Accents reveal a great deal about us. Even within a country, there are many regional accents which may reveal something about a person. I am British and I live in Hong Kong and people here, who are perhaps not native English speakers, often ask me where I am from. To this I normally reply with: “Where do you think I am from? Have a guess”. I ask this because I want to know if my accent reveals my nationality. Invariably people normally guess that I am English and that may be because I have a stereotypical English accent or it may just be because I fulfill another English stereotype.
Why You Should Not Get Rid of Your Accent When Speaking a Foreign Language
On the whole, I think being identifiable through my accent is a positive thing. Many Hong Kong locals have a positive view towards the British and want a British accent when they speak English. Several have slightly American accents and many have their own unique Hong Kong accent. All are uniquely wonderful and may or may not reveal something about that person. Accents reflect our diversity.
When my students say that they would like to get rid of your accent and sound like a native speaker, I always ask: “why?” Obviously, the answers vary from “I think it sounds better” or “I don’t like my accent” but unless the answer is “I want to be understood properly”, I will always challenge their motive for wanting a different accent. I encourage them to be proud of how they sound and focus on pronunciation and annunciation rather than accent. In some ways, accent and pronunciation can be difficult to differentiate but it is an important distinction.
When we speak a foreign language with an accent, it is of course important that we are understood but if our accent does not hinder the listener’s understanding, then I think we should speak the foreign language with our accent with pride and confidence. Indeed, this is a huge part of success in language learning. If we are proud of how we sound and love our accent, we will be willing to speak more. And in turn, and our confidence will grow.
Or maybe you should…?
There are of course positive aspects to speaking a foreign language and sounding like a native. Indeed, speaking a foreign language with a perfect accent can be a lot of fun. When I lived in Uganda, I learnt some basic Luganda. A Ugandan friend of mine took me to his mother’s house and before I entered the house, he told his mother to close her eyes as he had a surprise for her. He led me into the house and told me to greet his mother in Luganda. Now, although my Luganda was basic, my Luganda accent was deceptively good. And when I spoke to her, she welcomed me in Luganda and then opened her eyes for the shock of her life! She had thought that because of my accent, I must have been a local Ugandan man. Upon viewing me, she quickly realized that I was not!
I hope you enjoyed this article on why you shouldn’t get rid of your accent when learning a foreign language!
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