Posted by: janecronin | February 9, 2013

A Perfect Accent


Those who know me as a teacher know that I place a lot of emphasis on good pronunciation, mainly because it is the way you’ll be understood, which is always useful.  To achieve this you need to be aware of individual sounds and how they are made, how they fit together into the correct rhythm and so on.  However, I’m always careful to point out that this is not the same as speaking with a perfect accent.  To speak a foreign language without any trace of a foreign accent is so difficult that for the vast majority of people over the age of about 10 (and considerably younger in some cases) it is a complete impossibility.  There are many reasons for this, most of which are connected with the physical formation of our speech organs, that is our vocal chords, mouth, lips, teeth, palate and so on as well as our aural perception of sounds.  Being prepared to move our mouths differently is important, and having a good ear is useful too, as some people are undeniably better at imitating sounds than others.  However, there are also many psychological factors.  We can be afraid of appearing foolish, as though we are pretending to sound too “foreign”.  In other cases we might resist the idea of losing our identity in some way.  This fear sometimes depends on complex social and psychological factors.  This is a very interesting topic which deserves more attention than I can give it here.

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Responses

  1. Never mind about Spanish pronunciation, lots of English speaking people can´t speak English as they should!!!!! Wouldn´t you agree??

    • Hi Sheila,

      Well yes there are people who speak well and badly in any language. Pronouncing a foreign language though is a slightly different matter. We don’t have to be brilliant speakers, but we do have to make noises that are recognizable to the other language group!


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