Foreign Language

Is Having an Accent Good or Bad?

I speak English with an accent. English is my third language. I also speak Russian, Ukrainian and French. I love foreign languages and I love people who speak with an accent. Accent is fascinating. It tells about your uniqueness. It brings a charm to your personality and that inspiring mesmerizing enigma, which draws people to you. People with an accent are interesting, attractive and colorful.

I grew up in the Soviet Union, in a small town, in the south of Ukraine where life was pretty blend. If somebody would appear different, I would feel intuitively drawn to that person. Since I did not have much opportunity to travel and explore, I inherently knew there was a lot I was missing in knowing and understanding about my life. Hence there was such a burning urge to know those people with an accent and make friends with them.  I could identify people coming from different parts of the huge multi-cultural country I lived in, by the way they spoke Russian.

I came to the USA two years ago and got a job in the school district as a substitute teacher. I was perplexed by the comments I started receiving from the teachers and the students in the schools I went to. To tell the truth, I quite self-conscious and intimidated  because of those derogatory comments about my accent. One teacher in the Junior High school commented snobbishly: “You have a strong accent. Where did you come from?”, students would say with a giggle in their eyes: “Why don’t you speak English?” I am not going to retell the numerous interactions of how people in this school district reacted to my accent. The fact is, that in most cases those experiences were not positive, and even when people apologized later for being rude and inconsiderate, I did get the point. I decided to research about the accents, and this is what I learnt.

My original perception about accents as unique feature of every representative of a different culture is right and true. Accents come in all kinds of forms and shapes. People, who speak with the accent cannot help but speak with the accent. It does not make them ignorant  or any less human, because they are communicating in a foreign to them language.

Often, people speak their native language with an accent, only because they represent a different part of the same language speaking country. In Ukraine, by the accent a person speaks with, I can tell which part of the country a person comes from. The same is in Russia. In the United States, the accents are very distinct. Besides the foreign accents or ethnic accents, I can easily identify southern accent, New York accent, North Pacific accent, California accent. I am sure the linguists and socio linguists have a whole collection of accent profiles. My point here is that an accent is an integral and unique part of everybody’s personality.

My thinking about my accent is:

  1. I know where my accent comes from.
  2. My accent is beautiful.
  3. I am proud of myself for speaking foreign languages.
  4. I am unique in the way I sound.
  5. I do understand others when they speak with the accent.
  6. I appreciate the opportunity to communicate with people from other cultures.
  7. I am fascinated by the subtleness and flavor of a different accent.
  8. Languages are the means for communication and building connections, not for stereotyping and ostracism.
  9. People, who speak with an accent bring different perspectives and thinking, enriching our culture and lives.
  10. I recognize the reasons why some people respond negatively to accents and therefore I am not bothered by comments about my accent.

At the last parent teacher conferences in school a woman approached me offering the dental service for the kids. I was not particularly interested in her offer, but her accent grabbed my attention immediately. After a moment of hesitation, I came back to her to quench my curiosity about her accent. I found out that she was from Germany. We had a wonderful conversation, that made my day even brighter.

Next time you hear somebody speaking with an accent, just listen. You might learn something that will change your life forever.

Life is a journey of joy. Embrace it!

Much love.

Lena

PS I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and stories about accents. Please, jot down in the comments below. Don’t forget to subscribe for my Newsletter, where I share insights and tips for successful and fulfilled travelers.

 

Coaching for world travelers.

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