Bookish Musings: Do You Use Accents in Your Head while Reading?

 
 

This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing for a while because I’ve never come across any other discussions about it (though I’m sure they do exist somewhere), and I am genuinely curious to know what other people do when they come across characters with foreign accents in their books.

Now I do realize that there are different accents in different regions of countries, but to keep this post simple, I’m referring to the ones that seem to be the commonly referred to… let’s call them “staple” accents. For example, in the US you can find a southern accent and a Boston accent, but those aren’t the ones you immediately think of, right? Or if you do happen to think of very regional-specific accents, that’s fine too. This really isn’t a strict discussion.

So I don’t mean to offend anyone (though I probably will because this is the internet)—this post is just about having a little fun, discussing how we handle accents in books, and finding out which ones you all are good (and terrible) at ;-)

 

 

Accents I’m Good At Doing in My Head

 

Just for the record, I’m using a very loose definition of “good.” It’s really more like mediocre, but, you know, relatively speaking, these are the best ones I’ve got. And I’m excluding American from my list since that’s my accent. (And just for the record, I’m pretty awful at all these if I try to do them out loud.)

Scottish

I spent my teenage years watching “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and love Scottish accents, so it turns out I’m pretty good at this one!

Irish

I don’t even know why this is one of my best ones. I’ve literally watched one movie that I can recall in my whole life in which the people had Irish accents (Disco Pigs), but apparently that was enough for my brain to make do with. The fact that it was Cillian Murphy speaking must’ve somehow helped to embed it into my brain.

British

I hate to say it, but my British probably just sounds like Americans trying to do British accents. That at least kind of counts though, right?

Accents That Are Hit-or-Miss in My Head

 

Hispanic/Latin American

I don’t know about this one? I would think this would be the easiest one for me (I grew up around Hispanic accents, so my “American” might be vaguely Hispanic already), but I guess I’ve never really gotten to test that theory. (Yes, I’m aware that Latin America actually consists of a whole bunch of different countries, each with their own accents.)

French

I’ve very rarely heard French accents in life or in movies/TV shows, so it’s just one I’m not that familiar with. I can kind of do it in my head, but it’s a really weak accent. I actually read two books in one series in which the characters occasionally said things in French, and that helped me keep the accent going better because it was easier for me to do the accent when the words were actually in the right language, and that would refresh the accent and carry over into the English.

Accents I’m Bad At Doing in My Head

 

Regional American Accents

I know I said I wasn’t including America, but now I’m referring to all those accents that are inherent to specific areas, like the South, New York, Boston, etc. And yeah, I can’t do any of those.

Everything Else

If I haven’t mentioned it yet, then I pretty much can’t do it at all and don’t even try. Either I’ve never heard it at all, or I haven’t heard it enough, or I have heard it enough but just plain suck at it.

To Answer the Question… Do I Use Accents in My Head while Reading?

 

It depends—on my mood, the book, the accent, how time pressured I am to read the book, and whatever I feel like doing at the moment.

I have an advantage since most of the books I read are set in America, which means I can read in my own accent for most books. When I do come across other accents, oftentimes I do try to do them in my head if they’re ones I’m comfortable enough with. I think it’s part of the fun! I like immersing myself in books and don’t worry about reading super fast. I feel like it makes the book feel more authentic and realistic. If a character has an accent, I feel like it’s part of him, and I don’t want to erase that part if I can help it. I might even read the whole book in an accent if it’s in 1st person POV and the POV character has an accent that I can do fairly easily. (I read an entire book with an Irish accent recently, and I swear my own thoughts started being in an Irish accent by the time I finished, haha.)

But the downside to using accents when you read is that it takes more effort. Which means it might take longer to read the book or make it less fun. And as I said, some accents I just absolutely cannot do or don’t know how they sound. Or sometimes my brain just sinks into the story and drops the accents once I stop thinking about it. And in those cases, I don’t force it because at the end of the day reading is just supposed to be enjoyable :-)

P.S. I got distracted by a lot of YouTube videos about accents while writing this, so here’s a funny one for you to enjoy! Some of these people are great, but two of them are just so bad it’s hilarious.

