Do you ever worry about having an accent when you speak a foreign language? We’ve all been there. That fear of having a strong accent can put people off speaking a language full stop! When we learn foreign languages as an adult, the phonetic patterns of our native language are so deeply entrenched that it’s hard even to recognise them… let alone change them naturally depending on what language we are speaking. That’s why we struggle to replace familiar sounds with the ones for the language we are learning. Even after learning the correct pronunciation, there will be some deeply embedded patterns in our speech that betray us as non-native speakers. Thus - we end up stuck with an accent that just won’t shift. This article from the Smithsonian magazine goes into more detail about why it is so hard to lose our accent. But should you even want to lose your accent at all?
We’re faced with thousands of blogs, vlogs, tutors, classes, videos, textbooks that promise to get us sounding like a native speaker. And to a certain extent, they have a point. Studying the vocal patterns and pronunciation of native speakers is very useful if you want to communicate clearly with everyone in your target language. No-one will understand you if you don’t have clear pronunciation, and you wouldn’t want all your hard work to go to waste. Yet having an accent is never something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. Rather, it is something we can all take pride in! Here are just a few reasons why an accent is a badge you should wear with pride:
When people hear a foreign accent, it should be respected as evidence of a lot of hard work. You’re learning another accent from scratch as an adult, and that is no small feat at all!
An accent is part of your personal history and where you’ve come from. For that reason alone, it is something that many people consider integral to the fabric of their own identity.
Learning a language doesn't just take hard work - it also takes a lot of brain power.
There is always a story behind that accent. You’d be surprised how many people will hear your accent and be interested to hear more about why you chose to learn more languages!
Never let anyone tell you that there is only one “correct” way to speak a certain language. As long as you are communicating in the way you need to, embrace your own interpretation of the language!
Fear of having a strong accent isn’t a good reason to not start speaking foreign languages. One thing that can really help is practicing in a safe, supportive environment. On Tandem, you can find a language exchange partner who is in exactly the same boat as you. Together, you can help each other along the way to language fluency. What’s your experience of speaking languages with an accent? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.