I don’t like my accent !
Many learners who are proficient in English grammar and have a wide vocabulary often feel intimated by their “terrible accent” and so feel nervous when they have to speak.
Why is it that fear of sounding non-native reduces our confidence in our ability to communicate in a non-native language?
This lack of confidence could come from an over reliance on school tests which are unforgivingly rigid in their quest to assess our language ability.
Forget school, I suggest we take a look at the real world.
English is spoken all over the world by billions of speakers. Of course, we have the so-called native countries with their wide-ranging accents (think Manchester, Scotland, Texas and Montreal) but also countries such as Singapore, Jamaica, the Philippines which have English as their official language. Add to that the billions of non-native speakers who use English as the tool of global communication. Consequently, I’ve lost count of the number of native and non-native accents…. hundreds for sure !
So let’s be real, having an accent is part of who we are, it reflects our roots and our experience. This is a good thing.
More good news… English language teachers now have an open mind when it comes to accents. We no longer police the accents with the vigor of language imperialists, in fact there is a movement to “decolonize” English, which means that we accept all accents and don’t impose pure standard English
Personally, I tell my learners that passing for a native speaker is not the ultimate goal. Instead, I focus on being able to communicate clearly and effectively. So, at this point we need to make an important distinction between accent and clear speech.
Articulate your words well, be aware of the sounds which could make your English difficult to be understood.
For example, the “h” in French could cause a confusion between hungry and angry, hair and air. For Spanish speakers the S is difficult, so Sue becomes Zoo. Be aware of this but don’t be crippled by fear of making a mistake.
The key to modern global life is cultural diversity and this extends to linguistic diversity too.
Susan Barke 13/04/2022