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your accent in other languages

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by jess oh seven, Jul 4, 2005.

  1. jess oh seven

    jess oh seven Senior Member

    Scotland
    UK/US, English
    I spent eight months in Spain and my Spanish has undoubtedly improved, but I'm not so sure about my accent .... I can't really tell if my native accent is really strong when I speak Spanish or not, and I don't especially want to record myself and listen back and endure such pain...

    Plus I've been having issues with the "c" before "i" and "e" pronounced like "th", since my first Spanish teacher taught us more "Latin American" Spanish and didn't have that accent, so I never learned it initially. my main problem is I develop a CONSTANT lisp and say "s" with a lisp and everything too, the worst is when I say my nationality, it comes out "es-co-thay-tha". NOT GOOD!!!! haha.

    Also, most of the time I can't say the Spanish "rr". This annoys me. It's improved, but I can't maintain the sound. Every time a Spanish news reporter rolls the r in "por" I get a little more bitter.

    So what's your accent like in the language(s) you're learning? Have people commented on it? What difficulties do you have?
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2010
  2. JLanguage Senior Member

    Georgia, US
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    I definitely have an accent when I speak Hebrew, although I consciously try to make it less pronounced. I have noticed the same accent in other American English speakers when they were speaking Hebrew. I have great difficulties pronouncing the r-sound correctly and can't make the distinction between the ch as in scottish loch and the aspirated h-sound.
     
  3. ayed Senior Member

    Riyadh
    Arabic
    I have a hybrid accent(British English +American English).I could simply mimic the English native speaker .However, the problematic is that I don't know so far whether my language is understandable or not.I feel that if I pronounce English in my own native disposition , the hearer might not understand me.Another problem is pronouncing any poly-syllabic words such as Extra-ordinary but under much exercises , my skill developed .Just pratice , practice and practice.
    I once heard an American says:"Intersection" as "Innersection"and it is easy to say , but my prof.asked me no to do so.Why ?I don't know.!!
    So, learning any language is listening to native speaker too much and try to mimic how he does that.
    Ayed's regards
     
  4. joensuu Junior Member

    Nantes / Joensuu
    France - french
    When I open my mouth to speak English ... everybody know I'm French !!! I have an horrible accent and way to speak and it's worse than I try to correct it :D
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2010
  5. Lin Junior Member

    Japan
    Japan, Japanese
    I am Japanese. When I speak in Spanish, I have a difficulty to pronounce diferentely "r" and "l" same in English since we don't have any difference in pronouncing these words in Japanese. My Spanish friends used to make me pronunce "loro" many times and I seldomely cound pronounce it very well. The prounciation of "j" in Spanish ,too. In Japanese pronunciation of "rr" sound a little bit "mafioso" so at the beggining, it cost me to pronunce it. Now I managed "rr" so I sound like mafia when I speak in Spanish!
     
  6. Phryne

    Phryne Senior Member

    New York City
    Argieland--Esp/Eng
    HI!
    I definitely have an accent when I speak English, but it's so weak that nobody has any idea where it's from. Funny enough, this weekend while I was in New Jersey, a 12-year-old girl told me I have no accent at all, and her friends said I have a "New York accent" (they meant a "Brooklyn accent"). I definitely don't have a Brooklyn accent but the kids just heard something funny about my speech and since I’m from “the city”, they thought that's what it was. Anyway, it's not just my accent what makes people realize that I'm foreign, but the word choice and some mistakes made here and there.

    Any American I’ve talked to can’t pinpoint what’s different about the way I talk. I care so much about pronunciation that I became really good at it but the problem is that the muscles in my mouth and throat are stiff and I can’t make certain sounds without a slight effort. I think it is that effort I make what suggests my foreign nature. For this reason, I have to be quite conscious about pronunciation.

