Choosing an accent

According to current estimates, there are approximately 6,000 languages in existence throughout the world.  Some of them enjoy a unique status, those we define as “dominant languages” because they are used as an instrument of daily communication by a substantial number of people.  Among these languages some are used on many continents.  As a language spreads over a large geographic area local variations are created, often similar to one another, but with different vocabularies and, of course, different accents.

The word “accent” can have different meanings depending on how it’s used.  In this article, however, I’ll be referring to the following definition:

1. (Linguistics / Phonetics & Phonology) the characteristic mode of pronunciation of a person or group, esp. one that betrays social or geographical origin.

The status enjoyed by a  particular language is, of course, a result of its history: colonization, migration and immigration as well as (unfortunately) invasions, occupations and wars.  In this context the languages take on a new role.  Not only do they serve as a means of communication but they also take on political and cultural significance.  The language is a distinctive trait of a nation and a people.

This introduction serves, in part, to explain how one’s choice of an accent can sometimes bring about a confrontation with a complex reality and a certain antipathy and misunderstanding, something which could otherwise be difficult to understand.

My experience

I still recall vividly a conversation that I had in a bar in Madrid with a young Colombian.  We were talking about accents and he said “The accent of Spain is ugly.  Every time we hear Spanish tourists talk we laugh and make fun of them. “That statement kind of took me aback.  I’d thought, naively, that having a common language would have created a bond between groups of people separated by an ocean but having common cultural traits that come from having the same language.  On the one hand, it’s undeniably true that there is a “Latin Spirit/Culture”, but on the other hand, one must consider the fact that the Spanish language was imposed upon them by the Spaniards centuries ago through wars and barbarism of every kind that brought about the extinction of entire peoples, also caused by illnesses that were unknown in the new continent and to which the immune systems of the indigenous people were not prepared.  These massacres generated a resentment that was passed down from generation to generation and has never gone dormant, even after so many centuries have passed.

In the course of recent years I’ve noticed that this young Colombian is in good company.  Trying not to generalize, I’ve met many South Americans who don’t like the Spanish accent at all.  Some of them find it much harsher than the variations spoken in South America and in some cases they finish by talking about the conquistadors.  This was confirmed in You Tube when in some of my videos numerous comments appear for and against the Spanish accent and there were mutual misunderstandings (and sometimes insults).  There is even a video by an American girl  who, with great pride, stands up for her decision to opt for a Spanish accent despite the various criticisms and mocking on the part of South American residents of the United States or American citizens of South American origin.

English, French and Portuguese are other examples in which a similar thing happens, though in a different way.  In the case of English, I’m aware that in England the American accent is not well-accepted by a part of the population and I’ve heard with my own ears the statement that the American accent “sounds stupid”.  Obviously this is not a reflection of the entire English population, and I’m sure that some Americans find the English accent unpleasant.  But English is a global language; it is not limited to England and America.

Another case that stands out is that of Portuguese.  Many Brazilians asked me why in the world I would choose the accent of Portugal over that of Brazil which is more widely spoken and is obviously more popular among foreigners as well as native speakers.  Not only is it more pleasant to listen to, they would say, but it’s the language spoken in a country with strong economic expansion.  Effectively, I personally noticed a very high appreciation of the Brazilian variant as compared to the “Continental” one.

Being Italian, I’m surprised by all of this because our language is “confined” to Italy and there are only a few people in the former Italian colonies (such as Ethiopia and Eritrea) who still speak it, so for us it would be strange to hear a drastically different Italian spoken in another part of the world (in which dialects of the immigrants have been spoken since the start of the 20th century.

However, I understand, in part, these misunderstandings because we have them too, though on a regional level.  Italian has more dialects than almost any language in the world, with an extraordinary variety of accents.  In some places in Italy one need only go 10 – 15 km.  to hear a different accent.  This fragmentation of the accent comes from a fragmentation on a political level.  Until 150 years ago Italy was still divided into many city-states, very different from one another with completely different histories and developments.  There is often a mutual mistrust, antipathy not only between regions but between cities and communities within the regions, something we call “campanilismo”.

Some accents turn out to be pleasant and others, not.

How to choose an accent: my experience with five languages

One of the questions that I’m often asked on You Tube deals with which accent to adopt.

I’ll start by telling you about my experience with English, French, Spanish and German.