 
 

Talk to me!

Do you use accents in your head while reading?
Which accents are you best and worst at?
What accent do YOU have (if you don't mind me asking)?

 
 
 
 
 

Let's Be Friends

 
 

Your Thoughts

 

57 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: Do You Use Accents in Your Head while Reading?

I'd love if you'd share your thoughts, too!

 

Reading your comments makes me a very happy blogger!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 
  1. roro

    I try my best with accents. I believe that i’m spot on with the Dutch Nederlands accent, the Irish and British accent in my head. I’m dutch speaking but not my dialect is Surinamese Dutch . A mormon guy speaking our dialect of Dutch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8sEC4qbf0M . It’s in dutch btw . Totally derailing this discussion. Man, he’s so cute lol Here is he talking about our food https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4E0kdP3zxk I keep going back to watch the 6 videos from time to time.

    Okay back to the discussion. Uk media and US .media was evenly divided in Suriname. I can that’s the reason I have a good to decent accent in my head.

    I’m horrible with a french accent, Chinese and Indian accent. It’s very stereotypical. A way I try to remedy this is by listening to native speakers on YouTube and other websites . Yes it does take extra to finish the book but it’s cool to do it.

    Ps. Why are a lot mormon guys so fucking cute to hot. Suriname has lots of them doing missions

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yay, someone else who also tries to do the accents! Derailing a discussion to talk about hot guys is derailing it for a good cause ;-) Lol. But I really am not familiar with Dutch accents, so I couldn’t even do one in my head. Thanks for the videos!

      I wouldn’t even attempt Chinese or Indian because I know I haven’t heard them enough to do them. I’ve tried looking on YouTube sometimes to get a better idea of accents in my head, but it’s like I can never actually find any videos of people with that accent just talking :-/

      Haha I didn’t know they were? I don’t come across a lot of mormons.

  2. Lampshade Reader

    I thought I was the only one that did this! LOL Yes, I totally do accents in my head when I’m reading.

    I can’t claim to be good at any other accent but my own mid-western accent (I’m originally from MI) but I do love doing a fake British and Scottish accent (Not verra well). :D

    Also, I’m pretty good at a Texan accent, since I live here now. ~Aleen

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha, I had no clue if other people did this or not, but it’s nice to see I’m not alone!

      Lol well at least you try, right? It’s not like mine are perfect either!

      See, I don’t even know what Texan accents sound like. I have like a vague idea of what the stereotypical Southern accent sounds like that, and seriously that’s all I got in terms of regional US accents lol.

  3. Kate @ Opinionated Book Lover

    Definitely, no. I can’t really do any accents, so I don’t even attempt them in my head. In fact, if the language is written with seriously accented speak, i.e. Scottish, then I essentially translate it to regular English in my head while I read. I don’t really have much of an accent except for maybe the long Buffalo, NY “A” sound.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol there are plenty that I don’t even attempt, so I totally understand. I don’t like when the language is written with accents, so that always just throws me off and comes out all wrong anyway.

  4. Jessica

    I don’t do accents in my head. But if I did, I could do southern really good because I’m from the south. (North Carolina)
    And I might could do northern accent because my fiance is from the north (New Jersey) But he has a southern type of accent. I have been up there many times to know what a Yankee accent sounds like.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I can’t do either of those accents lol, so those are two I don’t even try. The only thing I can say/think with a New Jersey accent is the word “New Jersey.”

  5. Rowena

    LOL, I don’t do this at all because I’m terrible at accents. I can’t even hear the accents in my head unless the person with the accent is talking directly to me or I’m listening to it on TV. It’s like my brain automatically translates everything to the way that I talk.

    I’m from Southern California and I’ve heard from many people that I talk really fast. I’ve also been told that I have an accent but hell if I know what kind of accent I have.

    1. Kristen Burns

      If I let it, then my brain just naturally translates everything into my accent too, but I still find it fun to try the accents even though it takes a bit extra focus.

