Speaking Accents - How Important Is It to You?
I am a native speaker of English and Korean. I was born in Korea, so Korean is my mother tongue; I was educated in an American international school since I was seven, so I picked up English quite naturally. My accent is as natural as a Korean-American born and raised in the United States. I went to rigorous universities in both countries and I did well in both, so I am perfectly bilingual.
In the international school, all the teachers spoke English as their mother tongue, or at least on the same level as their mother tongue. However, the proficiency and fluency level among students varied. In the midst of that I made an interesting observation, that there were a few students who spoke English perfectly, but were self-conscious about their accents. Cultural differences seemed to have played a part, because students from East Asia definitely were more aware of Korean, Japanese, or Chinese accents, and would very often make self-deprecating jokes about how they spoke in broken English, which seemed very odd and misplaced because they spoke great English. It should be said that I also noticed this in different people from different countries and regions. People seem to care about accents a lot.
It seems like acquiring that "perfect, native sounding accent" is difficult unless the student was exposed to that language from a very young age. I am currently learning French, and my aim is to eventually master French and Spanish to a native level, but I do not expect to have that perfect French or Spanish accent. I probably will always have Korean or English accent when speaking French and Spanish, and I am neither disheartened nor expecting any disrespect because of that.
I am okay with it, and I don't think that accents matter that much. I'm not sure whether people even care. Is it really that important? Of course, enunciating properly to get my message across is important. However as long as I don't make any syntax errors, and the content of my message is good, why would anyone care about my accent? For example, there are a lot of managers(head coaches) in the English Premier League who started learning English intensively only long after they were adults, and they all have a very heavy accent. No one seems to care. All people care about in press conferences and interviews are the contents. This contradicts the self-consciousness I see from lots of people.
So here is my long-winded question to you : How much emphasis do you place on someone's accent when judging their proficiency? How much do you care about it? Lastly, is acquiring a fluent, natural, "native sounding" accent a part of your language learning goal?
Having an accent is never a bad thing, I admire the fact that someone has spent a formidable amount of time studying to become fluent in another language.
In fact, many natives find foreign accents very cute! It's a great way to start up a conversation with strangers about where you're from, how you learned your target language, why you learned it, etc.
Having traveled some, and prior to my trips always trying to learn a few expressions, I have learned that I have an ear for accents. Some people simply do not. Of course, anything can be learned. I wouldn't worry about it. Do your best and learn the language. The accent will or won't come to you eventually. Also, it can cause you trouble to have a native speaker's accent: your listeners will assume you ARE a native and speed up their speech! (That happened to me in Italy. Embarrassing!)
Hahaha I love how that situation is both flattering and embarrassing at the same time!
Around age 11, I was subjected to a period of "phonetic method" tuition in French, where no real words were used, and we just had to concentrate on making the sounds. Great for the accent, but I have since been mistaken for a native "espèce d'idiot". I don't try too hard with the accent in shops, bars, etc, these days.
Can accent be learned? I don't think it is possible for adult learners to speak with a perfect accent. Once the brain is hard-wired on the sounds of one language, it's impossible to change that. I've never met someone who learned English as an adult who didn't have an accent, nor have I seen any scholarship saying that adult learners can learn to speak without an accent.
Accent just is; beyond standard accent reduction, no one should give it much thought.
Some people just have a talent. It is possible for some adults to get rid of any trace of a foreign accent, but not for most. I know a few who have.
While there's controversy about the exact cut-off age, the scholarship on the subject seems to agree that adult learners can't ever shake their accents. That matches my anecdotal evidence because I have never met an adult learner of English without an accent. Some people have very very good accents, but there's always something that gives it away.
Isn't that cut-off age for learning the language as a native? Which would include a few more things than accent. I'm not entirely sure what you see as the difference between "very very good" and "perfect". You say something gives it away, but what would you call it if someone speaks well enough to be mistaken for a native by the vast majority of native speakers? It's not perfect because a linguist might still identify some foreign element in their speech?
@Joeker277: I'm currently running simulations at work and they are quite demanding for my computer. So the past week, every 20-30 minutes, I have ten minutes of nothing to do in which I can't use my computer. Might as well spend them on DL...