    What’s most difficult for me is to remember where there’s a /v/ sound, a /z/ (mainly plurals) since we don’t have any of those sounds in Spanish and as a child I used to pronounce the /v/ as a /b/ and the /z/ as an /s/. (No teacher of mine ever bothered to correct any of these). I used to have problems with / š / as in “shoe” and /dš / as in “juice”, but now I’ve overcome this. Also, I have to pay attention to vowels that don’t exist in Spanish, like the differences between “cut” and “cat” and “sheep” and “ship”. Most times I say any of these perfectly, but sometimes, mainly at night when I tired, my tongue may slip a little bit. And a few words are very hard for me to say fast enough in a sentence, like “murder”… the /d/ next to the /r/ drives me insane! :(

    Nevertheless, I speak sooooo much better than I write... that's why this forum is so great for me! ;)

    saludos :)
     
  7. jess oh seven

    jess oh seven Senior Member

    Scotland
    UK/US, English
    I have a British/American accent too, but I don't think it creates too much of a problem. Although I do get teased for saying things like "gah-RAGE" instead of "GAH-rage" for garage etc.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2010
  8. jacinta Senior Member

    California
    USA English
    But, jess, this is the best way! I remember talking for hours into a tape recorder when I was first learning (French and Spanish). It is really very helpful to hear yourself, privately of course! :) My French never took hold but I could hear where I was having difficulties.
     
  9. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo Mod Chicken

    Arizona
    American English
    I agree, Ayed. Teachers can become so obsessed with "correct" pronunciation that they forget the real purpose of learning other languages: communication! If you can hear the differences between the natives and the 'textbook' pronunciations, and mimic the natives, then good for you.

    For the record (if anyone cares), when I speak my second language, I have a Mexican accent. Like Phyrne, I've worked very hard to imitate a "standard" pronunciation (as I hear it), although it goes away when I'm really tired and I sound like any other americano learning Spanish. :p

    The interesting thing is meeting other Americans who learned Castillian pronunciation. Speaking Spanish with other native-English speakers who have different Spanish accents than yours is a truly surreal experience. :)
     
  10. ayed Senior Member

    Riyadh
    Arabic
    Sometimes , I hear the native pronounces words faster and easier than I do in my own natural dispostion.So, I guess(I have to )mimic him for this purpose.
    I could simply distinguish between two TV or Radio broadcasters or even "voice overs" of different English .That is, I could say :"This is English or American".:)
    I could write down well but to speak there is no enough English environment for me to practice :( .Some classmates of mine often tend to tease me saying:"Speak or not speak..You are of Arabic tongue whether you soar up into sky or dive down on earth :eek: .
    Thanks
    Ayed
     
  11. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    English was my main foreign language at school first, then in the Translation School later. I went to England quite a few times from the age of 12 to 19 or so.
    People could tell I was French at the beginning of the month...but not at the end. I remember my English teenaged friends saying that I said certain words like an Englishman (those I heard most frequently during my stay - slang words for most of them :eek: - I remember my best success was f***** hell! :eek: :eek: Which was only natural since my friends kept saying that repeatedly so it was easy to imitate their pronunciation like a regular parrot).

    I've not been to England lately but I've been practising my English as a guide for English speaking tourists. What I know of my accent is what native speakers tell me.
    - the Americans always take me for an Englishman
    - the English sometimes take me for an Englishman at the beginning.
    - then, after a while, they realize I'm not but they can never tell where I'm from. (some say "perhaps somewhere in Northern Europe, like Norway or something but I don't know, really"). They're usually very surprised to learn I'm French.

    My accent depends on the difficulty in expressing myself. It's all right if it's a simple sentence. I start sounding "not-English" when it comes to difficult sentences, or when I'm tired or...angry (;) ). I suppose this goes for everyone, doesn't it ?

