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Learning accents?

I realize this may seem to many far more experienced in language learning, to be a ridiculous question. But I've been listening to internet videos lately on language practice, and it seems that we might actually be "supposed" to try for the accent to a good extent. American's speaking Mandarin, sound pretty close to a Chinese person speaking it, Russian speakers take on a decent Russian accent. My learning language of choice for now is French. You mean I am actually SUPPOSED to be trying to speak the language in a bit more of a french accent?

Okay so I can well imagine a few people face palming this one, but I'm serious. I've been realizing lately that likely my worse hang up with the whole language thing is actually the idea of the accent. Trying NOT to sound too much like a french speaker, when i practice speaking it myself. I feel as though I risk offending someone, making fun of someone or some such thing. I think that once years ago someone probably told little child me, not to copy an accent or something. So wait, are you guys in the language learning/multilingual community, telling me the native speakers, of really any language, WANT us to sound more like them?

2 years ago

6 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/landsend
landsend
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Itchy Feet again.

Yes, try to sound like a native, even if it seems exaggerated to you. This is especially true for French.

The one danger here is: Don't try to sound like a caricature. If you have not much first-hand experience with speakers of another language, better forget what you think is how they sound. Listen to the real language, e.g. on Youtube. Select original content, not content produced for learners or movies. News, documentaries, tutorials about your hobby.... anything with a lot of clearly spoken text produced in your target language.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Berniebud
Berniebud
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I don't think you will offend anyone by trying to speak French with a French accent. I think learning the accent is an important step in achieving fluency.

The best way to learn an accent, in my opinion, is by listening closely to how the natives speak, and trying to emulate that.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/xGequili
xGequili
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I believe that is the goal. Obviously trying to take on a stereotypical accent wouldn't be good, but look at it from the outside in; would you rather struggle to hear English through another accent, or that person try to use your accent so that you could understand better?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Bducdt
Bducdt
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Yeah, we kind of have to get past 20 years of learning to not stereotype and make fun of people's accents, it's just rude. When learning a language, we usually learn by adopting our own language's and accent's sounds and just carrying them over directly to the other language.

But of course, when a Spanish, Japanese, or Indian person does this, we can't understand a thing they say? It's because they're doing exactly as you've said you do -- don't learn an accent, just carry over their parent dialect's sounds.

You're not going to think of an Indian or Japanese or Spanish person speaking English just like any other American, are you? But they have to copy and force themselves to speak in a stereotypical American accent for that.

I find it really helps to exaggerate accents. When I speak the little Spanish I know, I think of how Mexican hotel cleaners speak English, their rhythm, their machine-gun style of speaking, the weird way they swing their voices around, and people refuse to believe I wasn't born in Mexico and start asking me in Spanish how I learned English so well. I try to copy the accents of the Spanish rap I listen to -- maybe it's the wrong kind of Spanish to copy, but it makes people think my Spanish is much better than it really is.

Oddly, Chinese's sounds are quite similar to American English, with a few exceptions. Speak with awareness of tones (don't even need to be perfect), and you'll be speaking a lot closer to Standard Mandarin than most Chinese do with their regional dialects of Mandarin. I think of that sweet, yet crude, old Chinese lady at the Chinese restaurant I went to high school al the time, "You this than last time want more broccolis?" and I'll even overcome the pesky problem of Chinese people switching to English in the middle of conversation.

Really, this is one place to embrace the stereotypes helps.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/blackleaf42
blackleaf42
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I think you should most definitely try for an as native sounding accent as you possibly can!

Of course, if you still end up having a bit of a foreign accent after trying your best, that is fine. Sometimes there are simply sounds that turn out to be just a bit too far out of your mouth's comfort zone haha. I know I still have somewhat of an accent in English, even though I've used it as a second language for ages. But just the trying for a native accent alone will probably already have huge advantages for your language learning!

First of all, moving away from the sounds of your own language towards those of your target language will improve your intelligibility in that language greatly. Because the native sounds and intonation will be much easier to process for other speakers, you will become easier to understand, and therefore easier to talk to. Which means that you will get way more practice since people don't feel it is a lot of effort to speak to you and they won't have to "dumb things down" so you can understand. They will be much more likely to think that you can follow what they are saying if your own accent sounds closer to theirs, and so will be less reserved in conversation. My own experience learning Mandarin was that as soon as people stopped endlessly complimenting my "wonderful Mandarin", and started talking to me more naturally and forgetting that I was a language learner for a second, that was when I was learning faster than ever. I feel like sounding the part really helped me get to that point sooner!

It might very well also improve your own listening skills, since mastering the sounds properly yourself will make you more sensitive to them when you hear them from others. It is a great way to get a feeling of a language and to really get in the mood for speaking and listening to it if you work on your accent at the same time.

Also, I think working on a native sounding accent is usually not offensive at all, because it shows that you care about the language and are willing to put in an effort to get it right. Conversely, you might even come across as being careless or lacking in interest if you don't at least try a little for a proper pronunciation (even if that is not at all the case)! People will mostly find it flattering if they can see you are making a real effort just to talk to them, I think ;).

So just give it a try :D! And good luck in your studies!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AnthonyMan200

Learning the accent is important. Think about people trying to learn English. It is a lot harder to understand when they don't have an accent. French has a very distinct accent (if you don't know what it sounds like, I'm sure there are many videos on YouTube). What I do sometimes is try to sound like I am speaking that language (I am learning Spanish and Italian). I don't even use real words!! Lol. Anyways, I try using the "accent" that I did and apply it to real words! I think it works pretty good. Good luck and I hope I helped!!

2 years ago