There's definitely a point at which learning new sounds becomes harder and less natural, but it certainly doesn't become impossible. Honestly, I think a big part of accent is things you're less likely to be specifically taught - things like cadence and whatnot. And a lot of it is, of course, individual variation. I've come across people who have been learning a language since 12 who have very, very strong accents, whereas I didn't start German until 18 and have been mistaken for a native before during brief exchanges.
Everybody I know who speaks English at that level started learning it as a child (only counting after the most commonly cited native cutoff age) or a teenager, so I can't provide examples there. Most of the examples I know concern German learners and two cases of Russian learners where their supposed lack of accent is admittedly hearsay. One of these two also speaks a few other languages (supposedly) accentless.
I wasn't an adult when I started learning English, but I was ten years old. My formal training is seven years of classes in school. I've since used the language a lot in a number of ways for the past 20 years. As long as I avoid one (not very common) sound, and at this point I only get it wrong less than half the time anyway, I pass as a native speaker.
For the record, I do have an ear for languages in that I can tell when I get a sound wrong, which makes it easier to try to get it right.
Nothing is impossible, you just have to work on it. Actors taking language dialect classes for parts all the time. It's just learning a new muscle memory.
Sounds like a variation of "everyone can do anything if they work hard enough". (Unspoken addition - if you can't it is your fault) Actually it is not possible. Different people have different abilities and talents. Some people can learn accents. Some people can understand quantum physics. Some can do both. Some will never be able to do either - no matter how hard they try.
I happen to know a person from the U.S. whose native language is obviously English, but has been living in Croatia for quite some time now (more than eight years I think, time flies!) and managed to almost perfectly learn Croatian, which is a challenging task, I can tell you that.
She does have a lot of motivation and is emerged in the language every day, but what never fails to astonish me is the way she managed to pick up the accent. It’s not even the standard accent, but a dialect which is spoken in the area by the coast where she lives. It’s almost funny how she gets on with the old ladies selling groceries at the green market and stuff like that, they almost never notice she’s not a native...
It just occured to me that she’s a musician, so having those tuned ears of theirs might have something to do with it as well:)
I have always wanted to study the correlation between musical ability and language ability, in the sense of speaking the language, if they can learn how to model their voices and do ''tricks'' with it so easily it might seem effortlessly, what's left to stop them from picking up an accent just as easily?
...funnily enough I play violin, so there is definitely a correlation. I once met a Bollywood musician who told me the same thing. Interesting :-)
I don't think accent is important as long as you can make yourself understood. But if, for example, I have a strong French accent in English, people who have always spoken that language will automatically identify me as someone who is not English. I don't know if it can change people's behavior or not but maybe in a professional context it's better to have a good accent? Having a good accent can be a plus, but I'm not sure it's necessary. I also think it must be really complicated to have an accent that sounds "native" without at least living in the country where the language is spoken :/
Good point. In a professional setting, being confident and projecting it is important, and having a native accent can contribute to both.
It depends on the accent. I think a language learner should get a good grasp of the phonology. If you don't, you will be hard to understand and sound unpleasant.
You can still have a foreign accent but follow the basic phonological rules of the language. That's completely fine.
I agree. I should have emphasized the importance of proper enunciation and pronunciation more. Disregard for having a smooth, native-like accent should not overshadow the importance of knowing how to speak correctly.
Accent imitation and language acquisition are very different skills, so I would never place any emphasis on someone's accent when judging their proficiency. I know several people who speak and write excellent English, but have frankly terrible foreign accents.
That said, for myself, I try my absolute best to sound as much like a native as I can and I'm very happy whenever somebody mistakes me for a native. In English, I've gotten to the point where I have decent imitations of a variety of accents going, although they are rarely good enough to fool natives of that particular region (i.e. I can't usually pass for Scottish in Scotland, but I can pass for Scottish in England). So yes, it's definitely a goal for me, but I perfectly understand that that's not the case for everybody, nor should it necessarily be. As long as you can make yourself understood, that's all that matters.
You are right to point out that they are different skills. Calling it 'imitation' was very insightful. Thanks.
I'm a native Spanish speaker. I think it's very hard to acquire a native accent unless you carefully learn the rules but it's possible (Dustin Luke, a US vlogger, got the Buenos Aires accent perfectly, and he doesn't say whether he learned Spanish as a kid, but it doesn't seem so, besides this accent is very specific, so props to him!).
