on accents...

Do you think it is possible to dissimulate your accent when speaking a foreign language? I mean can one really sound a native even if they aren't? If you think it is possible, then how can one achieve this aim? I am really curious about what your opinions are on this matter. Thank you all!

Jan 22, 2016 3:31 PM
Comments · 13

I second Overbyen's point about simply making the sounds properly. A big mistake by learners is to use only the sounds they know and not the sounds in the language they want to speak. This is where the foreign sound in their speech comes from.  Yes, solving this problem means re-learning most of the alphabet. Substituting "easier" sounds (=the wrong sounds) is counter-productive.


You can find teachers on italki who manage accent reduction, and it is really a case of slowing down and breaking down each word and phrase. It's painfully slow at first, but so is learning a new musical instrument. ;)

January 23, 2016

I think it's definitely possible, but it could be very difficult depending on your native language and the language you are trying to speak.

A lot of people have the impression that there are certain sounds in a language you cannot make unless you grew up speaking that language with other natives. Or, in the extreme case of some South Korean parents who have their children's tongues surgically altered for the pursuit of English fluency, they believe that there are biological factors that hinder their ability to obtain native-like speech.

The reality is that every sound in every human language is pronounceable by just about anyone, regardless of whether a person has that sound in their native language or not. Obviously certain sounds will come much easier for some people than others, but it doesn't mean that it's impossible for the latter to make those sounds. Being able to pronounce a letter or a word is really just about knowing things like where to place your tongue, how to move your lips, and whether your larynx should vibrate or not. 

People have accents because they apply the rules of their native language to the foreign language they are learning--they try to move their tongue in the same way and they use the same intonation when speaking. In order to speak without an accent, you have to kind of abandon what you know and pay close attention to the rules and customs of your target language. And it probably will require A LOT of effort.


<em>continued below...</em>

January 22, 2016

I have tried teaching some people I know with foreign accents to pronounce words like an American. Once I broke everything down for them and showed them exactly where everything in their mouth should be, they actually could pronounce the words flawlessly. It was very exciting for them and me to see that, after years of saying something incorrectly that now they finally knew how to say it right. However, they had to think a lot in order to keep that native-like speech. When you've been pronouncing a word a certain way for most of your life, it's the hardest thing ever to break that habit. It takes a lot of practice, practice, practice, and more practice in order for the correct rules to truly sink in and old, incorrect rules to die out. Without that and continuous reinforcement, most people just forget what they've learned and slip back into their comfortable foreign accent when they have to go out and actually interact with others.

January 22, 2016

Yes, Rania

I think it's possible to sound like a native especially when you live in an English speaking country for some time. But if you can't do it, I can suggest an exercise for you. After doing a piece of listening, try to imitate the speaker - I mean repeat what he/she says and try to sound like them. Then record your voice and compare the two speeches. Why don't do you do it here, record your message on vacaroo.com and share the link here, so we can hear how native you sound. It's fun. Do it.

January 22, 2016

Ahh I don't know why iTalki switched the order of my posts. The longer one is supposed to be at the top, just in case anyone sees it differently.

January 22, 2016
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