    Of course, it's definitely more Brit than AE since I've never been to the US.
    As for the location in the UK, I think I adapt to the accent of the people I'm speaking to except when it's the first time I hear it. (same in French btw, when I spend some time in the South of France, I easily end up with a Narbonne accent, only I don't roll the 'r's :D ). So you could say it wanders from Bournemouth to Liverpool.:)
     
  12. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Hello, I do not have problems to speak without accent, but the problem is the correct grammar. It is what you must learn. I speak only fluent Czech and I tell you it is not so good if you speak a language without an accent as a foreigner.
     
  13. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    There will always be some accent left - noticed by some and unnoticed by others. The question to ask is, what do we expect? If the pronounciation reaches the level where one is understood by everybody, that is where some people want to go. Others want more. In that case, there is really no way around really listening to tape recordings of ones own voice and to compare which phonems are still causing trouble. If one really wants to be taken for a native speaker, I suggest they first find out which native dialect has most similarities with ones own accent, as long as it is one that is generally understood. That can make things a lot easier. I could make a long list of the places in North America where Americans thought I came from.

    I wouldn't bother too much about this, though. I think it is OK that people can tell that I grew up in one of the partly Danish-speaking communities when I speak German. You can usually tell whene someone comes from Berlin or Bavaria too, right. But when you are among Americans it sometimes sucks when they know you are a foreigner: They often speak to you as if you were a retard, explaining every two words and asking if you understand them.

    When my sister lived in London they usually took her for a New Zealander.
     
  14. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    I think it's cool. It is so hard to find patient people like those. I think the opposite can be worse. They think you are a native and start speaking as fast as they can.
     
  15. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I worked very hard in college to imitate my French professor... who was German. I didn't know any better. Of course, I ended up with a German accent in French that still pops up from time to time. :) I've actually had people ask me what part of Germany I come from when I'm speaking French.

    I've worked hard to standardize my accent a little more over the years but I know I'll never sound like a native. I'm fine with that. I just don't want to ever sound like the ugly American saying "parr-lay vooz Ann-glaze". It hurts my ears. :)

    If I won the lottery I think one of the first things I would do would be to move to France and enter an immersion program for at least three months. It sounds like heaven to me.
     
  16. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Amazing! It reminds me of a Hungarian emigrant who taught English in Portugal. Imagine that Portuguese speaking English with Hungarian accent. That are really nice stories and events.
     
  17. vianie Senior Member

    Slovak
    I think, Slovaks (practically as all Slavics) have the most troubles when speaking in other language with their "uhhhh" sound.

    Absolutely no offense, but for me as for Slovak, British English is an English with a slight Hungarian accent. Just listen some songs from "The Streets". BTW, I personally like British English more than American one.
     
  18. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Very interesting comment, it haven't ever occurred to me. I feel no Hungarian accent in British English, but our -a-and their -o- is almost the same.
     
  19. clevermizo Moderator

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    I agree with this. My foreign accent in speaking Arabic is minimal, which unfortunately has convinced people in the past that I might be a native speaker. When I ask them to slow down or repeat something it is occasionally surprising to them. In fact, my Arabic is a lot more fluid than it was 2 years ago, but nevertheless people speaking at native speed is still sometimes a problem for me. :eek: Maybe I should start adding a little accent back in.:D
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2010
  20. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Of course I agree, there is always some accent left, I must confess I am not an actor at the National Theatre or newscaster at the main national radio, but not long ago I have had an interesting event which proofs my Czech is rather good. I have been honoured by a local who said "you know, we Czechs" when he talked to me and his talk had a rather xenophobic overtones about a neighbouring country and I really felt honoured. :) I mean it.
     
  21. chifladoporlosidiomas Senior Member

    San Francisco
    English (US)
    I've managed to rid myself COMPLETELY of my English accent in other languages for the simple fact that I hate hearing English speakers butchering foreign pronounciations. Only thing that lets people know that the language is not my first language is when I start to slow down and overthink what I'm saying. Other than that, I get mistaken as a native speaker a lot. :D I guess it's because I'm still young that it's been so easy for me to not acquire an accent.