Most native English speakers I found don't mind when foreigners have an accent and find it endearing (from experience). However, as a rule of self improvement I try my best to sound "like someone from the US" however neutral that might seem, and though I have improved, I still have an accent, though it doesn't tell that I speak Spanish right away.
I understand that not everyone has access to good classes (myself, I didn't until much later in life, past high school). In my country, they don't teach you proper pronounciation in schools, at least when it comes to public ones.
However, it bothers me more when TV hosts (this is, people who have probably had access to good resources), speak with heavy accents as if they just were using Spanish phonetic rules and applying them into English.
For example: for a lack of a better description, the Spanish "j" is almost like spitting, and since this is similar to the English "h", which is much softer (almost like just letting air out). A lot of people who haven't learned properly do use the Spanish "j" instead of the English "h" sound; or in Spanish "v" and "b" are pronounced as "b", but in English they're different and they still say "v" as "b", or pronounce the word "of" as "off".
I understand that they adapt to what they hear and what sounds most similar to them, but when it comes from people who are economically well such glaring errors seem laziness to me.
However, as for people who want to learn Spanish, I don't mind the accent at all, haha. I just think it's amazing that they have interest in my language and try to help them however I can.
On that note, i've always been a little bit puzzled by people who use the Spanish 'j' sound in place of the English 'j', because they aren't even close to sounding the same. I'm not judging, i just wonder whether they can't hear the difference.
I would place little emphasis on anyone's mother-tongue accent in terms of their proficiency in a foreign language. Nevertheless, although the rhythms and inflections in English are extremely difficult for many non-native speakers to acquire, they should make some attempt more or less from the start. It can be very difficult to understand English spoken by someone who retains the syllable stress and word inflection of their native tongue, even if their grammar is correct. In any language that I learn, I always aim to sound as much like a native speaker as possible. I know I'm not going to be perfect, but I have a good ear and I listen carefully. Italian is the language I am most fluent in apart from English, and it was very gratifying to me a few years ago when saying a few sentences to a previously unknown lady, she asked me if I was Italian! No doubt if we'd continued the conversation she'd soon have realised that I wasn't. Generally, I have found that speakers of the Germanic and Scandinavian languages fare better with the English accent - this is understandable, of course, because they are closely related. But I can always tell a French native speaker, an Italian and a Spaniard by their accent, however good their English is. And that is fine, and somehow endearing, provided their diction is good. Diction is the important thing. Sloppy, mumbling speech is never acceptable in any tongue, if you want to be understood. I should add that many non-native speakers of English can outdo many native speakers in this regard.
This seems a very healthy attitude to me. I feel like the more leeway one allows oneself on the basis that, "eh, this is just accent, it doesn't really matter," the more work one is demanding of native speakers trying to understand.
Accent doesn't matter so long as that person is pronouncing the words correctly and clearly enough. If I can understand them as they speak english, then they are doing well with the language, despite if they don't sound like I do. As is, even being in the united states there are so many varieties on just the english accent, and I know it is this way everywhere in the world. One day I will hopefully be able to speak french well, but as for acquiring a french accent to emulate sounding native, that I believe is something not necessary to try to work at, only that I know what I am saying and am understood.
Let's see.... All of the people in the UK have one or another of the many accents. Even if you speak 'BBC English' people outside can pick you straight off (generally, I think). And how they, in that circle around you, treat you depends on their neutrality or prejudices -positive or negative. Similarly for other languages and accents, I’d say. I take care to be neutral about others, shedding off traces of my own prejudices. For my language learning I do care about accents, and aim for (no, aim towards) a good one, for these reasons:
Some accents may irritate people you deal with, or share public space with. I want to be considerate and would choose a pleasing one where there are choices.
An accent, even an attractive one, may get you slotted in a narrow pigeonhole. I think it’s best to minimise that effect so you can get on with life.
Some accents, like that/those? of the speakers* on DL ‘Spanish for English speakers’, I quite like and wish to imitate, for fun :-)
More important than accents, I'd like to be able to speak/read/write/appreciate each language at a relatively high standard, and to be expressive in a kindly and ‘alive’ manner.
[* PS How kindly the guy sounds! –when he speaks slowly. And I wonder if the two speakers have slightly different accents?]
