everything, that when conversation should call for a pause, they fill the "dead space" with 'like'. It's almost like a nervous tic with some people!

    I know this girl who is going to France at the end of the month for 'mission work' (insert question mark above my head) and she is the worst person I've ever met with this like-totally problem.

  4. I've even heard the "like totally" accent from Canadians, even Quebecois ones. They're not going to recognize where you're from by it.

  5. Sure Rob, French people can't tell different North Americans accents apart, but my point is that if you speak with a Valley Girl accent, you are gonna be made fun of wherever you're from.
    French people have nothing against San Fernando valley

  6. Hello jeanine,

    Well, it's true it's hard to distinguish different american accents. I've heard people from texas somedays ago, and it sounded a bit funny, but, whatever the place, american accent is just TOO LOVELY…

    I think most of people here in france are found of it.

    bye !

  7. The perceptions that go along with regional accents will not carry abroad. This is going to be true for anyone traveling abroad, not just Americans.

    I don't know what the French think of Southern and Valley Girl accents, but I can tell you that many Americans will automatically categorize you as stupid if you use either of them. This may be unfair, but most educated Americans do not speak with heavy regional accents. You'd do well to lose the accent. Whichever one you have.

    I find the concept of the Southern Valley Girl "accent" rather amusing. Clearly, the Valley Girl "accent" is really just an affectation. Especially for someone who is not from anywhere near the Valley. A tired, annoying affectation at that. Even people from the Valley do not speak in such a way. Why anyone would strive for that accent is puzzling. The traits associated with it (vanity, shallowness, promiscuity, stupidity) are not nice.

 Leave a Reply



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.