Learning a new language is tough. The words, the grammar, and the pronunciations often take a toll on our minds. It is fairly common for a language learner to copy the accent of a native speaker in order to sound correct and like a local. The frustration of not sounding like a native speaker and having a distinct accent to the language may divert your mind from learning the language to paying attention to irrelevant things. Such an experience may discourage you from learning a beautiful language.
However, with the tips mentioned below you will be able to focus on what is important and understand as to why having an accent is not a bad thing.
Native pronunciation is hard. Why?
The answer lies in the fact that even before we are born, our ears and brain gets used to hearing. By the time we reach our first year of age, we have already become accustomed to the sounds of our mother tongue. Hence, when we begin to learn a new language as adults, it becomes increasingly difficult for our brain and ear to get used to a different accent.
To sound more like a native, extensive practice of phonemes and pronunciation can be done. However, the chances of sounding like a native speaker are lower, but not impossible.
Sounding like a native speaker should not be your only goal.
Most linguists do not encourage speaking like a native. Though most audio books and classroom teachings will teach you how to sound like a native speaker, it shouldn’t become your goal. Linguists believe that each person has an accent which provides him/her a sense of identity. Losing your accent to sound more like a native will not only make you lose your identity but will make it very difficult for you to learn the language. For example, twice as many people speak English as their second language than the native population. Every person who speaks English as a second language has a different accent, and all together form the majority of the English speaking community. If you think of it as being in the majority, and then you won’t feel so bad about it.
Instead, you must aim for intelligibility.
Gone are the days when having a different accent was a sign of embarrassment. In this contemporary era, the global media services and social networking has lessened the gap of people sounding different.
The biggest argument of sounding like a native speaker is that it ensures that everyone sounds alike. Because without phoneme continuity, languages are likely to develop unintelligibility across boundaries. But now, the internet has ensured that this is no more of a concern. Hence, ensure that your pronunciation is clear and understandable. Aim for grammatically correct sentences, and do not worry too much about sounding like a native speaker.
Sounding like a native must never be a goal or a hindrance in language learning. The primary objective of a language is to ease communication and the exchange of ideas. Having a distinct accent can sometimes give you an edge, especially when you speak the language well. Even languages have regional accents and most natives are very proud of their accents. Therefore, just concentrate on the correct sentence construction and right pronunciation. The accent will take care of itself in its own sweet little time!
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Also published on Medium.