Have you ever lost your native accent?

I know I did. I'm a native Spanish speaker but then lived in an English speaking country for 8 years. I tried really hard to improve my English and while it improved a lot, I didn't end up speaking like a native. All that practice also really messed up my native Spanish, which made me sound like a "gringo" back in my home country. I haven't really made any conscious effort to get my native accent back, but I've noticed that I've recovered some of the "natural" feel in my Spanish after some time back in my home country.

I now sound like someone who speaks very good Spanish but not quite "native." I just recently asked a friend and he said my Spanish has a little bit of Chinese/English mixed in. Has anyone experienced the same phenomenon? 

Apr 30, 2018 2:17 AM
Comments · 6

It happens all the time! I live in a town where many students coming from other places study at the local university. After two or three years they start mixing up a little bit the accents between their original language and the language spoken here.

It happened also to me. I had an excellent knowledge of my native language and now after years being abroad and speaking another language I make mistakes in my original language. 

April 30, 2018

There can definitely be a cross over influence your target language has on your spoken language that impacts the word choices, word order, such that, until you readjust to the native language again, people will notice the influence. I’m not sure that affects pronunciation. I’ve never heard that until reading the anecdotal comments here. I‘ve never heard that the brain had a limited storage capacity either, like a computer, and I’ve never heard of any studies on it and couldn’t imagine how they could be conducted. In fact, heard quite the opposite. Memory can be lost of course, but I’m not sure it’s actually lost or just the recall capacity is lost. 

All i could gather from the YouTube clip was seeing how the the tongue moved to strike the upper part of the teeth when pronouncing the English TH sound. 

April 30, 2018

Personally, I have not, but I have had teachers and language partners tell me about this.  I had a language partner who was from Spain, but living with her boyfriend in Germany.  He was also from Spain and was a Spanish teacher.  She told me that his ¨r¨ sound had changed from speaking so much German and English while teaching Spanish.   

Another Spanish teacher of mine was from Venezuela but had been going to school in the United States for a few years.  She told me each time she went back to Venezuela on breaks her family noted how different she spoke and she had to re-adjust her accent. 

I also know it is common for Americans to have changes in their accents as they move around. My sister´s accent changed when she moved to Tennessee and changed again when she moved Illinois. 

I think it is a very common phenomenon.  

April 30, 2018
I have no experience of being abroad for longer than one month so it doesn't apply to me, but when we meet people raised in Polish families abroad or people who were living abroad for a long time, their accent is usually influenced by the accent of the other country. I'm not an expert in phonology but I noticed that some foreign accents and pronunciation influence the way the person speaks more or less. And it's the same with native speakers of foreign languages who came to Poland and gained the advanced level of Polish while living here. We always recognise people coming from English and French speaking countries while people from Italy and Spanish speaking countries very quickly start to speak native-like Polish (maybe Italians tend to prolong accented vowels too much, but nothing above that).
When I was a child the accent variations between different parts of Poland were more prominent then nowadays. I speak rather standard Polish without using any dialect (I hope so) and when I was visiting my family in East part of my country (they speak more melodic way - a bit similar to Russian accent) they told me my accent was too hard and somewhat unpleasant. But when I returned home after week my school mates asked me why was I speaking with this strange melodic accent. 
I think our brain tries to adjust the way we speak to people we hear around us. And it's going on at the subconscious level.
April 30, 2018
Our brain has a limited amount of storage, and will often discard information and replace it with new information that it considers more important for our survival.

What you need to do is to convince your brain that your less-spoken language is necessary for your daily survival.

Speaking a language with the correct accent requires using various oral muscles, and moving them at the right speed and tempo.

Here is a (pretty unsettling) way of showing what I mean by muscles:


So practice your native language everyday (preferably with someone).

And you'll be more fluent in both, and be able to switch from one another more easily.

April 30, 2018
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Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish
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