Lol...I hadn't thought about English accents, but remembered the movie National Lampoon's European Vacation. The dad couldn't understand what the desk clerk was saying so was typing it in his language translator when the son told him, "Dad, he's speaking English!" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzZ32Sz62Ko
I don't think accents are bad so long as the message gets across. Even then, it's an accent. Someone is from somewhere else in the world, and I wouldn't judge them just because my silly brain can't comprehend sometimes.
I have speech problems (unrelated to accents, I know) so when I practice speaking in other languages, it takes me a while to say things properly. In that sense, if people can have patience with me, I also do not mind the accents.
Provided the pronunciation and enunciation are more or less correct, an accent is generally not a problem.
That said, I've been working in a multi-lingual/multi-cultural environments for a number of years and notice that a strong accent can be a barrier when two non-native speakers are trying to communicate. But that also will depend on the specific linguistic background of the non-native speakers. Non-native speakers from similar linguistic backgrounds may be able to understand each other more readily than those from different backgrounds.
In a similar vein, I recall that when I was teaching English to Japanese students, they would struggle when communicating with their German colleagues. Our school tended to have North American teachers so the students would get used to hearing this accent. The German colleagues tended to learn British English so my students could not always understand them in conference calls or video-conference meetings.
For me personally, I'm always happier if I can get closer to a native accent when learning a new language. But my primary goal is getting the vocabulary and grammar right.
In someone else, a foreign accent doesn't bother me as long as it doesn't hinder understanding. How heavy an accent is 'too heavy' (i.e. hard to follow) depends on which languages are involved, how well I speak them, and how used I am to the particular accent in question.
I grew up in Nigeria, I have a Nigerian accent... I have no problem with that. I pronounce my words clearly, however anybody that hears me talk in English knows I am not British or American. I don't mind.
The same goes for me learning French, I would learn how to pronounce my words clearly, but I am not really try to sound like a Parisian (or a Québécois), I just want to sound clear enough that any French language speaker can understand what I am saying.
If you want to hear how an educated Nigerian sounds, check videos about "Wole Soyinka" on YouTube. He speaks clearly, pronounces his words correctly BUT you would easily detect that he is NOT American or British, he has a Nigerian accent.
More importantly, understand what they are saying when they don't know you know what they are saying! :D
I don't think I really care too much about my accent, so long as I'm understandable to native speakers of a language. Same with other people's accents when it comes to speaking in English.
Of course, I'll still try to get to the point where I sound like a native speaker, I just don't think it's super necessary.
Accent is not important to me - providing I can actually understand what they are saying. Vocab and grammar is way more important as this expresses nuances of meaning - not accent.
And to add to this, whose accent? As a native English speaker from NZ I find almost all Americans speak with an "accent". If I let myself judge them by their "accent", then none of them would be "fluent". (Although "gotten" always grates!)
I do consider accent to be part of the language, though it's difficult to disguise your accent altogether. Being understood is definitely the main thing, but if you're pronouncing things a way no native speaker would, your pronunciation could use some work imo.
Like it's not the most important thing in the world, and definitely not a reason anyone should feel discouraged, but i don't think i'd ever consider myself fluent in a language if my accent was way off.
I don't really know anyone who started learning English from adulthood and could be confused with a native speaker. As for how much it matters, a lot of people may be perfectionists and strive to sound native, but I think as long as you don't have an extremely thick accent, it's fine to have subtle imperfections in your speech that sound like your mother tongue.
Take Jose Mourinho. He is extremely well-spoken in English but will never shed the Portuguese accent and stop saying "nussing," but it doesn't matter anyway because he can get every point across. You should only be worried if you're an Unai Emery.
I "sound native" when I speak English, but I don't think it's a huge deal. Why would you want to sound like someone you're not anyway? :P
With as many people as I know who learned English as a second (or third or whatever) language, accents don't bother me much. If you can express yourself and enunciate well enough to be understood, that's all that really matters. Many Americans have stronger accents and are harder to understand than non-native speakers.
At my age I fear it's not possible to ever sound like a native speaker of Spanish. I'm much more natural sounding in French, which I learned in school at a young age. We Americans need to get serious about language learning in schools from the youngest possible ages.
We should, but we're too busy throwing most of our money at the military, while our kids get shot up at schools. But hey, at least the gas we're burning driving to the funerals is only $2-3 a gallon!
