Tech & Media
1 Hour of Peppa Pig Per Day Gave My Daughter a British Accent
BY BRIANNA BELL
Photo © Matthew Knight/Getty Images
Apr 12, 2019
“Do you realize your kid speaks with a British accent?” My friend Franchesca asked me, in her own British accent.
My two-year-old daughter Penny had just requested an iced lolly, which led to an outburst of laughter from Franchesca, who was born in England and lived there until she met her Canadian husband.
“Yes, I’ve noticed. It’s all thanks to Peppa Pig!” I laughed in reply, my cheeks pink in embarrassment.
It was 2014, and we were years away from the viral phenomenon that would be dubbed “the Peppa effect” by Romper writer Janet Manley. At the time I figured I was just a terrible parent, allowing my child to watch too much TV, or perhaps my daughter was just brilliant and able to pick up on accents quickly.
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Recently, non-British parents have been reporting their own children’s English accents, a flood of funny and relatable tweets surfacing. Many of these kids have never left their own hometown, but their accents suggest otherwise. It’s all thanks to the sensationally popular English television show Peppa Pig, which features a cast of animal characters in a fictional English town, with Peppa and her little brother George at the centre of the storytelling.
By the time Manley published her article my daughter had long outgrown Peppa and her British accent, but reading the author’s words brought back memories of those days with my own mini-Peppa in tow. I wish I had other parents to compare stories with, confirming that I wasn’t the only one raising an oddball Canadian kid with a British accent.
"For nearly two years we joked that Penny was our British daughter, a fact that was noticed and celebrated by family and friends."
Like other reports shared by parents, Penny pronounced specific words with a distinctly British accent. These were words that were commonly said by characters on Peppa Pig, and seemed easy for her to adopt, such as “tomato,” which sounded like “toe-mah-toe,” or zebra, which she pronounced “zeh-brah,” but really her entire vocabulary carried a slight Peppa inflection. For nearly two years we joked that Penny was our British daughter, a fact that was noticed and celebrated by family and friends. It was hard to deny how adorable she sounded, even if it was a bit strange.
Rebecca Thompson, a speech pathologist based out of Guelph, Ontario, shared that it’s not unusual for children to mimic the sounds and conversations they hear around them.
“If the language they are learning comes from a source with a British accent and British dialectical vocabulary differences, they could pick that up,” said Thompson, who also added that children are responsive to feedback, so if parents are laughing and encouraging the way they pronounce words, they may continue.
Thompson also pointed out that Canadian children may just naturally speak with an accent that sounds a bit British.
“Some are just following the normal progression of speech sound development for Canadian children,” Thompson said. She explained that many Canadian children learn to say the "r" sound between the ages of three and six; instead of saying “water,” they’ll ask for “watah,” sounding more English or Bostonian than Canadian.
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As for Penny, I was typically limiting screen time of Peppa to no more than one hour per day, but it still seemed to influence the way she spoke. At the time, my daughter was also consuming mostly British television shows, from Peppa Pig, to Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, Small Potatoes and Little Princess.
Once Penny started attending Kindergarten full-time her Peppa accent faded. She lost interest in Peppa Pig, a loss that I felt after falling in love with the sweet fictional characters in Peppa’s world. She went back to speaking like a typical Canadian kid, adopting the accent and inflections of her peers and our family became a fully Canadian-sounding family again. A few years ago I would have never thought that my daughter would stop calling training wheels “stabilizers,” but now it feels like eons ago that she spoke with her sweet Peppa accent.
For parents worried about their child’s acquired accent, this too shall pass, and when it does, you’ll probably miss it.