The first thing that jumps out at you when you watch my videos is that I speak American English, the “over the pond” variation while I speak the European versions of the other four languages.

Sometimes, at a certain age, one decides to learn a language and considers which variation to learn.  In the case of English, I didn’t have to choose; it was American English that chose me, as I explain in this video.  (LINK)  I had a private tutor who was from Chicago, 95% of the English language films that I saw were American and my friends in Rome were all American.

When I learned French I started at school and the only non-satellite station we received was a French channel.  Moreover, there was a relative dearth of materials in other versions of French (like “Quebequois”,  the French spoken in Belgium, Swiss French and the variations spoken in several nations in Africa).  The same holds true for Spanish: the first Spanish class that I took was taught exclusively in the Spanish of Spain, and for many of the other courses as well.  So it was an obligatory choice.  German was no exception either as only the “hochdeutch” is taught, at least in Italy.  If I’d gone to live in Austria and had learned the language there, I probably would have ended up learning Austrian German, but I decided to learn German at home and the materials that I used only presented the German spoken in Germany.

For Portuguese the choice was a little harder.  There were basically two versions and I finally decided on the European Portuguese because I liked the sound of it even though, as I said earlier, many people like Brazilian Portuguese.

GUIDELINES

Adopting one accent instead of another is, first and foremost, a personal choice dictated by one’s tastes and the materials at his/her disposal.

If you are undecided you can decide according to the following guidelines

Materials

If you are studying on your own, having plenty of good-quality materials is absolutely essential for setting up an effective language studio.  If one version of the desired language has far fewer materials than another, I suggest that you choose the one for which there are more resources.  I’m referring to materials with a hard copy and accompanying audio.  One of my students admitted to me that he opted for the Spanish of Spain, even though he liked it less, because he couldn’t find sufficient resources to learn one of the South American varieties.

Human resources

People are a fundamental resource for learning to speak a language well.  Language is a means of communication and the interaction with other people allows the addition of the emotional, social and behavioral aspects while acquiring a foreign language.  If you have the opportunity to practice a language right away, for example if you have a friend or companion at your side, adopting the accent of the country of origin of  that person could be an essential element in the improvement and the development of not only that person but of all those around him/her.  If, for example, you have a Chilean girlfriend and you have the opportunity to travel to Chile, you’ll be more motivated to learn that variation of Spanish.

That holds true for associations in general.  If there are a lot of people in your town who come from a certain country and you often have the opportunity to meet with them and see them often, you’ll be more motivated to learn that language.  To give you a specific example, it’s much easier to practice American English in Rome than the other forms of English, thanks to the massive presence of Americans in the Italian capital.

Travel

Even without necessarily having any personal relationships with people from other countries there is still the possibility of traveling.  If you often have to travel to a certain location, whether for business or pleasure, it could be an additional motive for learning a specific language.

Work

Even your employment could play a big part in the selection of a language.  If, for example you often conduct business with Brazilians or travel to Brazil as part of your job, learning Brazilian Portuguese rather than that spoken in Europe could greatly ease negotiations or simply business relations.

Tastes

“De gustibus disputandum non est” , the ancient Romans used to say.  Personal tastes are not up for discussion.  As far as language learning, the best students are those who understand right away what it is they enjoy doing and this is naturally true when it comes to accents as well.  Choosing a language you like listening to encourages you to listen more and to spend time with the language.

CONCLUSION

The choice of an accent is a personal one and is directed by personal relationships, work, preferences, availability of materials, travel opportunities and the people one knows.  Often misunderstandings come about because of historical events, aesthetics and phonetics at a continental, national and regional level.

Still, languages remain a means of communication.  If a person is pleasant and speaks with propriety, the accent with which he speaks plays a very minor role and his interlocutor will concentrate more on content than on form.

It’s really not important which accent you use; what’s important is speaking well and establishing an emotional connection, empathizing with the other person.  A pleasant interlocutor is pleasant, regardless of the accent with which s/he speaks.

Here is a video (in English, Spanish and Portuguese) in which my “polyglot buddies” and I talk about our own personal choices as far as accents are concerned.  I hope you all enjoy it!