      I feel like *everyone* has an accent, but no one ever considers their own way of speaking to be an accent lol. We’re just so used to the way we ourselves talk! That’s why I’m not even sure if my accent is standard American or if it has any Hispanic influence or what.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! And I love knowing there are other people who use accents too! Except funny you mention HP because I just realized I didn’t do it with those. But then I re-read those years ago when I was just getting back into reading, and I think I started using accents more recently. And hey, you’re basically good at the same accents as me!

  6. Greg

    I’m from the Midwest so do I have an accent? Probably! But I don’t think I do ’em in my head. I might note okay so-and-so is whatever and they have an accent and then I just go, I don’t think I’m accenting ’em in my head. Not noticeably anyway. Now if a book pronounces the accents by actually writing them that way (which sometimes annoys me) then yeah I’m more conscious of it. And I love when authors use certain phrases to emphasize someone’s nationality- like a French guy in a book I’m reading says “ma cherie” cause he’s, you know, French but that’s it. I sometimes roll my eyes at that. But I’m getting off topic…

    Around Ren faire time I hear a lot of Cockney accents since the performers talk that way, and for weeks afterward I can have those accents in my head- it’s kinda fun actually. Although I’m sure to outsiders they sound ridiculous… cause they do lol. I’m sure someone from the UK would be like huh? But it’s fun.

    And I do like listening to Irish, and Gaelic too (although THAT seems like it would be a tough one to learn). I love to hear singing in Gaelic though.

    Greg recently posted: Waiting On Wednesday #32

    1. Kristen Burns

      I feel like everyone has an accent, but no one ever thinks they do lol. We just get so accustomed to our own accent that we don’t consider it an accent. But it probably depends where in the Midwest? I feel like some parts of the Midwest are actually where the “standard American” accent comes from. I mean, my dad’s side of the family all live in Iowa and he grew up there, and I’ve never noticed any of them to have any sort of regional accent.

      Anyway, yeah, it actually just annoys me when the accents are written in. It distracts and confuses me. But I actually sometimes roll my eyes at the “ma cherie” type of thing too because I seem to come across that a lot in paranormal and book with vampires and whatnot who are always from France and Italy and Spain and whatnot. And they always have one specific term of endearment from their language that they use. It’s kind of a trope for me at this point.

      Lol I don’t think I’d want a Cockney accent stuck in my head.

      I don’t know if I had ever actually heard Gaelic, so now I’m watching YouTube videos. I do really like Celtic instrumental music though.

      1. Greg

        Yeah I think you’re right, I don’t think a Midwestern accent is usually that pronounced, although I can only speak generally obviously. I did have a Southern woman I talked to at work tell me we talk faster up here. :) And when i talk to people in MA yeah it’s very noticeable. :)

        Agree about the trope. I can see where that would show up in PNR lol but I’ve seen it a fair bit in YA too. it just seems so stereotypical.

        Celtic music is awesome. Do you ever listen to Clannad? This one is on my playlist and is in Gaelic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEn6-JxtU-Y&list=PLsAePAg0IN4E0HQSg9Ysl55zNYQBURUSE&index=3

        Autumn Leaves are Falling is a good one too although it’s not in Gaelic. I like their sound.

        Greg recently posted: Nerve

        1. Kristen Burns

          Aren’t Southern accents just kind of slower than average? So probably everyone talks faster than her lol. But I suppose the strength of accent might depend on where in the Midwest someone’s from.

          Nice song! I’m listening to it right now as I respond to the comment :-D

  7. Kei @ The Lovely Pages Reviews

    Funny you should mention this, I just read a book the other day with a Scottish narration and I admit I was reading it with a Scottish accent in my head, was pretty good at it too. Most of the books I read only have American accents or British and maybe Italian/Russian accents and I do try to read them in different accents too.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha, yay! I thought everyone would think I was crazy when I mentioned reading a book entirely with an Irish accent, so I’m just glad to know I’m not the only one who does that! I’ve never read any book that required a Russian accent, but I think that’s one I wouldn’t even try. I vaguely know what it sounds like, but not well enough. Same for Italian. I think I read maybe one book set in Italy this year, but I didn’t do the accent.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I was wondering if anyone would mention audiobooks. I don’t listen to them myself, but I figured that might be a real plus to them, that you can actually hear the accents.

