I want to start by saying I'm good with languages. I got fairly fluent with French when I took it in school. And when I learned some beginner Polish for my first trip to Poland in 1997, everyone there said I pronounced it really well.
I think it's at least partly because I'm an auditory and visual learner, and the auditory part makes me speak the way I hear things. And that means I start picking up accents.
My normal accent is West Coast Standard, that non-accent that national news broadcasters cultivate to hide the shame of their roots (although Peter Jennings was never able to completely erase his Canadian "aboot").
But it's happening again, just like it has every other time I've visited my sister in Texas. It's nothing conscious. I'll say something, and when the sound of my words hits my ears, I hear the way I just let that last word sli...iide.
The first casualty, accent-wise, is always the vowels, especially the ones where the difference between mine and theirs is the most subtle.
When I was 19, I had a summer job in Yellowstone National Park for two months, and my roommate in the dorms was someone from Ohio (Janice, that would be Shaker Heights). I picked up her way of saying the short 'o' sound, and it would pop out every once in a while for years. I had a repair guy come to the house one time, and he asked me what part of the East Coast I was from (nowhere), just because I said "shahp" instead of "shop."
In Texas, it usually starts with "Thank yew." And now my long 'i' is starting to droop--not as badly as the natives though. On the weather channel, the guy was talking about the approaching thunderstorms (BTW, did you know there are places that actually get WEATHER in the summer?) that were 50 "mahls" away. I don't think I've said it quite like that, but I think I'm headed there.
What I don't pick up are the other ways of saying things, the "y'alls" and "fixin's." Those are completely different from my native language, so I don't drift into that territory.
A word of note about "y'all" is that different states make it possessive in different ways. I was in Atlanta for a class one time, and I heard a teenager yell to her friends (in a friendly way), "It's yer all's fault!" But at the Dairy Queen yesterday, the waitress added the apostrophe-'s' to the end of y'all, to get "y'all's." Interesting. But I don't expect to be saying either one.
Still, I have no way of knowing how much of which accents I'll have when I get back from this trip next spring. I'll probably sound really confused.