Audio file of this article at the end of this post

 

LUCA, RICHARD AND SUSANNA TALK ABOUT CHOOSING AN ACCENT IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE 

[youtube width=”600″ height=”344″]http://youtu.be/GSr8i3-oqZM[/youtube]

Transcript of the video

Richard: You speak Brazilian Portuguese

Susanna: It’s a mix. My accent is a mixture of the Portuguese accent from Brazil and that of Portugal.

Richard: How is that possible? How is it possible to speak a mixture of Brazilian and continental Portuguese?

Susanna: It’s because I live in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. No, I’m just kidding. Where I live in San José, California, there’s a large population of Portuguese immigrants from the Azores islands. They have their own radio station. When I was driving to work, I would listen to their radio station. So I started with Portuguese from Portugal. At home, I had a Portuguese language book, Com liçença, Brazilian Portuguese for Spanish speakers. Then I started with Brazilian music. Now I have Brazilian friends and I go to a weekly Brazilian hiking group on Saturdays. We walk and we speak in Portuguese. But when I don’t want to speak in Portuguese, I speak in English and they speak to me in Portuguese. So I hear a lot of Brazilian Portuguese. But I think my vowels are more Portuguese, they are more closed.

But I want to work in Brazil because in Brazil, there’s a big market for English and Spanish language learning.  They are getting ready for the Olympic Games and the World Cup. So I think I need to improve my Brazilian pronunciation to work in Brazil.

Richard: And sing as well?

Susanna: Oh yes and sing “Nossa. nossa. ai você me mata…”

Richard: My daughter is always singing this song. It’s really popular in Macedonia now. My daughter wants to sing this song. I thought it was really odd that she could pronounce all of those words. I didn’t know she could sing all of the words. It’s weird to me.

Susanna: Your daughter can sing the whole song? Wow! She is a very intelligent 5 year old girl.

Luca: She’s Richard’s daughter.

Susanna: Yes, of course, she’s Richard’s daughter. Luca, how did you learn Portuguese?

Luca: I wanted to learn continental Portuguese. There’s always this issue with accents. People wonder why an Italian would speak American English. Or French. Or Spanish, I didn’t know that there were so many misunderstandings between people from Spain and Mexico or from other parts of Latin America, they don’t like the Spanish accent. People ask me why I speak with a Spanish accent. But in Italy it’s normal to learn European Spanish or European Portuguese. When I meet people from Brazil, the first question they ask me is, “Why do you speak with such an annoying accent?”

Normally, Brazilians, well you know, it’s like in American English, the vowels are more open. The French, the Spanish, foreigners in general, think that Brazilian Portuguese sounds nicer than European Portuguese. But there are also political and historical issues. It’s Brazil, it’s important to speak Brazilian Portuguese. But if you speak continental Portuguese, people understand what you are saying, but they don’t like how it sounds. So if you want to work in Brazil, it’s better to speak with a Brazilian accent. Many people say that Portuguese is Portuguese. But the accent is part of the country’s identity. If you speak with a Brazilian accent, it’s different, people will treat you differently.

I’m Italian and I don’t know if I will go to work in Brazil. Maybe I will have to speak slower so people can understand everything I am saying. Normally, the issue is that Brazilians don’t like my accent so they prefer to speak in English. This isn’t the case with everyone. But there are some people who like the Portuguese accent and Portugal. But many Brazilians and other foreigners (non-Portuguese people) don’t like the Portuguese accent. They say it’s ugly.

I think you have to learn a language to say if it’s nice or not. For example, with Dutch or Portuguese, people say they don’t like those languages. But after learning them, it’s a different story. It’s the same with Catalan. When I was in Barcelona, in Catalunya, I didn’t like the sound of Catalan at the beginning but now I like it a lot. The first thing to do is to speak the language. With Brazilians … with Spanish, I get the question about my accent and why I speak European Spanish. At first, I didn’t understand why people asked me this.  I am speaking Spanish. There are many similarities between the different versions of Spanish, the one in Latin America and the one in Spain. But behind the accent,  there are other things that foreigners don’t understand at first but later on they learn when they speak with people.

Susanna: I think we should talk about accents. Sometimes people ask me, “Do you think I should start with Mexican, Peruvian or European Spanish?”

