when accents get in the way
April 14, 2015
Learning a new language is never easy. It takes time, discipline and patience, a lot of patience! Even when you've mastered the language there is usually one lingering issue that very rarely goes away: accent.
If you speak a second language and you learned it after your childhood years chances are you have an accent. Not your fault, just nature. It is a proven fact that children raised in two languages or children that acquire a second language grow up speaking it without an accent. On the flipside adults have a much harder time getting rid of it because among other reasons their voal chords are well in their maturity and development. Note: A well written and easy to understand article explaining this can be found in the Smithsonian online magazine - Accents are forever.
Think about the last time you used your second language in public. Where you conscious of your accent? How did this make you feel? Did it hinder your confidence or ability to speak it correctly?
An accent can be a tricky thing to handle. On the one hand it really is a beautiful thing. Think about this: It definitely gives you away as a foreign speaker - but one who has gone through the arduous process of learning it, mastering it. Having an accent gets admiration right off the bat, hands down. It is also an endearing characteristic people tend to notice, most of the time.
On the other hand it can wreak havoc in your mind! I always say we are usually the only ones judging our second language speech. Being self aware, self conscious of ones accent does nothing more than to build on our insecurities. Confidence is paramount in our language learning quest and even once you've mastered it! Granted a heavy accent can make it difficult for people to understand you but losing the accent and making it better are two vastly different things.
Language learners will likely never lose the accent but we can certainly improve our pronounciation enought to be perfectly understood. Don't be put off by your own accent, don't be ashamed of your it, embrace it. Know that you are your biggest judge and your worst enemy.
Until next time!