    Spanish: Depending on with whom I speak, my accent is either Iberian, Porteño, or Mexican
    French: Mix of québecois and européen
    German: Austrian Accent xD
    Portuguese: Brazilian (whoot!)
     
  22. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    You might fool Germans to take you for an Austrian native but I'd be hugely surprised if you could fool me. :D (Just kidding. :)


    Anyway, on topic:
    My accent in English is "British Austrian".
    My French accent is "French Austrian" (with plosives pronounced unvoiced in all positions, as this is how I learned French - occasionally, as I learned to pronounce voiced plosives later, I try to do them in French too).
    My Slovene accent is "Slovene Austrian" (with barely managed voiced plosives).
    And my Spanish accent is probably mixed "Austro-Slovene Ibero-Mexican Spanish" (with voiced plosives "taken" from my Slovene, and pronunciation Mexican concerning interdentals but probably a wild mix else).

    I do not have a problem speaking with an accent - that is, even though I know that I've got an accent (and even though I try to minimise it), this isn't a problem for me when talking - I don't "feel" restricted through my accent. (I feel restricted through lack of vocabulary, especially in French, Spanish and Slovene, and in the latter the additional problem of using inflection correctly in speech kicks in).

    When speaking a foreign language I never was mistaken for a native speaker; this only happened to me occasionally when writing (in English only, I'm not proficient enough in any of the others).

    But if I really concentrate I may be able to utter a sentence or two without any traceable accent - but that's something I cannot do in fluent speech: so native speakers quickly realise the non-native background whenever I open my mouth. :)
    (Except, of course, when speaking my native Austrian German.)
     
  23. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Servus, Sokol, if the German PRO7 would ask you to have a 20-min interview, would you be able to speak on TV as perfect as nobody could recognize you are from Austria? (I've got the feeling you would prefer speaking Austrian:), but would you be able to?). Thanks.
     
  24. Vanda

    Vanda Moderesa de Beagá

    Belo Horizonte, BRASIL
    Português/ Brasil
    You are the best, Sokol! When I was younger, better, till my first time abroad I thought I spoke English with American accent, then I went to England and discovered that I spoke the American variant with Brazilian accent and all the other Brazilian people that I knew and thought they spoke English without accent! Since the first time I travelled abroad and from that time on, I am more and more convinced that no one bothers which accent do you have as long as you can make yourself understood. The closest the better! Ah, only in Italy I am taken as an Italian till the conversation deeps and I begin stuttering looking for words.
    Now I am pretty much like Sokol, and very proud of it:
    My accent in English is "American Brazilian".
    My French accent is "French Brazilian".
    My Spanish accent is a perfect Portuñol.
    My Italian accent is pretty much Italian - well - the 20 sentences I can say by heart!

    Sokol, you have never told me how do you speak Portuguese!
     
  25. curly

    curly Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    I can usually go a few minutes without giving myself away, but sooner or later I'll have a syntax issue or I won't recognise a word and will have to ask what it means.

    The longest I ever went was with a doctor's secretary, she was verifying my information and looked at my nationality with a little frown.:cool:

    I don't sound like an anglophone but most people still figure I'm from somewhere else. I've been thinking of picking up a regional accent from somewhere far from where I live, that way people might just assume I'm from Belgium or the south of France, I get awfully tired of having the British/Irish discussion.
     
  26. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Lovely!

    I fear my Portuguese sounds pretty much Austrian too. :p
    (The few words I can say in Portuguese, which I guess I can count on both of my hands. I can read Portuguese in a fashion, understanding the odd word or phrase, and I can pronounce it after a fashion, but I'm not really capable of speaking it - that is, I don't think I could say a single well-formed sentence in Portuguese. Except for "Obgridao!" of course. :D)
     
  27. phosphore Senior Member

    Serbian
    I've been trying for quite some time to acquire a British accent but pretty much with no real success, especially because I have never been to Britain or spoke to a real British person. But I've been told by Canadians and Australians that my accent sounds really British, so I couldn't fool a British certainly, but I could perhaps fool speakers from other areas. I would say Dutch British. The biggest problems I have are with vowels (too many of them) and the intonation.

