locating your accent

After moving to Marseille from Paris, I clearly remember how I hoped not to pick up the accent of the Marseillaise. It's not that their accent is unlovely, I just prefer to speak my French with the standard accent, say like the newscasters on TV - clear & understandable. Well that is one of my burst bubbles because I will always have an accent, definitely not as refined as the news, and not southern but probably Pinoy. The R always gives me away.

It's amazing how our speaking accents can tell where we come from even between towns a couple of kilometers away. In the south of France, Marseille will already have a different accent from Montpellier (165km) & Montpellier will have a different accent from Toulouse (230km). A French can even locate the exact region of all the different accents of France. Like we Filipinos can tell between the north & the south.

Then in speaking english we can likewise tell one's nationality. In Europe, the French, Germans & the Italians, to name a few, have all very distinct accents when speaking in english. Unlike in Asia, there is just a subtle difference between the Vietnamese & Chinese, especially for an ear so unused to the sound of these languages. But it is the beauty of these accents that distinguish one person from another, from one place to the next.

While some accents are just more understandable than another, it usually takes us a couple of hours to get used to it. But I noticed between Asians there are some that are just incomprehensible that sometimes it's not a difference of nationality but individually. At times, accent & articulation are not the same. Some tongues are just harder than others. It's an effort for me to speak clearly in French, careful with some pronounciations when the same word can have two meanings.

Some say I speak French with a Manila accent, Hazel says I have a Paris accent when I say au revoir & a lot of French just says I have a tout mignon (an all cute) accent which simply means an accent they just cannot place. As much as I wanted to speak in a newscaster French, I think I'll stick with my special/tout mignon accent. Everytime I call the chatterie (cat daycare center, if you will), the cat lady will always recognize me right away through my accent. It is part of my identity.

The idea of this post on accents is after I had a call from a woman who spoke so fast in French with an accent I likewise cannot place. Probably she was like me a bit clueless on not having a newscaster French. She was German. Then Russell Peters came into mind. Watch him
here talking about Asians & accents.


From Manila to Paris, then to Marseille & to the Côte d'Azur, now in Singapore, clinging to a map of three worlds, where everything becomes all relative.


  1. this is great post, mak! the children in school noticed also dif accent!

    french accent, hindi ligtas ke Lolo. He can spot too!

    in english naman, the srilankans when saying english: I putting you some food to eat.
    Instead of I put some...
    Lagi raw may ing, haha!

    see my blog pala, photos of Paris trip.

  2. Awwww, who wouldn't want to have a 'tout mignon' accent? I'm sure when I finally learn to speak Italian fluently, my in-laws would really find it cute;-) .
    The Russell Peters video was so hilarious. I liked that bit about Filipinos. So true!
    I ended up watching other clips of his comedy, natawa rin ako doon about the Italians :-)) . They do speak with their hands most of the time!

  3. Diba, Francesca, talagang napa-practice tayo to spot different nationalities dito :) Saw your Paris trip na, ang saya!

    I'm sure you'll learn Italian fast, Gina! I noticed that Filipinos learn other languages fast maybe because of our many dialects & english background. And it's sooo nice to speak Italian & speak it with the accent :)

  4. I can definitely tell the Parisian accent from the Marseillaise accent, but I don't know how other people can spot the subtle differences from other regions in France. But you're right, it's almost always easy to recognise someone's nationality from the way they speak French.

  5. Kala: I encountered the accent of Toulouse & Jura then also from the north. Only after after pointing it to me that I hear the difference :) Some even say Alex still has the Belfort accent.

  6. the fact that you can speak french at all is impressive!
    hi makis!!!

  7. It's true you have a Parisian accent like Marc-Olivier Fogiel of "On ne peut pas plaire à tout le monde" ! Hey Mimi has the same accent as you do ;)

    And your right, after 6 years in France, we can differentiate accents from North (always with shti sound) to South (sing song accent) ! Anyway, accent is not important for us Asians as long as we have the ability to understand,speak,read & write inspite of difficulties of learning the french language ! Pero tignan mo nous arrivons tout même ;) !

  8. Hi Chesca! If you could just see all the effort I put just to be understood sometimes when I speak french!

    OH NO, Haze, do I really sound like him?! That's even worse than having an incomprehensible asian accent! Di ka naman galit sakin no :)

  9. Its true, when we speak in English, our Pinoy accent is so distinct.

    btw, Russell Peters is so funny.

  10. Glad you liked Russel Peters, Leah!