Can someone ever lose their accent in a foreign language?
Thread poster: golf264
golf264  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:53
English to Dutch
+ ...
May 22, 2015

I speak now something like 20 years English, but it is not my mother tongue. I've read somewhere recently that one can never lose the accent of their mother tongue, when they speak a foreign language, there can always be detected that that is not their mother tongue.

I have personally seen some however, that speak English (but not just English) without any accent at all, or so it seems to me, and these people have it as a Foreign Language.

So my question is to you (all), morely I would like to hear your collective opinions, do you think one can ever lose their accent?


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:53
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Yes May 22, 2015

golf264 wrote:

I speak now something like 20 years English, but it is not my mother tongue. I've read somewhere recently that one can never lose the accent of their mother tongue, when they speak a foreign language, there can always be detected that that is not their mother tongue.

I have personally seen some however, that speak English (but not just English) without any accent at all, or so it seems to me, and these people have it as a Foreign Language.

So my question is to you (all), morely I would like to hear your collective opinions, do you think one can ever lose their accent?


My Italian friends tell me I sound Italian. In fact with a slight Tuscan accent. I think it depends on the individual. Some people never lose their foreign accent.


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Tatiana Kochegarova  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:53
Member
Russian to English
+ ...
It's possible May 22, 2015

It's a very good question. I think it's possible to correct accent, but is it really indispensable?!! Accents are considered to be cute and attractive, at least in New York City

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Paulo Eduardo - Pro Knowledge  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:53
Member (2008)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Are you not proud of your nationality? May 22, 2015

Why lose your accent?
Tosiens
Paulo Eduardo


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:53
English to Polish
+ ...
... May 22, 2015

Some people lose their accent in a foreign language, but that's likely to make them also gain an accent in their own native language. Some people do a bit of both — gain some accent in their native language but never entirely lose their accent in a foreign one. For example I can often tell which language Polish interpreters work into when I hear them speak Polish, which is my native language.

It's entirely possible to continue to have an accent after spending several decades in a foreign country and mastering the language.


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B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:53
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Age makes a difference May 22, 2015

I think that most people will only lose their mother-tongue accent if they achieved fluency in the second language as children or young adults. Jane Birkin still speaks French with an English accent, but I recently heard a recording of an English woman who had been an intelligence agent in Nazi-occupied France. She was speaking in French on the radio and seemed not to have any English accent at all. She must have been very young when parachuted in to France. As she seemed rather posh, she probably learned French as a child perhaps from a governess, or at a public school and she might have gone to finishing school in France or Switzerland.

[Edited at 2015-05-22 17:27 GMT]


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MalinFreelancer  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:53
Member (2015)
Swedish to English
+ ...
I did May 26, 2015

It comes back when I'm tired or have been talking with family though. I think it's very individual how much accent a person will retain, but also depending on when they started learning the second language and how much they're subjected to it in everyday life. Some people seem to hear the subtle differences in accents and can mimic them, while others don't.

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Reed James
Chile
Local time: 03:53
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
Flattery will get you everywhere Jun 10, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

My Italian friends tell me I sound Italian. In fact with a slight Tuscan accent. I think it depends on the individual. Some people never lose their foreign accent.


Just as some foreign speakers of a language are better than others at picking up accents, so too are native speakers of languages at detecting accents. You must also keep in mind that a foreign speaker could pronounce and execute certain words or phrases better than others. Perhaps he or she is more comfortable in certain settings such as on the phone or with friends.

I don't know about Italians, but here in Chile, it is considered to be polite to complement a foreigner on his or her accent. I can't tell you the number of times I've been told "no tienes acento", when I know it's not true. Other people have told me that I do have one. This is not an issue for me.

[Edited at 2015-06-10 21:08 GMT]


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:53
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
It's possible Jun 11, 2015

You can even lose your accent in your native language -- it happened to me! I now speak what I call "Canadian newscaster English" -- North American English that is incredibly neutral, with more British-leaning vocabulary and grammar. But at one point I used to speak "East Texas drawl", a US southern accent that stretches across parts of Oklahoma, Dallas and east Texas, some of Arkansas, and northern Louisiana (where I grew up). After over a decade of living in Europe, however, the southern accent is gone until it's needed and most native English speakers who speak with me either assume I'm Canadian or can't determine where I'm from beyond North America. (This has proved useful, as I have a lot of non-native speakers tell me they are so happy to speak with me because they never have trouble understanding me in English.)

Obviously if you are immersed in a specific language environment as a child, you are more likely to speak that language without an accent, but I have also known some non-native speakers who came to an English-speaking country as adults and who have almost completely eliminated their "foreign" accent. The most impressive example was a Ukrainian who sounded like she was born and raise in the UK, even though she actually moved to the UK in her twenties. I spent a considerable amount of time around her and never once did I catch a mistake or odd/incorrect pronunciation. My partner speaks Urdu natively and has very nearly managed to master an English accent that makes him sound like a well-educated upper-middle-class Brit from Surrey. Only a few pronunciations give him away, and an occasional mix-up of the sounds /v/ and /w/. He came to the UK when he was 19 years old. Off the top of my head, I also know a Norwegian who sounds like she grew up in Bristol (she didn't) and a Finn who sounds Irish 99% of the time (except when she says the word "cabbage" -- it was hilarious when I asked what she was cooking and heard her say what I thought was "garbage"!)

I suppose what all those people have in common is practice, practice, practice, and total immersion. All of them (except the Ukrainian, but seriously, that woman is exceptional) have native English-speaking partners and spend their time consuming a high amount of English in their day-to-day lives.


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