    For all my life I have though that I had no accent in French because I started learning it at the age of six, but that was before I actually went to France. Now unfortunately I know that I have quite an accent even though at a few occasions people thought I was French. My accent doesn't sound particularly Slavic, it's just not native. I would say long-term Slavic immigrant in Paris. The biggest problems I have are with /r/ and /y/ (especially together).

    My native phonology has the biggest similarities with Spanish and that's where I have the biggest chances to sound native one day, but I've been learning Spanish for only two years and even though I don't have an accent on single words, I haven't acquired the Spanish intonation. I would say short-term Slavic immigrant in Madrid. The biggest problem I have is with the intonation and sometimes with mixing /r/ and /rr/.

    As to my native tongue, I love imitating speakers from Croatia, Vojvodina and Bosnia, and I've been told I do it pretty good, especially for the first two. My accent is otherwise varying from standard Serbian to local Belgrade accent.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2010
  28. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    I get this sometimes too. I can put on a pretty good standard accent but get caught out with long-winded syntax or an unknown word, my pronunciation of which generally provokes widespread amusement.

    I often get told that Irish people put on the best French accents of any anglophones, or at least the ''softest''. It might be that the French just aren't familiar with the Irish accent though, which I suspect is more likely.
     
  29. ilocas2 Senior Member

    Bohemia
    Czech
    Sincerely, my English is so awful, so the accent is last thing I care. For me the most important thing is be able to communicate.
     
  30. curly

    curly Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    That's something I've always been curious about. The only way that I can think of to prove it would be to get a non-anglophone, non-francophone to listen to a Frenchman and an Irishman speaking the two languages, and compare them to other accents.

    It's probably one of those mysteries like taste and colour that will never be solved.

    I hate that fact that I never know if people are just being polite... I really should never have watched The Truman Show...
     
  31. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    Ankara
    Turkish
    My native language is Turkish as you can see on my profile. I think I speak French almost without an accent. I always ask my French friends about my accent, they say it's really good (maybe they are being polite? :p)

    I've never been to an English speaking country. I've always imitated what I heard from tv. And now I feel that my accent is a mix, though mostly British.

    I speak Italian fluently, but when I speak it, I can hear my Turkish accent. I just know that I don't sound very well...

    My Hungarian friends tell me I have a good accent, but I don't believe in them :p I am putting so much effort to clearly distinguish the o a and á when I speak. And sometimes I terribly fail.

    And my Japanese...I don't know about my accent. I'm trying my best, but have got no comments concerning my accent so far.
     
  32. Southdown Junior Member

    Brighton, England.
    English - England
    Hallo Everyone,

    I have read all the comments on this thread and agree with those who find that the object of language learning is communication. I find the obsessional desire to hide one's true identity misguided. Of course, it is rightly the desire of all of us to pronounce our languages as well as possible but it seems to escape many writers' notice that foreign accents can be attractive to the listener. I would hate a situation where all foreign visitors to Britain were British-clones, obsessed with hiding their diversity. On these forums British English is referred to as if all Britains talk identically. This is not the case, as the spoken language is pronounced differently in say London, Glasgow and Cardiff. All that really matters is the ability to communicate.

    My main languages are German and French but two years ago I started to
    learn Portuguese formally at London University. To do that, I had to have achieved a certain standard and, due to my having Portuguese friends where I live and in Portugal, I speak with a European Portuguese accent. I was wary of the fact that I was entering a course of Brazilian Portuguese taught by Brazilians but these fears were totally unfounded. The worldwide Portuguese peoples appear to celebrate the diversity of their backgrounds but at the same time their sense of community.

    To me, listening to one's own voice critically is the only way to proceed. Teachers and listening can only go so far; the finer touches are provided by the horror of hearing one's own inadequacies which then urge improvement.
     
