Shortly after moving to Dublin, Elizabeth and I were trying to find a group of people on Bull Island without much luck. Eventually Elizabeth, being the more outgoing of the two of us, went up to a couple of men who were working there and asked directions.
As she asked, she added, “clearly we are not from around here,” to which one of the guys replied, “Yeah. Are you from Cork?”
From their accents, Elizabeth could tell quickly that they were originally from Eastern Europe. It was quite funny to us that people could not tell the difference between an Irish accent and a NY accent.
Seventeen months later, that encounter makes a lot more sense.
Over the past few months I’ve noticed a couple of things about accents. I’ve checked with the rest of the family and they have had similar, though not identical experiences.
First off, unless it is a very strong Irish accent, I rarely think about the person speaking, but often about the fact that I sound different from everyone else.
Which is strange, considering that when I first met Elizabeth’s family, I could not understand anything her dad said (due to a heavy Irish accent), and had to have her sister Kathleen translate for me.
And now we are all now at a point where, when we meet Americans, we actually don’t notice that they have American accents.
Elizabeth mentioned she had been speaking with one woman for 2 months before she realized that the woman was American. The girls and I have had similar experiences of speaking to someone for a while and then having to stop and focus to try and hear the accent.
In fact, Brenna was talking with another kid at a Sunday church service and couldn’t tell for sure where they were from. She eventually asked, “Are you from here?” and he told here, “Dublin? No. I’m from Hawaii.”
We’d been told that there comes a point where the “new” accent becomes as normal to your ears as the old accent was, and no longer jumps out at you. It seems that we’ve reached that point in our transition.
The weirdest part is that the one time when the difference in accents stands out is when one of the girls (usually Brenna or Hannah) say something that has an inflection that makes it “sound” Irish. Not sure what’s going to happen when Méabh starts speaking with an Irish accent.