"perfect, native sounding accent"
That strikes me as a very odd turn of phrase. I'm a native speaker of English as well, and I've lived in several countries and, within the United States, I've held a driver's licence in 9 states. I've met people from diverse regions who were very well educated and have spoken English all their lives but many don't speak the same as others. English is a broadly-distributed language.
Just last night I was watching "The Seige of Jadotville" on Netflix and during one scene two junior army officers from Ireland in a United Nations support team in the Congo approached one another and one asked the other "giasenkeubraihnvleeevsesesbeulscht." WTF? So I replayed it. And I replayed it again. All in all, I had to listen to that five-second bit four times before I finally figured out that one was asking the other one "You think O'Brien believes all his ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤?" That may seem like a simple sentence, but these two Irishmen spoke with very regional accents, and I would challenge you to try to understand it the first time through (it occurs at about 33:45). Still, they had probably been speaking the English language since they were babies. They might also be reckoned to be reasonably well educated. (They were army officers, so presumably they had the equivalent of a bachelor's degree from either a military academy or a public or private university.) They had, therefore, what I would describe in your words to be "perfect, native-sounding accents." Just as I do. But my "perfect, native-sounding accent" is so different from their "perfect, native-sounding accent" that I could not quite get the meaning until I heard it four times. No exaggeration. Four times.
To answer your long-winded questions:
Only to the extent that I can understand them.
No. If I sound like a Mexican in Spain, or an Argentinian in Mexico, or a Spaniard in Guatemala, it will be fine. The point, for me, is not to try to pretend to be born somewhere I wasn't born, but to understand and to be understood. Obviously I don't want to speak Spanish like Peggy Hill, or French like Winston Churchill, but I don't think someone needs to speak like he or she has a "perfect, native sounding accent" (whatever that means) in order to be taken seriously.
Ooooooh yeah....the Irish accent/s. :-) I have Irish cousins from Cork and it is a challenge at times to understand them.
I will admit I use to think accent meant proficiency, till I started learning a language and realized that's not always the case. I will say if they have a heavy accent, I will use 'simpler' words or phrases to communicate. I just assume a heavy accent means less time active with it to pick up the nuances, but I could be wrong. As far as my goal, I am just working on achieving intermediate level of communications now. If I was in country and immersed and able to converse day to day without much problems, then yes, I would work on my pronunciation while expanding my vocabulary.
You have to realize though, and I'm sure it's true with most languages, even native speakers have an accent. American English in Boston, New York, California, and Mississippi are all WAY different. I worked in a call center, and a girl from Arizona had to hand a call to me. I'm from Tennessee, the caller was from Texas, and she couldn't understand his southern drawl. LOL
At the end of the day, if you are talking to me with a heavy accent, and I can't talk to you in your language any better....who am I to judge? :) If I can, then I would be happy to speak in your native, or stay in English to help you work on your skills. Wouldn't matter to me in most cases.
There is a music underneath the words in all languages, and this rise and fall conveys a whole layer of meaning. So learning how to pitch the voice is important, and can really only be done by hanging around in coffee shops and eavesdropping (buses and trains also good). I will often catch a particular phrase I hear and quietly try to imitate the inflections of the speaker (obviously not while they can hear!)
Accent is also very important for avoiding misunderstandings! It's worth practising, say, in french, the difference between 'passion' and 'patient', or, in finnish, the difference between 'Sari' and 'saari' because failure to do so could lead to confusion.
And finally, I think that accents are where the words of a language flow well together. You cannot speak french with an english accent without a) mangling their 16 vowel sounds and b) losing the flow and rhythm of the language. It's easier to speak a language if you closely copy native speakers.
I think a native sounding accent is extremely difficult without living that target language 24/7.
It's called a "foreigner that we need to ask about their back story finder" not an "accent".
I think that it depends on the context in which you speak a foreign language. To give an example, I am French and I studied English for two years in college. Whenever I had to make a presentation in English, the teachers would mark the way I speak and, depending on the class, the pronunciation would represent 1/10 to 1/2 of the mark. It was a real problem for me because I have a strong French accent for someone who has studied English. I remember that, when I did a presentation on a text analysis, the Literature teacher said: "Your analysis is one of the best I have ever heard in this class. I would have given you a A-, if you had a good British accent. Because of that, I will only give you a C." This type of thing always happened to me so often that it lead me to think that I cannot speak English well enough to ever be understood by someone else. Because of the frustration it gave me, I no longer study English, which is really sad because I do not make many grammar mistakes when it comes to writing and I love foreign languages.