  33. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    Ankara
    Turkish
    Of course. Neither is there a single American Accent. A New Yorker speaks differently than someone from Ohio. But overall, you can say if someone's accent resembles to UK accents or US accents.
     
  34. phosphore Senior Member

    Serbian
    I suppose most of us think of RP when we say British English.

    Anyway, in English this is probably not the case but in many languages, like Russian or French, every little accent other than that of the standard variety seems to mark you as an undereducated person. This is also true for my native tongue and I guess that is why I try as much as I can to sound like a native, and that would be the speaker of the most prestigeous variety, in all languages I learn. That might seem bizzare to someone but that is how it is.
     
  35. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    A standard Scottish accent is about as similar to a southern English one as a New Zealander is to a Canadian. Referring to a British accent, something Americans seemingly love to do, is inherently fallacious.

    Speaking of the ''English'' accent, although still wrong, is infinitely better.

    I agree with Phosphore, when speaking of a British accent, the vast majority of people are referring to the Queen's English.
     
  36. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    I think the attitude you're describing only reflects a desire for assimilation or, more broadly speaking, to be accepted in whatever group you're being immersed into. This, in turn, may betray a lack of self-assurance. That, I'm willing to admit.

    Of course, I include myself in what I'd call the "chameleon" type.

    Wanting to hide or show your "true identity" requires that you believe you've got such a thing. ;)
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2010
  37. Jasmine_Chila Senior Member

    Scotland ~ Egypt
    English - Scotland
    I'm a native English speaker from the UK, and I can't even fake a good American accent. So how can I ever expect to speak like I'm from Spain when Spanish isn't my first language?
     
  38. Southdown Junior Member

    Brighton, England.
    English - England
    Hallo again,

    I believe that most of us have a true identity which is strongly linked to our mother-tongue. Even those brought up with two mother-tongues have their true mixed identity. I think to imagine that a person has no identity is incorrect.
    Our accent in other languages, either lays bare our foreign identity, or at least confirms that we are not a native speaker. Obviously there are exceptions. Our identity is portrayed in ways other than language, of course, such as clothes, mannerisms, points of view and our countries' cultures. I do not see the desire for assimilation necessarily as a sign of the lack of self confidence, although it could be.

    I am going to finish there; otherwise I may be accused of wandering from the subject in question.
     
  39. Southdown Junior Member

    Brighton, England.
    English - England
    Hallo again All !

    I am really pleased to see a thick slice of reality entering the forum. But one does not have to be taken as a native to obtain lots of enjoyment and advantages by learning a language.
     
  40. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Yes, there are indeed some languages where already a slight deviation from the standard accent is conceived as "uneducated". (And in England, when you think of Eliza Doolittle, this too was the case once - only situation has changed since. :))

    But overall I'd say that this is no longer the case for a great many languages - in Spain and Italy regional accents are nothing out of the ordinary, and the same surely is also true for South America.
    Same goes for German - even inside Germany everyone at least has a regional accent, and many still speak dialect; German accents of Switzerland and Austria are even more pronounced.

    Learners of German actually ultimately will have to choose a specific accent if they want to come over as "natural" and colloquial: if a learner of German learns to pronounce standard language exactly as the textbook says (and educated speakers recorded on CDs) then they might be confronted with communication problems - of course they would be perfectly understood, but the problem would be in the social dimension: their (very much) standard pronunciation would come over as very formal and distant.
    So if a learner of German wants to communicate on the full "social" spectrum it would be a good idea for him or her to try and learn a regional accent.

    And this certainly also would be the case for Slovene, as hardly any Slovene pronounces standard language like the textbooks say.
     
