Mimicking a foreign accent
Thread poster: Jack Doughty

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:20
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Dec 8, 2010


I shall say zees only vonce - do you tink zees eez a good idea?


Robert Mavros  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:20
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I vud zay Jaaa... Dec 8, 2010

if it weren't Steve McLaren, but....

Now seriously.... I do agree communication would be a bit easier but it is a bid ridiculous, isn't it? Imagine having a conversation in London with your Czech mate, your Spanish mate and your West Indies mate. Good material for a comedy sketch thoughicon_smile.gif


Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:20
Very common in cinemas Dec 8, 2010

You hear English people mimicking American accents and vice versa, Spanish accents, Italian accents, you name it.

But I doubt the results of the study that speaking in a foreign accent to a foreigner would be better much understood.


Kelly Gill
Local time: 15:20
Italian to English
how is this for mimicking accents!! Dec 8, 2010

This guy is good!


Mimicking... and learning Dec 13, 2010


Have fun.


Local time: 10:20
French to English
+ ...
Yes and no Dec 13, 2010

Jack Doughty wrote:


I shall say zees only vonce - do you tink zees eez a good idea?

I think it's a great idea to use when you are dealing with youngsters. It's fun, it makes them focus on deciphering a code, and stepping out of their conditioned way of thinking and listening. However, it could easily degenerate into mocking and other stupid attitudes and behaviors. It would all depend on the situation and how this idea is being implemented.

One thing I do at times with adult ESL students is to ask them to exaggerate completely a certain American accent, after listening to a short sound-byte (Southern or African-American accent, for example). Again, it's just a fun thing to do in class, but it can only be done with more leisurely groups. French adult professionals that are learning English at the office are usually too uptight to be able to enjoy this kind of exercise.


Rachel Fell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:20
French to English
+ ...
@Kelly Dec 13, 2010

Kelly Gill wrote:

This guy is good!



Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:20
English to Arabic
+ ...
I do this unconsciously, all the time Dec 13, 2010

I can confirm the observations of these researchers, as I've noticed myself doing it, especially when talking to other non-native speakers of English who have a stronger foreign accent than mine - I find myself slipping into a "less native than usual" accent. It bothers me a lot, as it makes me feel over-deferential, that it may be a sign of weak personality.

I'm not sure how well this would work as a deliberate tactic though..



Local time: 09:20
Japanese to English
+ ...
Mimicking = Learning Dec 14, 2010

Perhaps the subjects tended to understand better when mimicking the accents because they were learning something that had hitherto been unfamiliar to them at a more accelerated pace than those who hadn't been prompted to mimic? It seems to me that mimicking inherently requires learning, so this study just seems to be proving the obvious point that familiarity breeds understanding.

I used to have a rough time understanding Japanese-accented English, but after learning Japanese, I have no trouble whatsoever with even the strongest of Japanese accents. I've never used mimicking as a tactic for understanding Japanese speakers of English; my Japanese skills do the trick.

Incidentally, despite never having specifically tried to perfect my fake Japanese person's accent, I am able to mimic the accent with no trouble. I'd contrast this with my total inability to mimic the British or Australian accents, as well as the embarrassingly difficult time I have understanding the strong ones, despite the fact that English is my native language. Explanation? Lack of exposure and practice, it seems.


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