It’s 16 short movies of people from different countries reading a line or two of poetry. You listen and are prompted to pick from a menu what country you think the person is from. For extra hardness, you are sometimes asked what CITY they’re from.
As a former theater person and dialogue coach who has taught and performed accents, I consider myself an accent hobbyist with a very good ear. And this little game totally sank my battleship. It’s a fun and very difficult challenge, and really demonstrates how big the world is and how many different ways there are to talk.
Even in one city! My own hometown has all kinds of accents. I’m “from here” in the sense that I’ve lived here for 30 years, since the age of nine. I have such a strong Southern accent that I am occasionally misunderstood and gently teased; up north I sound different enough to attract attention for my Southern grammar as well as my accent. But I sound nothing like the people whose families have lived here for 100 years or more. Dialect diversity is incredibly varied and complex even, I think, within a single town. And the world is a Babel of language, accent and dialect. Far more than I will ever hear or understand.
I was honestly almost absolutely clueless about some of the accents in this quiz. Could barely place the continent. What a fun, weird, cool, enlightening little game.
HINT: Watch every movie a few times before clicking on “Answer It.” Once you click you can’t replay the video any more. Many of the accents are really hard to place, so listening a few times helps.
Be warned, this game is a stumper! I got just a few more than half right…
Cool note for fellow word-pedants: You can only have an accent in a language you weren’t raised speaking. Otherwise what you use is actually a dialect. In other words, I don’t have an accent at all since I speak no other language than the English I learned from the cradle. I do, however, have a manner of speaking informed by multiple regional dialects, particularly those of Western North Carolina. If I learned Russian, then I’d have an accent, and speak American-accented Russian.
Which brings home a favorite point of mine: That everybody has an accent. It’s usually just a question of how familiar mine is to you, and what television has taught you my way of speaking means about me.
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