      Haha, my regional accents are so bad that I don’t even try.

  8. Lola

    I find accents pretty difficult, I wonder if this is because my non native speaker ness. I do seem to be a bit better at imaging dutch accents in my head, but as the Netherlands is a pretty small country we don’t have as many accents. I do know of a few english accents, in the sense that when I hear them i know it’s an accent and it sounds like something i heard before, but then I have no clue which accent it is. I can recognize a dutch accent, does that count, lol. I have been to the UK and Scotland so I heard both of those accents back then, so I can sorta imagine how those two sound. The Southern accent I have heard of that one and I can sort of imagine what it sounds like. But most of the time I might recognize an accent, but can’t really speak it or imagine it very well. Or if I can imagine it, it’s really hard, unless I’ve seen a movie with that accent and just concur up that image. We’re currently watching Star Trek Enterprise and they have a British character, so I can imagine him speaking very well in my head at the moment.

    When reading I actually just imagine them all speaking normal english, unless the author actually writes their speech so differently that I automatically read/ imagine it differently. Else I might know the character speaks in an accent, but I don’t hear/ imagine it that way. I actually just finished a book where some fo the side characters were Russian and the way they talked with some words missing just made me imagine an accent, Not sure if it is actually a Russian accent but those characters did sound different in my head. But that’s about the exception. Normally everyone just sounds normal. I watched the movie and it was fun to watch.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I hadn’t even thought of that. I imagine it would definitely be harder to do accents in English for non-native speakers. Like, I could never imagine what Spanish would sound like in a Scottish accent, so I imagine it’s the same feeling for you with English.

      I actually hate it when authors write the language differently though. It doesn’t make it easier for me, it makes it harder to do the accent because I get too distracted by the way the words are written. But lol to your Russian accent thing. I do that sometimes too, characters sound *different* but I don’t even know if it’s correct.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m kinda the opposite. When the language is written with a dialect, it just distracts and confuses me, and the accent ends up horrendous or I give up even trying. It seems like Scottish, Irish, and British do seem to be the most common ones that people do well though, so we’re not alone!

  9. Briana @ Pages Unbound

    Interesting question! I think I only read accents if they’re very heavily written into the dialogue. But I also read books in my head in the worst monotone imaginable. There’s so little emotion in my inner voice in general.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I prefer the accents not be written into the dialogue because that just distracts me. But hahaha, your description of your monotone, emotionless inner voice is cracking me up. I think maybe because I’m very enthusiastic and full of emotion when I speak, my inner voice just kinda matches?

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s awesome! If you can do them out loud, I imagine it probably easy for you to do them in your head. I can kind of do Scottish and British out loud, but it’s still not good lol. But haha yeah, that would probably not go over well with the customers!

  10. Bookworm Brandee

    This might sound ridiculous but if the author is ‘good’, the accents just happen. For example, when I first started reading the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, Bones had a British accent in my head before I even knew he had a British accent. Other times, when I knew a character has an accent or the book is set in a particular locale, I create the accents for the characters. But then sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. I don’t know why but I’ve always chalked it up to the writing. Who knows?!? I will say that one accent I absolutely cannot get right, no matter how hard I try, is any accent in Louisiana. I can’t do Cajun, Creole…nothing. I got nothing. And it’s too bad because I think the accent would add a lot to some of my favorite books that are set there. LOL
    Great post, Kristen! This is a very interesting topic!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha that’s interesting. I guess if the character just *seems* like that nationality then the accent comes through naturally? Oh, I wouldn’t even try to do a Louisiana accent. Actually, I just finished a book set in Louisiana, and the way they talked, the words and stuff, I could tell they had accents or dialects or whatever, but it’s just not one I’m familiar enough with. Thanks!