It is normal that the teachers were harsh when they were marking my presentation because the goal of studying a language in college is being able to speak it fluently. However, in other cases, having a perfect accent is not necessary. The most important thing is that people can understand you, even people who are not fluent in the language that you are speaking. A thing that helped me understand that my English is not that bad is playing online with people from all around the world. People whose mother tongue was Spanish, Japanese or Arabic could understand me when I was speaking English, which is really reassuring.
I think that anyone who learns a foreign language always has an accent, whether it is slight or strong. I think that the most important thing is knowing how to pronounce words to be understood. Then, once you have mastered the language enough to be understood by others, you can try to better your accent. If you do not achieve to do it, that is not a real problem because people can understand you. Only people who are not tolerant with foreigners will be offensive with you, people whom no one really wants to be around anyways. Nice people will help you to improve the way you pronounce words. So do not be harsh on yourself as long as people can understand you :)
I have put a link below to a sketch that was made by a British men who has lived in France for several years, but still struggles with French, including the French accent. It should lead you to a YouTube video called "What The ❤❤❤❤ France - La Langue Française": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz0XgAKR9Oc
Here is another link to another YouTube video in which two English men who live in France, including an English teacher, give advice to help people learning languages. It should lead you to a YouTube video called "Learning Languages With Luke Thompson | Vlog #64": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlP9etxa5Xw
Both videos are in English, so I think that you will be able to understand them!
I wanted to finish my comment by saying that I admire you for being able to speak two languages fluently. English is already difficult for me to learn, even if English and French have many similarities, so I cannot imagine how hard it is for someone whose mother tongue is a non-European language! I hope that you will be able to speak French fluently like you want to. French is a very difficult language to learn because it has a very complex grammar (even French people do not speak it correctly sometimes!), but you will be able to be understood by French speakers if you keep it up :)
Wow, I cannot believe you lost marks at college due to your accent, what a horrible teacher! I never deduct marks from my students based on their accent, unless I can't understand anything they are saying, of course. You should have got that A. Being able to give a college-level presentation in a foreign language deserves an A+.
While my goal is a native level of overall language proficiency, I'm not interested in actually passing fors native. Where I'm from is a big part of who I am. I like that my speech reflects that.
No-one will think you are a native if you speak a language well. On the contrary, they will be pleased that you are interested in their culture and language. I don't try to pass for french when I'm in france; I'd rather they knew how much I value french culture and how much I love the french!
Very good interesting article. We all hate to fail or look foolish, but language learning should be enjoyable and not a cause for embarrassment! I admit that in beginning to learn Italian I am self conscious of my accent, and hope I can overcome that!
I grew up copying accents my north east English stumped people from other areas so I learned to mimic them instead. I'm not sure what my accent even is anymore. I do like to try and guess peoples accent in my head before I ask them. My own personal game so far I only have about a 30% success rate, so I'm bad at that, I do love to talk though. I'm impressed when a non native speaker has a go at english even if it is a bit wrong and has an accent and I don't doubt their intelligence because of it. The fact they are willing to learn and try to converse impresses me. I wish I had paid more attention at school in languages, I didn't get the language I wanted to do, so I sulked and did Latin instead, it was interesting but not overly helpful. I'm probably more jealous of their language skills than they imagine and the accent is an excuse to ask a personal question of a stranger.
It's not really important for me. I'm not good with accents even in my mother tongue although I tend to imitate my vis-à-vis and start speaking in their accent after some time. However, I can't switch on purpose. If I could, my goal would probably be speaking like a Scot :D
As long as the accent isn't strong enough to impede understanding, it doesn't matter.
I don't think accent matters much. It's just your pronunciation.
Accents are nice, and (being an accent lover myself) very amusing.
How much emphasis do you place on someone's accent when judging their proficiency?
(1 out of 10) - 4 -
How much do you care about it?
A lot, but it's not important!
Lastly, is acquiring a fluent, natural, "native sounding" accent a part of your language learning goal?
It would definitely be a nice thing to have, but I don't think it's that important to have a native-sounding accent.
I am fluent in Italian, and usually sound Italian when I speak it but every now and then, my English accent pops up and people comment on it, suddenly realising I'm not Italian, haha. I don't mind having an accent, I think accents are sexy. :-)