I think you should listen to all of the accents at the beginning. I started with European Portuguese and I don’t have any problems understand Portuguese people when they speak. And I understand almost everything that Brazilians say. But some people tell me, “I started with Brazilian Portuguese and I can’t understand people from Portugal. And I say, “How can that be? I have no problems understanding them.” The same goes for Spanish because my first Spanish teacher was from Spain and I can understand European Spanish and Latin American Spanish because I hear it, I’ve traveled in Latin America.

My parents, in the USSR, only learned British English. So when they came to the US, it was a big shock to hear American English. What do you two do when you are learning a language with various accents? Do you listen to all of the versions of the language?

Luca: At the very beginning I always use a language series like ASSIMIL. This language series generally offers the European version of languages like French or Spanish. I believe that the way one learns a language plays an important role. Learning with a book and listening to the standard European version of the language is different from, say, going to Quebec and being exposed to Quebequois. As for Portuguese, I actually had the choice between ASSIMIL bresilien and ASSIMIL Portuguese from Portugual, and I opted for the Portuguese version so it was a deliberate choice I made. I think it is important to go for one version of the language since the very beginning especially if you want to sound like a native and not mix up accents. You can always absorb other accents later

I think it is important to do that if you want to acquire a well-defined linguistic identity. As said, I the case of French and Spanish it was easy for me. In Italy the only choice you get is Spanish from Spain and French from France, there are no such courses as “argentinian Spanish” or other versions from South America. As for German, ..Germany had a couple of colonies but it is not a language spoken everywhere. One normally learns “hochdeutsch” – German from Germany. Unless you go to Austria or Switzerland and get exposed to other regional variations of the language, one normally learns German from Germany both in schools and in language series like ASSIMIL. English is a special case because American English is wide spread thanks to movies for example. My adive is to choose one accent. You always have time to explore other accents if you want to. Now, this is only my humble opinion and I guess that the King of languages will offer a different perspective

In my case, I first started learning Spanish in Madrid, with a Spanish teacher. I later moved to France and I was exposed to a southern accent, andalusian Spanish, by living with people from Malaga. I then moved to other countries and lived with South Americans, namely from Peru, Ecuador Venezuela, and I picked up a “middle atlantic” accent. Nevertheless, I always go back to castlian Spanish, especially andalusian. I can speak standard Spanish but I got used to andalusian and when I speak the standard version I have to focus on how to articulate every word, and it is more difficult if you have to speak to people for a long period of time. As for German, I lived in a region near Holland, where “low-german” is spoken, so I used to say “dat, wat” instead of “dass, was”. I also had friends from Switzerland, so I like playing with numbers and use th “swiss version” of those. I think that being able to speak with different accents is enriching and gives you the possibility of understanding the people of those countries better, because it makes you aware of differences within the same world. I think that absorbing new accents is a valuable thing to do.

 

 

 Audio files of this post – English:

  • Choosing an accent is always a political decision. They are trying to teach Somali here in Minnesota at one school. The problem is what accent? The tension between North and South caused a civil war, so it’s a serious problem. However, they have not made a clear decision, so Somali education has some problems.

  • Jared Romey says:

    Great topic Luca! I think for many language learners, especially those just starting on their first (non-native) language, many don’t even think about which accent to learn. I know this was my experience with Spanish. I just learned what was taught, not even knowing how many different options exist. Only when I started to travel did I learn that there are major accent and vocabulary differences among Spanish speaking countries.

    Just pointing out to people that they should make a conscious decision to learn one accent over another based on their personal needs and preferences is a great step. If a person makes this decision early on, it can save lots and lots of time throughout the process.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

    Jared

  • Jakari Carroll says:

    In some of the languages that I speak, I do have a accent mixture. Like when I am speaking Vietnamese, my accent is combined with Northern Vietnamese and Southern Vietnamese. But I understand Northern better.

  • Travis.H says:

    I really enjoyed this topic. Living in Japan accents and dialects comes up quite a bit in conversation. I live in a rural part of northern Japan and the accent up here is considered to be quite “dirty” compared to 標準語 (the standard dialect). As a non-native speaker of Japanese I personally love it and don’t find it dirty at all. From my experience living here, speaking Japanese well means being able to understand the dialect and by letting it taint your “cleaner” spoken Japanese just a little. Whether people want to or not, when getting angry or excited will bring some part of your language roots out whether you want to or not. It’s nice to be able to follow people to their roots linguistically at least in these situations. I’ve found it creates more of a sense of closeness and people feel more open when they know they don’t have to modify their speech for you.

