Lost in Translation: NC’s Southern Accent The 11th Most Misunderstood When Traveling Abroad


While the multitude of accents in the United States can be a source of pride and fascination for many, they may pose challenges when Americans travel abroad. Family Destinations Guide, a website specializing in family travel, recently conducted a survey to gauge how difficult it was for Americans to communicate effectively when traveling overseas. The survey asked 3,000 participants to rate their level of understanding on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 indicating the most difficulty. The results were intriguing, shedding light on the potential challenges of navigating linguistic differences in unfamiliar settings.

In 11th place came North Carolina’s Southern accent. The state has a variety of accents, but it is the general ‘Southern’ which is most commonly spoken. North Carolina tourists may find being understood quite challenging when traveling abroad – one of the main reasons is the unique pronunciation of certain words, including the blending or dropping of certain vowel sounds. Additionally, Southern dialects often include slang and idiomatic expressions – asking “y’all” directions may result in some quizzical looks abroad.

The least understood tourists when vacationing abroad are from Rhode Island and Maine, both of whom speak with a distinctive Eastern New England accent. This regional dialect, also known as the ‘Yankee accent’, is found in the northeastern region of the USA; as well as Rhode Island and Maine, it can also be found in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. This accent is distinctive for a few reasons: it drops the ‘r’ sound in the middle and at the end of words – this may cause confusion if someone travelling abroad were to ask a local the directions to the nearest ‘cah-pahk’… They also use a very flat ‘o’ sound, so that ‘coffee’ sounds like ‘cawffee’ and ‘Boston’ sounds like ‘Bahston’. Lastly, the accent adds an “r” sound to the end of words that end in “a,” such as “idear” instead of “idea” and “sodar” instead of “soda.”

Alabamians are often not well understood when traveling abroad, ranking as the third least understood group of American tourists. This state contains a few different accents, including Gulf Southern and Midwestern, but one of the most distinctive is Southern Appalachian (which is found in the Appalachian Mountains region). The distinctive Southern Appalachian accent, which can be characterized by a nasal ‘aw’ sound instead of ‘a’, and a flat ‘uh’ sound instead of ‘i’, may be difficult for foreigners to comprehend. Additionally, the accent’s drawling or twangy intonation may add to the challenge. So if a tourist was asking where he could buy a hat, it might come across more like ‘hawt’.