  11. AngelErin

    I think I’m like you, it depends on the book and a ton of other things. I don’t think I really do accents in my head A LOT, but now that I read this post I’m really going to pay more attention and see because I never thought about it! I live in Texas so anything southern I automatically read in my head with a bit of twang, even though I don’t really speak that way. Also, yes I say “y’all” all the time lol. Boston, British, Irish, Mexican, and Australian I’ll sometimes do in my head depending on the book, the writing, and what not. When I read Outlander I did the Scottish accent in my head, but I think that’s the only one that was that way. Am I good at any of these? Nope, not even in my head. Haha! Great discussion post AS ALWAYS. :)

    1. Kristen Burns

      I can’t do any sort of Southern or Texan or twang-y accent at all. Or Boston. And I couldn’t do Australian if my life depended on it, not even in my head. All I can say in Australian is, “G’day, mate!” and “Crikey!” which isn’t very helpful for reading a book lol. But hey, even if we’re not good at the ones we do, it’s still fun to try! And thanks! <3

  12. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    Yes! I definitely use accents while I read. I sometimes even read lines out loud because I like them! I was a theatre major in college, so I actually learned how to do some accents, and I’m decent at them. I can do British really well, and I’m decent at an Irish brogue, though it probably sounds a bit Lucky Charms-ish (my roommate at BEA a few years ago was Irish and she totally laughed at my Irish accent – I use it when I read anyway. :-) I can also do a decent Southern accent (American) and I can approximate a so-so Aussie accent in my head. And maybe a Boston accent kind of.

    I never was very good at French or German and I haven’t tried many others. But it’s fun to use them when I read! My kids used to love it when I would read them Charlie and Lola books in a British accent.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: I’ve Been Known to Go Off on a Tangent … Or Two. Let’s Discuss!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Wait, you were a theatre major? I don’t think I knew that. That’s cool! And now it’s coming in handy since you’re able to do accents ;-) My attempt at Southern is just atrocious, and Australian I literally can’t even do. Nor Boston. Not German either lol.

      That’s so cute! I would’ve loved that too as a kid I think!

  13. Rain @ Ivyclad Ideas

    I know that a lot of people complain about phonetic accents in books, but I really like them because it shows you exactly what the character sounds like.
    I’m British, and I always find British stereotypes amusing because they’re so inaccurate. That said, I love it when I find a book where the characters use ACTUAL British slang and don’t talk like they’ve been having elocution lessons since birth.

    Rain @ Ivyclad Ideas recently posted: How Not to be a Fan (Misery by Stephen King)

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t like phonetic accents because, I don’t know, it never sounds quite right? It just confuses and distracts me.

      Lol, I love that you can just laugh off the inaccuracies instead of getting offended. But yeah, I’ve read book in which there was a British character, yet there was nothing British about him other than he supposedly had an accent? Whereas I’ve read other books written by British authors, usually set in Britain, and I swear I needed Google because I was so confused by some of the slang! But I like the authentic version better. If all you’re going to do is give a character an accent but none of the actual culture, what’s the point?

  14. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    Love this post and love that video it was hilarious. They honestly did way better than I ever would with accents. I cannot do accents mostly because I feel like I let other accents invade when I even try. Anyway, accents in books, right?

    I do like to try and read with accents when it’s mentioned a character has one because that is part of their character and I don’t want to mess with that. My brain is far better at doing accents than I am, though, so that helps. I don’t go out of my way to think in them. They just come naturally when a character is written well and their dialogue is written fitting to that accent, you know? If it’s not well written fitting to the usual speech patterns of an area and then there is no hope that I will put that in there.

    Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity recently posted: Monthly Wrap Up // September

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! Seriously, a lot of the people in the video were pretty good, way better than I would be.

      Yay, I’m glad to see someone feels the same way about how they’re part of the character. And yes, my brain is also better at accents than my mouth lol. Except maybe it’s not as natural for me as for you? I still do it even without the speech patterns, I just have to sometimes put a bit of effort into it.

  15. Pingback: Monthly review: September 2016 » Simply Adrift

  16. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    I don’t try to do accents in my head, but I think it is great that you do! Sheer laziness and lack of facility with the various accents and dialects is what prevents me, I’d say.