  • Sylvia says:

    Great post, Luca.
    Just wondering: what do Spanish people think about the Latin American accent? And what about the accent of Argentina?
    By the way, could you post the link of the video of the American girl who decided to learn Spanish with the accent of Spain?
    Thanks!

    • admin says:

      Hi Sylvia.

      To answer your question..some Spaniards like accents from South America and some don’t. As I said in the article, tastes are not up for discussion. I can only say that I just noticed a rivalry between Spain and South America (+ Mexico) which is not just only a matter of “linguistic tastes”.

      As for the video, I can point you to her YouTube channel, but I think that she took down all her videos (don’t ask me why): http://www.youtube.com/user/LinguistAja/

      L

  • jay says:

    Being a Londoner when I have visited less touristic places in the U.S. my accent has received positive reactions, which I don’t think would work vice – versa for Americans. Sometimes they think I’m from Australia (their accent is a variation on mine!)though this would only really apply to people from only select parts of London (David Bowie’s speaking voice is one example).

    When I first had Spanish lessons my teacher was from Spain so I had no choice and picked up the lisp pronunciation. I was was proud of this fact due to some distant Spanish heritage but my English colleagues would denigrate the accent as their Spanish teacher was Colombian.

    Travelling in Latin America they are some references to the Spanish as conquistadors especially when telling their histories, I understand this but a little strange to me due to the mixture of their blood. I had to modify my accent when hailing a cab on the street(and not let them see my blue eyes)in Peru as one has to fix the price before you get into the car and any hint of being a foreigner equals a higher price!

  • stebann says:

    Interesting topic. Concerning Spanish, which is my native language, I consider that the mere division of the language into two different categories is absolutely wrong. In Spain, apart from the fact that are spoken four languages, almost every region have a different manner of speaking Spanish. Southern Spaniards, andalusians like myself and also people from Canary Islands, are reputed to express ourselves in a sometimes incomprehensible dialect to the ears of Nothern Spaniards, or in some cases and/or situations we can even pass unnoticed among Latinamericans. It happenned to me many times, sounding chilean to peruvians or venezuelan to chileans…

    On the other hand, to talk about “a Latinamerican accent” in my opinion is also wrong because not only every country, from Mexico to Argentina in terms of vocabulary or pronunciation, have many ways to differentiate from its closest neighbour but they also exist regional differences within every single country.

    Therefore in the case of the Spanish language, like in many others,
    people´s like or dislikes of a certain accent depend more on miscoceptions, prejudices, political reasons than a real knowledge or first hand experience.

  • I don’t speak, I only write. Problem solved.

  • Giulia says:

    Great topic e complimenti per questo fantastico blog, Luca!

    I also speak several languages and love hearing and comparing different accents and dialects. What I find is that while with my native languages (Italian and German)there has been very little change in the way I speak(except perhaps some expressions and intonations I have taken over from friends)as they are “ingrained” and less mouldable so to speak, with the languages I have learned later on there is a constant development, even though I am fluent in them. For instance, I definitely speak English with a British accent as I have lived in the UK, but I like to use American words and expressions here and there, as I may have learned them in an American context. I have first learned Spanish with Spanish teachers and then specifically in the South of Spain, but have spent time in Latin America since and have many friends from there. So i often change the way i pronounce the “C” depending on who I speak to, and generally mix accents and expressions no matter which situation I am in. This seems to come natural to me, but I must say I also like the idea that the way I speak a language reflects my experience. Does that happen to you guys too?

    Either way, I think that all accents can be beautiful as they all mirror their history and culture, and show how things can be expressed in different ways.

  • Dylan says:

    In college I would visit a house that included a Spaniard, a Mexican, an Italian, a Chilean, and two Brazilians, one from Sao Paolo and one from Rio.

    The South Americans constantly criticized the Spaniard for his accent and the Spaniard never once enjoyed it. But the best arguments came from the Brazilians. Even though their cities were only separated by hours, they would constantly argue (in good fun) about who spoke the “better Portuguese”. (I ended up choosing the Sao Paulo accent for my Portuguese learning, just based on the fact that my best friend is from there.)

    A bit off topic, but thanks for recording the Italian version on audio Luca. I enjoy reading and listening to you speak Italian to practice. Grazie.

