In this month’s edition of Texan Translation, we’re looking at the unconventional Texas accent of retired professional basketball player Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki immigrated to Dallas from Germany in 1998 to play for the Mavericks. He retired last season.
“I left Germany over 20 years ago and I became a Texan, so thank you guys for having me in. I’ll see you soon,” Nowitzki said in his farewell speech to fans in April.
Lars Hinrichs, director of the Texas English Linguistics Lab at the University of Texas at Austin, and also originally from Germany, says Nowitzki sounds much more comfortable speaking English now than when he first arrived.
In an early quote of Nowitzki’s, Hinrichs says he was “still searching for the appropriate words.”
“He says, ‘This is so great; I didn’t realize it so far.’ What he means to say is, ‘I can’t even believe it yet,’” Hinrichs says.
He says Nowitzki’s accent had hints of Austrian – similar to that of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now his accent is less obvious, but Hinrichs can still hear some of Nowitzki’s German idiosyncrasies.
“I could still pick out a number of features of learners of English, [but] he [also] says American things like ‘I wanna,’” Hinrichs says.
He says because Nowitzki has lived in Dallas he didn’t develop much of a Texas accent like he would have had he lived in a smaller city or rural area. Nowitzki also learned “Texan” English later in life.
“If we had dropped him in Lufkin 20 years ago, in East Texas, where there is a strong Texas accent, then you would probably hear some of that in his speech now,” Hinrichs says.
Written by Libby Cohen.