  41. travix Junior Member

    English - UK
    I'd say it's just as bad, really. A Geordie (from Newcastle, England) accent probably has more in common with a Scottish accent than it does with a southern English one. Similarly, a Scouse (from Liverpool, England) accent is closer to a Dublin accent than a Home Counties one. Not to mention the differences between Brummy, West Country, Yorkshire, etc, accents. I think the only way a foreigner could obtain a totally convincing "English" accent is either by learning RP to perfection (I guess you'd need elocution lessons for this) or by living here for a long time and eventually picking up an authentic local accent (which I'd say would be quite rare, although the scouse accent of Jan Molby the Danish ex-footballer comes to mind :D).

    In my opinion, you can more often than not get a good idea about where someone is from and what their social background is just by hearing them speak a few words (in England, I mean), so for a foreigner to obtain a 100% convincing accent is very, very difficult.
     
  42. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    There are some people whose accent in a foreign language can be better than their actual mastery of the grammar and vocabulary.

    I've always been deeply impressed by the way Jodie Foster speaks French. As far as accent and intonation goes, she truly sounds French. The only way you can see she's not is through occasional (very few, actually) syntax mistakes she makes, or words she fails to remember, especially when she hasn't been here for a while.
     
  43. The Machine of Zhu Junior Member

    Dutch - Flemish
    I don't have a marked accent when I speak American English and when I lived in the States, people were generally shocked to find out I wasn't a native speaker. I had a very good American accent to begin with, later I started paying attention to the typical mistakes Flemish speakers make when speaking (American) English and I've managed to purge my speech of them. Naturally, I do slip up occasionally, but people usually don't notice.

    At university I was taught RP. I didn't like the British pronunciation at first but I learnt to love it. I practised diligently and when I now read out loud I believe native speakers would have trouble identifying me as a non-native speaker. I struggle a lot more in spontaneous conversation. Sometimes, for example, I pronounce a word with a British accent, but I put the stress where it would lay in American English.

    I cannot, for the life of me, speak British English when I'm in conversation with an American, even when several Brits are engaged in the conversation as well.

    Some of my English friends have told me I sound rather posh, since then I've been taping (yes, I still have a VCR!) several quizzes and shows on the BBC. I try to mimic their accents and try to pay attention to the differences between them. I record myself and compare my recording to the original.

    My accent in Czech is very good. But unfortunately, I still haven't fully mastered the grammar and that, in combination with a limited vocabulary, makes it virtually impossible to mistake for for Czech. But it does happen, for instance, when I've had the time to prepare what I'm going to say. Or in basic conversations. They either compliment me on my excellent pronunciation or get mad because they think I'm Czech and I'm just yankin' their chain, so to speak.

    I have a thick accent in French and German. But I'm sure I'd manage to acquire a nearly perfect German pronunciation as well.
     
  44. Jasmine_Chila Senior Member

    Scotland ~ Egypt
    English - Scotland
    Exactly, learning a new language opens up so many doors and gives us such a sense of achievement. One can still speak a language very, very well while not sounding like a native. I know many 'foreigners' here in the UK who speak great English - their grammar is perfect and each word is pronounced as should be. But I can still tell they weren't born in the UK, each correctly pronounced word has an international accent. Just like an English or Scottish person has an accent.
     
  45. WyomingSue Senior Member

    Cheyenne, WY
    English--USA
    I think we should appreciate the various stages in our language learning too. For me, married, working, kids, etc. the likelihood of me having the opportunity to be immersed in Spanish so that I'm mistaken for a native is pretty slim. My fantasy is to eventually be mistaken as a native-speaker from some different Spanish-speaking country! There's an earlier stage when you know enough of how various native-speakers sound that you can recognize non-native's accents--for example I spoke Spanish with a Frenchwoman in South America (boy, did she have a French accent!). The first stage is the staggering-along stage: Years ago I was in Vienna, in front of the Opera, and a girl stopped and asked me, in German, what time the Opera opened. I answered her back in German, and we talked for 5-10 minutes before we realized that we were both Americans! Our German wasn't good enough to recognize that the other person's German wasn't very good either. A funny situation--still we ended up going to see the Lipizzaners together.
    Perhaps the best solution, if you dislike being recognized as a "foreigner," is to take up some semi-dead language like Latin, koine Greek, or Anglo-Saxon. Fun in their own way, but not as many opportunities for trying out new foods.
     