  • Teresa Chamorro says:

    Dude, I’m being nitpicky here, but, come on, I thought that you’d know better: people from C-O-L-O-M-B-I-A (not Columbia) are COLOMBIANS, not COLUMBIANS. There are absolutely no ‘u’s in the name of the South American country or its demonym.

  • Teresa Chamorro says:

    No sé quién sea ‘Richard’, pero el texto que escribió en español está espantosamente malo. There are too many grammatical mistakes to mention, and the punctuation is basically non-existent.

  • stebann says:

    Ya que dices, tampoco se dice “no sé quién sea” sino “no sé quién es”. Y “el texto está espantosamente malo” sería “está espantosamente mal” o “es espantosamente malo”. Corrector no puede ser cualquiera.:)

  • Hola Luca!

    This is a great article to help people be aware on the importance of choosing an accent. I don’t think there is a ranking. They all have good points. It’s more to do with which one do you enjoy the most because that will speed up your learning. Sylvia was asking what do Spanish people think about the Latin American accent, specifically Argentinian. Im Spanish and the Latin American accent sounds definitely more musical and sweet than ours. To me Argentinian accent is with no doubt the very best by far because of its elegance and beauty and thats why Disney cartoons have been adapted to the Spanish market with an argentinian accent, not with Spanish accent.
    At audiostory.com we offer little stories that can be listen to in English, French and Spanish accents to help with the learning and we hope to include Latin accents and American accents very soon.

    Elena

  • Camilo says:

    I’d be a bit more critical about all this ‘the Spaniards stole our gold and pillaged our lands’ thing. Even though i agree that the Conquista was often brutal and genocidal, the truth is that most of the people complaining about this are probably direct descendants (however mixed) of the very same Spaniards doing the killings and the pillaging. For your average South American, this ‘historical memory’ of Spain’s past misdeeds is not the product of a lingering memory going back to the Conquista, but rather a product of the Independence Wars.
    The criollos and the mestizos did not really care about the past sufferings of the Indians until they had to construct a ‘common front’ against Spain. The brutality of the Conquista thus became the perfect metaphor for the oppressive nature of the Spanish Imperialism and rallying cry for Independence. It not only depicted them as foreign invaders, but stressed the main reason that had made Spanish domination unbearable (at least for the elites leading the revolution), drawing a parallelism between the exploitative nature of Spanish Mercantilism and the pillaging of the riches of the American Empires.
    But this never translated into a ‘new deal’ for the indigenous population. At least in my country, Chile, they had it much better with Spaniards. The criollos continued to perceive them as backward and primitive, and worked hard to assimilate them into mainstream culture, destroying their language and cultural heritage.
    BTW, great blog!

  • Ambra Sancin says:

    It’s timely that I stumbled on your blog as Feb 21 was International Mother Language Day, a UNESCO event. I’m Italian and also fascinated about topics like ‘mother tongue’. My latest blogpost is all about this: http://ambradambra.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/mother-tongue-turns-to-thoughts-of-food/

  • Luca says:

    Congratulations on this topic, Luca. Your post points out the importance of making a choice at the beginning to focus on a particular accent. I am writing an article about how to improve our accent and I agree with you. When I start learning Portuguese, it was very hard to choose : I ended up choosing Brazilian accent because I prefer its sounds and I have a couple of Brazilian friends.

  • Tinei says:

    Bonjour! Merci Luca d’avoir fait traduire l’article en français !
    Merci !

  • Tinei says:

    Bonjour. J’aimerais savoir si il est possible de savoir parler avec plusieurs accents.
    Moi j’aimerais bien pour l’Anglais utiliser l’accent britannique quand je vais en Angleterre mais utiliser l’accent américain quand je vais au USA.
    Est-est possible ?
    Mais de quoi sont composés ces 2 accents différents ?
    Merci.

