It is very cool to see language learners who are able to gain a native like accent. I’ll admit, I get a little jealous when I see someone who has learned the same language I have learned within the same non native environment that I learned in, but yet they acquired a native accent, while I still sound like a complete foreigner. While I feel I may have already hit “the point of no return” in trying to reverse most of my non native like pronunciation habits; sometimes I wonder, is it actually better that I don’t speak like a native?
My native language is English, and I must say throughout life, anytime I hear a person speaking English as a non native and they have a bit of an accent, they interest me more. I began to wonder what country their from, who they are, and the kind of life experiences they had growing up… There is a certain mystical aurora that surrounds them. I like hearing my native languages in different non native accents. I am interested to know what other people think about this.
Is acquiring a native like accent worth the trouble, or should we embrace the different types of accents we all can bring to a foreign language we are learning ???
I had read that beyond the age of 14 it is “impossible” to lose one’s native accent in speaking a foreign language. Thus spies are recruited among those who were bilingual at a young age.
An accent can be charming if native speakers can still understand you. Sometimes I think English-speakers are much more charmed by accents, and can comprehend even through rather strong ones, than other language speakers. Los Angeles alone is home to more than 180 different languages, so you can imagine the accents.
I believe there is good reason (worth the effort) to pronounce any word in the target language correctly. Sometimes “accent” is a PR term used in place of the phrase “hard to comprehend”.
I know quite an amount of German native speakers who notice immediately when one is not a native. It is at that point that they can also notice whether the non-native has made the effort to “acquire” the language or has done the minimal amount of effort and merely “learned” the language. There is a much higher level of respect given to the former.
I also know a couple German natives who bristle at non-native speakers who, in what seems to them arrogant, attempt to pass their hybrid German with American accent off as superior. There is a reason we Americans are called Kaugummifressers. It’s not solely because we chew gum.
I personally think a native-like accent should be the ultimate goal, much like a strong enough grasp of the language to be able to talk in depth about a variety of topics freely, but not reaching that level doesn’t mean someone has failed. My native language is English and I couldn’t hold a long conversation about religion or science because they don’t interest me so I have neither the knowledge nor the vocabulary to do so.
If someone only wants to learn one other language and has the time and motivation then I think it is worthwhile putting in the effort to really master the language and the accent, however if the goal is to speak multiple languages then that time could be better spent on improving and learning other languages.
Even people who speak with a native-like accent often have the odd word that they mispronounce that they just can’t seem to learn. Everyone likes a confidence boost so would love to receive comments praising their accent but as long as I receive comments like “you speak really well” or “your (insert langauge) is good” then that’s fine by me
That must be interesting to see an American try to pass their German off as BETTER than a native speaker! I assume from the way you describe it that the Germans made no direct comment to the Americans.
There are Americans who have lived in Prague for more than 14 years who still can not/will not correctly pronounce the name of the area where they live. It’s not as if it’s a difficult word either: two syllables. But the e is “soft” and they can’t be bothered, apparently. (I have heard others politely explain that to them, to stony silence.) That’s arrogant.
Totally agree that you shouldn’t just be lazy about it, should try to pronounce correctly, but an off tone hear and there never hurt anybody. As long as the native speaker can still understand you without much struggle, I thinks there’s no harm done.
Agreed, As long as the native speaker can understand without much struggle its all good. Still at least try your best to pronounce but don’t worry to much about it especially if you rather put that effort into learning other languages instead.
Definitively, I prefer to keep track of my native accent, (I do with what I get) As despite all you efforts, you’ll NEVER simulate a real native, Even the tiniest accent will be detected by a real native. It’s impossible to hide.
And as you said, someone with a stranger accent seem to be more interesting at first glance.
… even if after a while you might notice he’s as stupid as your neighbor
Good question. I like the questions you’re posting because I’ve been wondering the same things.
I don’t know how difficult it will be to try to acquire a native like accent the older you get, which is what I was wondering.
Do work on your pronunciation but do not worry too much about perfection.
By the way “pronunciation” is a rather dificult word to pronounce.
My native language is Japanese. There are 47 administrative regions(都道府県) in Japan, and they speak with their own accent in each region, even though they are confident that they are speaking in, so to speak, standard Japanese. In most regions there is more than one noticeable accent.
I don’t think it isn’t impossible to gain a Native Accent. But of course, it isn’t worth to make too much efforts to obtain it.
First of all, there are different ‘native accents’ in every language and especially in the area of English. I’ve read that there are 24 different accents in the UK.
It’s for me much more important to understand different accents and to speak without a lot of mistakes.
The questions of the pronunciation is quite important, but it’s not a crucial problem for the most of learners.
I couldn’t agree more. (I have been looking for a chance to use this intriguing phrase. I cannot thank you enough.)
Hi, Yevgeny! =)))
Unfortunately, it’s next to impossible! =))) Just as an example, a very simple aspect for any native Russian, children inclusive, namely, consonant palatalization! =))) Just try to first make sure an American clearly hears this difference, and, second, try to drill them these pairs and make them distinctly pronounce these opposing pairs and you will immediately understand the situation!
Please, do not fall into discussion of any regional variations of one and the SAME language! It has ABSOULUTELY NOTHING to do with the accent between different languages! OK, I’ll dwell upon the reason why, just a bit: the phonology of ALL the regional variations of ONE language is ALWAYS EXACTLY the same! =)))
You are a professional linguist, after all, and this is a fallback for the superficial diletants in languages!
Hi ! =))
I’ll just answer your question in a word: the more professional level of a language knowledge you want to obtain, the less accent in the foreign language you have to have!
I worry about pronunciation because I want to be understood but I don’t worry about accents.
What is this? =))) Very happy, you have a triple chin, or . . . what? Is it your own invention? I don’t see it elsewhere.
A “native” accent? Which natives to choose? I once met a couple from Mississippi, with deep Southern accents. They were teaching English to adults in Poland. I tried to imagine the result of combining a Polish accent with a thick Southern accent. Almost a sure bet one would have a hard time understanding these students.
Choose a native speaker with the accent you want.
I also caught a Czech TV program for teaching English to very young children. Other than being so incredibly boring that no child would continue to watch, the Czech speakers did not know how to pronounce one of the words they were drilling ad nauseam: squirrel. Why don’t they broadcast Sesame Street in English? The wheel has been invented.