Sometimes living life in a big family does feel like a three-ring circus, but that's my life, and, all-in-all, I LOVE IT!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Comfort In Blogging/And Yearning For Another Voice

You'd never know it from the way I jabber on and on, talking a mile a minute, but I'm really not at all comfortable with my speaking voice. I have a heavy New York accent, and that coupled with the fact that I have an uncontrollable vocal tic at times really makes me self-conscious.  I feel so comfortable blogging because when blogging/writing, the voice inside my head is not so deep, not so loud, and it definitely does not have a heavy New York accent. There is something so reassuring knowing that the blog world cannot hear me.

I've been reading lots of articles online about professional speech teachers and coaches, and I've been reading about the many people who have used their help in ridding themselves of accents. And I've found a lot of tips for my particular problem, such as focusing on pronouncing r's (instead of saying the word matter as 'matta' I have to make sure to pronounce it as 'maht-ur'). I have to remind myself that all "r" sounds are pronounced as "ur" or "er".
And I have to remember NOT to add a "w" or "u" sound to everything (I say the word 'off' like "awf", when I really should be be adding an "h" sound like the rest of America does, such as "ohf"). My pronunciations are more like the movie "My Cousin Vinny" (saying things like 'yutes' instead of 'youths'),  I sound like the character Mona (played by Marisa Tomei) and I think it's true that certain not-so-nice assumptions are sometimes made about you when you speak like the characters from "My Cousin Vinny".

So I have a goal, and that goal is to be able to speak "standard American English" so that I can sound like I am from anywhere, and not just from Queens, New York.
There is a college speech instructor I read about who says that the Brooklyn/Queens accent is really a mixture of at least twenty-eight dialects spoken here over the last two centuries, such as Irish, Italians, Germans, Africans, and Eastern Europeans speaking Russian, Polish, and Yiddish, and each immigrant group shaped the accent in different ways. And the result is a native tongue full of dropped g's (such as readin' and writin'), dropped r's (such as mutha and fatha), mangled th's (tanks a lot), muffled t's (a boddle a milk), and many other unique inflections. This professor also says that many New Yorkers speak too fast and condense many words into as few as possible (D'ju eat? No, d'ju?) She also says that professionally and socially, people who speak in this way are unfortunately looked down upon as inferior.

I've also been reading that there are certain phrases that peg me as a 'New Yorker' such as saying "I was waiting ON line" instead of saying "I was waiting IN line", or saying 'sneakers' instead of 'tennis shoes', or calling a big sandwich a 'hero' instead of a 'sub'.

I asked my daughter-in-law Lori to help (she's a speech therapist) but she said that accent reduction is a specialty, so I'm going to try and wing it on my own.  I've read that it takes lots of discipline and lots of practice.  I'm going to go over my consonant and vowel sounds daily, I'm going to practice words and phrases each day, and I'm going to try to remember to take a breath before I speak, I'm going to try and speak more slowly, and I'm going to try to enunciate each word properly (seriously, this is like learning to talk all over again!  Or like learning a new language!  But I read a tip that said if I can train myself to pronounce at least a few of the key words in a sentence correctly that will be enough) .   Wish me luck!


  1. Hi there - I say sneakers too and I love some of our family-ethnic slangs and sayings. I do understand your desires though. I personally love the Cousin Vinny language and style - and yes it does assume a certain type - that's why I love it!! I guess I am mixed on this one - but only for myself - I respect your wishes and wants and all the reasons why 100%. So "you talkin' to me?" !! :-) heehee

    Love to you always

  2. Hi Eileen,
    Good luck on your language classes. It's always hard to learn something knew but I like these kinds of challenges. Personally I like the accent that people have from the east. My aunt lived in New York and I would love to listen to hear speak. Me, I hate my voice. I sound like a little girl or cartoon character. On star refuses to recognize my voice at all. I get frustrated when I'm trying to be serious and people just smile because of my voice. Maybe I should take some of those lessons too. I hope you have a good week.
    Take care my friend!
    Love, Carol

  3. I am wondering "why" ? If you've listened to any of the videos that I've posted on my blog, you can probably (without QUESTION) tell that I'm from South Jawja... :))
    I love the different dialects and accents. I truly do, Eileen.
    If I get a vote, I would vote that you spend less time in speech lessons/classes. I haven't heard your voice, but I know without a doubt that I would love, love, love it because I love the one who is speaking: you. There. That's my 10 cents' worth. (A dime doesn't buy much anymore, does it? ) :))
    Love you,

  4. I just read through about 6 of your last posts! A lot has been going on with your circus! It was wonderful to catch up. Now I have to get my fanny in gear and catch up as well! I am still here, reading others posts, and telling myself that I need to post something, anything, just a little blurb that I am alive. Because I do know that I have so many blogger friends and I am not being fair to them by not posting.....Eileen, you are so sweet. I would love to sit with you and listen to your acent. When you posted about it and word pronunciation it made me smile...I think I am the same way with words, just get a little lazy, good thing I don't type what I actually speak! You are a package, I think what Jackie said pretty much sums it up for me too!

  5. I guess we all have to do what we strive for, but I don't know why you would ever want to lose your beautiful accent. I would love to talk like that! Besides, that, it's your heritage, it's family history. But I will love you no matter what you decide to do. :)