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While it has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it seems at times to go too far with accents. I have read several articles which suggest that it is natural for people to reflect or moderate their pronunciation to that of those around them (see this article), but there are times when it seems too "over the top" to be mere mirroring or even flattery.

What is an appropriate response when someone seems to be mocking me by mimicking my accent?

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Should you be? It seems pretty obvious that, if you can avoid anger or offense, it's better for everyone. Typically, though, we don't get a choice about whether to be offended.

Now, if you get offended, you can borrow this move. I would love to say that I did this, but unfortunately, I was the one who had badly mimicked an accent here.

The other fellow smiled, shook his head, and said, "Don't do that. I promise, you sound nothing like a ____." He followed it with a little wink.

In all honesty, I truly had deluded myself into thinking that my accent was pretty good, so I was a bit disappointed. Nevertheless, I did not try the accent again. It was only years later that I found out that he had been a bit offended. His totally gracious response (a) spared my feelings and blocked me from embarrassment at that moment, and (b) prevented any bad feelings going forward. My friend and I eventually drifted apart, but I am fairly sure that the Atlantic Ocean between us was the reason for that, not my faux pas and his immensely graceful recovery.

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    Having lived too many places to still have an identifiable accent, I find it humorous when "out-of-town" visitors try to use the "local" accent. You friends comment of sounding nothing like a ____ is oh so true for so many people. – Witan ap Danu Jul 10 '17 at 2:30
  • Good answer, but I would disagree that it is not a choice to be offended. It is an easy choice to make, but most people prefer to act out righteous indignation. – Kik Jul 26 '17 at 18:03
  • @Kik, that statement is probably a testament to how well centered you are ;) – Ben I. Jul 26 '17 at 19:00
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I get a lot of this. I have different ways of dealing with it - depends who's talking:

Colleagues - ha, ha, we can speak English instead if you like.

Strangers - yupp, been here 30 years and still can't talk properly. Then they say, but you speak really well!

Mates - vot are you sinking about?

Teenage children of mates - I have to warn you, I have this nasty nervous tic, if people are mean about my accent I sometimes kick them in the ear, can't help myself, do be careful

  • Brilliant :D Although some clarification would be nice: are you immitating a Russian (French? German?) accent in English when talking with your friends or is the conversation taking place in another language an you immitate another accent? – AllTheKingsHorses Jul 26 '17 at 12:32
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    I speak German all day. The quote comes from an advert for an English course. Ship: mayday, mayday, we are sinking. Coastguard: Vot are you sinking about? – RedSonja Jul 26 '17 at 13:30
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    This advert? I think you just made my day :D – AllTheKingsHorses Jul 26 '17 at 13:44
  • You might also ask them "What's the spreadsheet application from Microsoft called again?" ;-) – AllTheKingsHorses Jul 27 '17 at 12:29

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