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. An 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 bland. 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 felt 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 recall 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 accents, and this is what I learned.

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 sociolinguists 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.


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 to my Newsletter, where I share insights and tips for successful and fulfilled travelers.


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  • Hanna Artiuhivska

    Embracing accents is not an easy thing. Some people are even ashamed to speak the foreign language because they are aware of their accents.

    In my childhood, when I grew up in Soviet Union, as Lena did, I was “Little missis right”. I was taught to do the right things and appreciate the right way. At the age 5 to 10, when a foreigner on TV spoke Russian with accent I was ashamed of him. It was a sharp, vivid feeling. I felt sorry for those people because they spoke “Wrong Russian”. It would destroy all the harmony of the censored Soviet TV.

    Therefore, now I respect Chinese, Korean and other oriental people for mastering foreign languages, because their societies value harmony even more than mine did.

    Perhaps I would never master the foreign language if not for the collaps of the Soviet Union. Suddenly there was no right way of speaking, no dominant language. The iron wall collapsed and the fresh air, the air of freedom and diversity came in. I have started to learn English and with every new ward, there was a joy of being understood.

    I am grateful to all people on my way, especially in United States, who embraced me with my accent and understood me the way I am.

    If you encounter somebody who speaks with accent remember, that they have learned the foreign language out of respect to your country and has the great desire to be understood. Please help them. Your support will give them confidence and the desire to excel.

    And for those, how speak the foreign language in the new country I would encourage to keep practice. Practice your pronunciation and you will not have to break the glass wall. It will slowly dissolve as you master the language and culture. Because deep inside we all long for harmony. Including some native speakers who hear your accent.

    • Lena South

      Thank you, Hanna, for your insights. Accents are fascinating. They should not be the empediment to communication. On the contrary, accents attract people to explore their world.

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