  46. Stumpy457 Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    English--American
    One thing I have noticed is this: it's generally easier to pick up the accent of a language in the same linguistic family tree as yours. When I watch an early video of me speaking German, I sounded pretty decent, to be honest. HOWEVER, when I watch my early French video, I can CLEARLY hear my American accent. It's bad.

    SO TRUE. For example, one of my good friends also speaks Spanish, but he grew up and learned it in California. Hence, he has what he calls a 'Beaner accent' AKA more or less 'general' Mexican. I, however, learned a standard Castilian accent in school, an accent that I have since augmented with my own studies of Madrid Spanish. So it's really strange; he makes fun of me for the typical things (classic example: I say /θ/ in 'ciento' while he say /s/; put I also drop the 'd' from the end of words like 'navidad') while I think he sounds too American. BUT THEN our other roommate is ACTUALLY Guatemalan, so sometimes we have THREE ACCENTS going at once.
     
  47. koniecswiata Senior Member

    Am English
    I don't think coming from a language that belongs to the same language family necessarily helps with the accent of a language. Pronunciation, sounds, phonetics, intonation, stress patterns-all those things--are quite language-specific, even dialect specific sometimes. It quickly comes to mind that, on average, Germans have a "stronger, more characteristic" accent in English, than Poles generally do. Though, of course, there are individual exceptions on both sides.
    Overall, Poles and Czechs, probably some other Slavic speakers (but not Russians) tend to have quite generic, not very characteristic accents in English, which makes for a pretty good pronunciation in English. I would say their "foreign accents" basically never get in the way of communication. Bravo!
     
  48. Souxie

    Souxie Senior Member

    South of France
    French - France
    Many many things I've read on this thread are true, about what we are looking for in trying to sound like a native, or about what we get from learning a new langage, which are for me the major questions.

    It's really embarassing to have a strong accent, of course because we are afraid not to be understood, but also afraid to sound funny, make mistakes and even sometimes look stupid because of incomprehension (hopefully not very often). I think what we also want by learning a langage is to learn ways of thinking, the "brain mechanism" of the natives, and by their words we try to understand the manner how they analyse life.

    So all of that needs connection, a good connection, a good knowledge, and a good accent. For me it's not absolutely important to sound like a native, although I would love to be the closest I can, but the most important is that what I think and feel go through well. (Hope I picked the good words here too to express myself!)

    I know I have a lot to do to reach that level, but my concern about my accent is that in French I already have a south accent, pretty strong although nice to hear, and I don't have a clue how it sounds in English. In French that accent makes me pronounce all the letters very clearly, especially the end of the words, wich is not standart French. For exemple, sometimes when I say a French word ending by "e" it can sound like a "a". And I make "sing" the nasals, they sound opened. It's a common accent from Southern France, and it's not easy to erase. I really would like to know if it's funny in English! :)
     
  49. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I don't know how it sounds in English, but I have to say that the southern French accent is a real pleasure to listen to in French, at least for me. The clarity and the more relaxed speed makes everything much more comprehensible, and there is a warmth and openness to the accent that is very appealing. I imagine that would translate over into English.
     
  50. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    Indeed. The tragedy (or disgrace, depending on how you view it) is that on French TV, and especially on more "serious" platforms such as le Journal de 20 Heures, it is almost never heard, especially on the part of anchormen (and women).

    People with a Southern accent who go to Paris to get into television, or so I have heard, conciously change their accent in order to conform to the industry ''standard" i.e. that of Paris. In many ways, it seems to be somewhat akin to the situation that reigned in the UK pre-1950s where only an RP accent was considered fit for public broadcast.

    Too bad. The Southern accent, in my opinion, is far more pleasing on the ear, and in many ways, more friendly too.
     

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