Learning American English in Boston: Eh-A-Ah Accents

Sojeong “Lucy” Jeong shares her experiences about learning English in Boston. Oh the different accents! Read more here.

 Born in South Korea and immigrated to Toronto, Canada at age 6, I had no clue how to speak English when my family first moved. I started to learn Canadian English while I went to elementary and middle school in Canada until my family moved to America in Boston, MA due to my dad’s work.

stop boston accent international student voice magazineLiving in Boston, MA as a Canadian immigrant, I’ve noticed that every people spoke English differently and have different accents. Even in Toronto where I am originally from, everyone has a habit of saying ‘eh’ at the end of every sentence. On the other hand, when I went into middle school in Boston, MA, I found out that the spellings of certain word are significantly different between Canadian and American English. For example, there was a spelling bee contest when I first moved to Boston. The first word I had to spell out was ‘color’. It was fairly easy so I spelled it out loud as I learned in elementary school back in Canada. I said, ‘C-O-L-O-U-R’ “COLOUR!” As soon as I spelled out the word, I heard the buzzers go off and the judge yelled out, “Wrong!” and moved on the kid next to me. Before that moment, I was so confident on my answer; however, after I found out that the spellings were wrong, I didn’t know why I was wrong. From that moment, I knew it wasn’t the same English I was taught and spoken in Canada. I had to relearn everything in America from saying certain words like “colored pencil” instead of “pencil crayon”. Moreover, I had to ask the teacher if I can go to the “bathroom” instead of “washroom.”

Everything wasn’t same I figured. However, this wasn’t the end. Not only I had to correct my Canadian English, I had to learn how to understand Boston accent.khakis-car-kes-boston international student voice magazine The Bostonians have their own way of pronouncing English words, vocabulary, and even a unique grammar. For instance, I had to meet my friends on Harvard Avenue. Waiting for her to park her car, one of my friends called me and said“I pahk ma cah in Hahvuhd Yahd.” When I heard this I knew this wasn’t English for sure. I was curious and asked her, “What does that mean?” She exclaimed, “I park my car in Harvard yard.” When I heard the sentence, I burst into laugher. I knew I wasn’t going to understand Boston accent. I noticed Bostonians pronounced “R’s” as in “Ah” and pronounced “O’s” like “ahh” for example, “Boston” becomes “Bahhst-inn” and “Octopus” becomes “Ahhctapus.” Lastly, they pronounced “A’s” like “ah” similar but different than the Canadians with the “eh.” Now that I lived in Boston for 11 years, I’m comfortable speaking to a person with thickest Boston accent. Sometimes, I find myself having a Canadian accent ‘eh’; however, over the years, I lost my accent and speak regular American English. Thank god, I can understand but don’t have a Boston accent!

International Student Voice Magazine is awarding $100 to an international student every two weeks by writing short essays about different topics. 

The topic for microscholarship #1 was “weird English words”. Sojeong “Lucy” Jeong attending Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences was a finalist for this microscholarship. Learn more about our microscholarship by clicking here.

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