Have you lost your voice since moving to Thailand?

I grew up in the Southwest of England and had what I consider a normal accent until I went to university in Sheffield and acquired something like a Brummie accent. Since moving to Thailand, I’ve completely lost my voice.

After listening to my voice on a Dictaphone, I think I speak with a kind of muddled American-Australian-British twang with an emphasis on the American. I hate it. People don’t even believe I’m British, or a UK national or whatever we’re supposed to call ourselves these days.

I attribute this change in my accent to having very few British friends, but those I do meet, some of whom have lived in Thailand longer than me, still have their voices in tact.

I did a bit of research and came across this:

Accents are not fixed. Our accents change over time as our needs change and as our sense of who we are changes and develops. Usually this happens naturally, and often unconsciously. Accents can be expected to change until we are in our early twenties. This is usually the time we come to some sort of decision about who we are. But even after that, if you want (and need) to change your accent, you can.

Could my accent changing be part of me deciding who I am? Perhaps on a subconscious level I’ve been trying to find my place in the world and altering my voice accordingly. But what does this all mean? Do I not want to be British or am I trying to fit in with my surroundings?

I also came across this:

Sometimes it is other people's prejudice that you are responding to.

The only thing I can think of is that some time ago I convinced myself that Thais could better understand an American accent than a British one. I even say “chips” instead of “crisps”. When I go back to the UK I’m going to be heckled in bars and glared at in shops.

Changing a person’s accent is something that people actually study in order to force their voices to change. I’m considering holding speech-therapy classes for Thais who want to internationalize their accents.

Anyone else lost their voice?

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10 thoughts on “Have you lost your voice since moving to Thailand?

  1. When I got back from Thailand, I spoke with a light Thai accent. It was from being around it so much. In fact, I think I spoke better Thailish than some of the Thai people! :) Now as I listen to my Thai language tapes, I tend to revert back to it. It doesn't bother me that much. As long as I'm understood, the rest of it is really unimportant. I just pick up whatever accent I am around most.

  2. Back in my earlier days, I did have a British accent. That was how I learned to speak English. And then somewhere in my first 2 months in the US, I lost all of that and now I speak American.

    Much like Chani, every time I come back to the US from visit home to Thailand, my English is a bit "funnier" than usual. Then again, while in New Mexico, among my Texan in-laws, I came back to California with perfect Southern drawl on certain names.

  3. I'm American, so I've always had an American accent (or the one most recognized as such, at least), but my friends from high school tell me that it's gotten a lot more "twangy" over the years, whatever that means, haha.

  4. About a year ago I found myself slipping into Th-english. I am sure you know what I mean. Why say 20 words when two will do. "Cannot" works just as well as "I am sorry, I cannot do that right now but get back to me in a while and I will see what I can do for you".

    I don't think I am too bad right now, and I guess that's because I do have lots of day-to-day dealings in English with people overseas.

    "Twangy" can be good, but you will only know for sure when you leave Thailand and people cannot understand what you're saying.

  5. People often have trouble placing my accent. Due to not living in England for more than 10 years, a couple of years in Central America gave me a spanish accent, teaching scuba diving to Danish, German, Japanese, Israeli, American, French and so on… I tended to simplify my words and speak slowly. All a long way from Sussex by the sea.

  6. How you speak is mostly a function of your environment. Younger people are affected more by this than older people because older people have spoken more words and in more ways in their lifetime and get "set" in the ways.

    The goal when you speak is to be understood, so the words you use and your pronunciation will change with your environment, as you naturally have to "repeat" until understood. It's a survival instinct in many ways….

  7. Coming from east london I always communicated with family and friend using quite a bit of cockney… now my friends have commented I don't use any cockney when I speak. They also say I speak "simple" english… I guess this is from spending so much time with Thai's that I use simple english words for them to understand me.

    As for my voice, it's stayed the same as far as I know!

  8. I'd like to comment on something you said that falls a little outside of the accent realm.

    You said you fear that you'll be heckled for using an American English term like 'chips' instead of the British English term 'crisps'. I find this interesting, and an illuminating peek into the British psyche.

    Brits clearly are drawn to things American, but rarely, if ever, like to admit it–although, ironically, modern Britain has expressed itself most confidently through rock music, which would not exist if it weren't for America. After all, it was the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, etc. who committed themselves to the pursuit of emulating their heroes Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, etc. And, if we are to believe that artists express the feelings of the people, I'd say it's pretty clear that Britain has been able to successfully move their modern feelings within a vehicle of American music.

    Could your accent becoming more American have to do with an unconscious force that attracts you to things that are American? Could it be that the complicated new emotions you've developed in Thailand need just a little bit of America to get them out and make you feel more at ease? Could it be that, when in an international social situation, we all like to use a little bit of America because subconsciously we know that this is something we all find familiar? These are truly just questions. I have no idea if this is what you feel because I am an American. Your post just got me thinking, and when that happens I like to share my thoughts.


  9. I don't think my accent has changed but speaking tinglish so much my vocabulary has definitely gotten worse. When I went back to england to see my friends last year no one said anything about my accent, although saying sawadee khrup and giving everybody a wai did get a little embarrassing.

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