    However, I have found that when reading certain books aloud to my son, I have to attempt a British accent. The Winnie-the-Pooh books, for example, must be read with a rather posh accent. And I had to try “talk Yorkshire” when reading The Secret Garden, even though I’m sure I sounded terrible. But it was impossible to read in an ordinary voice!

    Lory @ Emerald City Book Review recently posted: New Release Review: Marrow

    1. Kristen Burns

      It does take a bit more effort for me to do most accents in books, so I can understand not wanting to do that.

      Lol that’s so cute that you read certain books out loud with British accents. But doing accents out loud is even harder than doing them in your head, at least for me!

  17. irena_bookdustmagic

    In all honesty, in my head, every single character has american accent.
    I only imagined british when the character is introduced as english guy (like St. Clare in Anna and the French Kiss) but as soon as he says that fist two sentences, he starts to speak american in my head.
    The same goes for everyone.
    And as for my accent, in my head, it’s probably american, in reality, it souns more like Russian.

    irena_bookdustmagic recently posted: The Kill Fee: Book Review (Blog Tour)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol I think it used to be all American in my head, so I don’t blame you! And huh, that’s interesting that your accent in your head is different than when you speak.

  18. sjhigbee

    Ha ha! The video of Irish folks attempting various American accents is hilarious. I think it depends on the writing – if the author gets the beats and rhythm right, then it’s easy to imagine people speaking in the accent.

    sjhigbee recently posted: While the Morning Stars Sing

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol I thought it was a great video too. Huh, I generally just imagine the accent if I’m able to, regardless of how it’s written, but that’s a good point!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’d probably be able to do Spanish, but I’ve never read any books with Spanish accents except for one that had numerous accents for all different characters, and I was just totally thrown off my game with that lol. But yeah, I try, even if they’re terrible!

  19. Di @ Book Reviews by Di

    Most of the time I tend to read straight through because I know that I’m terrible at accents. But if a character is written with an accent and the actual dialogue is changed to express that accent I will do my poor attempt at reading it as it is written. This probably results in me making a Scottish character sound Irish (or worse!) and it does take longer to read than usual, but it can be a lot of fun and make the book a little better.

    Sometimes if a character is written exceptionally well and I know that they have a certain aspect I will take the time to re-read their dialogue in their accent just to immerse myself further – but again, even in my head my accents are atrocious so I’m probably not doing them any form of a favour here. ;)

    Great discussion topic! So much fun to read about how other people read too!

    Di @ Book Reviews by Di recently posted: Review: Into Coraira - Jaime Lee Mann

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol see I don’t like when the dialogue is actually written with the accent, that just throws me off, so I’m the opposite. But yeah, I’m reading a book right now set in Scotland and sometimes the accent starts straying into Irish territory, I keep having to reign it in lol.

      It really does immerse you further though! That’s why it’s worth it to me :-)

      Thanks!

  20. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    I think I only read accents if they’re like, spelled out that way, if that makes sense? Then yes, I do, and I probably do a really crappy job of it ;) I like to fake a British accent from time to time (mostly when I am reading Peppa Pig books to my kids hahaha) but that’s about it! I have a very basic American accent- really the “newscaster” accent. I know I am bad at accents because when I was taking Spanish and French in school, even though I had the words right, I sounded like…well, like an American person trying to speak another language, and failing! (Oh, for funsies, I looked it up and according to Wikipedia, my exact dialect for my region is “Inland Northern American English” hahha) This is such an interesting topic, I love it!!

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: Review: The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati

    1. Kristen Burns

      It makes complete sense, I know what you’re talking about, but I actually hate when authors do that lol. It’s just distracting to me! I don’t think my accent is quite at the newscaster level of American though. And I can actually do a pretty decent Spanish accent if I’m speaking Spanish! I mean, not that I’m fluent in Spanish, I’d have to, like, read something off a page, but the accent would be there, haha. Thanks, I’m glad you like the post!