  • Steve Lloyd says:

    Hi Luca,being from South Wales in Great Britain I was a little surprised to hear reference to British and American English.Anyone visiting my country would probably be astounded at the differences between for example a guy from Edinburgh,Liverpool,Birmingham,Cardiff,London and Belfast.So as for me ,maybe Richard may agree I’m not sure ,English is English and should not be categorised as either one or another. A proposito studio l’italiano.grazie per il tuo blog,steve

  • […] perché ne preferisco le sonorità e poiché ho alcuni amici in Brasile. Come spiegato in questo interessante articolo che vi consiglio di leggere (in fondo trovate la traduzione italiana), si tratta di una scelta […]

  • Julio César says:

    Salut Luca!

    ca va? Bon, très bon article que tu as écrit! Mais une chose. Une petite correction (bien que je ne parle pas encore bien le francais), c’est “choisir UN accent”, pas “an” comme en anglais. Peut-être tu as fait un erreur de doigt! Mais même ca, bon travail. Comme toujours, j’ai aimé ton article et ta réflexion sur choisir un accent quand on va apprendre une langue qui est parlé dans autres pays, comme l’anglais, le francais, l’espagnol, etc…. Et bon, si tu voudrais une traduction a l’espagnol, je serais plus que heureux à t’aider avec ma langue maternelle. Je peux lire et tout ca, mais si tu veux ou si possible.
    Merci beaucoup pour tout et je te souhaite le mieux, mon gar.
    À la prochaine! À bientôt! 😉
    Julio

    • admin says:

      Salut Julio,

      merci pour la correction, ce n’est pas moi qui traduit les articles, dont l’écriture est toujours une operation un peu délicate qui requiert pas mal d’attention et de précision 🙂 Je veux remercier personellement toutes les personnes qui sont en train de prendre part à ce projet (c’est à dire de transformer ce blog dans un site multilingue qui soit à la fois une source d’information et un outil pour apprendre d’autres langues) ainsi que les utilisateurs qui – tout comme toi – contribuent à l’améliorer en me signalant/attirant l’attention sur les inévitables fautes et les imprécisions.

      Si tu veux traduire l’article et le lire en espagnol tu seras le bienvenu 🙂

      L

  • Steve Lloyd says:

    Hi Luca,whilst I wholeheartedly agree with improving our accents,the point I was trying to make about the British english accent is that there maybe a misconception that everyone from Britain speaks like Hugh Grant.However,that accent is specific to the London area in England.Due to the fact that Britain is made up of four seperate countries i.e Scotland ,England ,Ireland and Wales each with a completely different accent,think of Mel Gibson in the film Braveheart as the example.So therefore it should be only considered as an accent of that of a small part of England.Incidently I speak with the Welsh lilt like the singer Tom Jones.Check out Wales v England rugby six nations this weekend.ciao for now.

  • Red/ says:

    Mi ha fatto pensare l’ articolo di questo expat che vive in Svezia da alcuni decenni:
    http://franco-francofaziocom.blogspot.it/2013/03/pane-salato.html

    Come si può fare per interagire con delle persone nella loro lingua nativa se in certe nazioni il livello minimo di padronanza richiesto nel parlato é davvero elevato?

  • Adalberto da Silva says:

    Oi. Luca, etc, 2 french girls told me: Nous, les français, aimons quelqu’un avec un accent etrangere. I asked a french guy about that, if the french love french in foreign accents, he said: It depends on the person. I dont know if he meant French person or Whose accent.
    Brazilians say: Mau gosto não se discute. Lamenta-se. Bad taste shouldnt be discused, but pitied.
    Many braz.portuguese learnes make the mistake of choosing Carioca (Rio) accent. Brazilians in general can’t stand much carioca accent. Or cariocas. The more continental São Paulo(capital) accent is the one used in prime-time news (youtube Globo Reporter), etc.
    For brazilians the portuguese way of talking (i come from portuguese family) sounds like Afghan’s Farsi for Iranians: old-fashioned. Doesnt help the country political incorrectness about portuguese people living in Brazil, mostly well-uneducated peasants, with jokes like The pregnant portuguese woman who wasnt sure the kid was hers.
    Luca do you think anyone should try to keep a beautiful foreign accent (french, f.ex) or try to acquire the ‘official’ one?
    Grazie, Beto.

    • Tinei says:

      Salut. Je suis français et je ne comprend pas. Je n’ai jamais entendu parler de ça, que les français aimaient les personnes avec des accents étrangers. ???? ????
      C’est bizarre.

  • I find that picking up an accent and emulating it effectively it is one of the most difficult part of language learning, as most of the times you end up with an approximation. In the UK if you can speak with a “proper” accent (sound educated) you will have chances to land good jobs.

  • ivana says:

    Luca you’re just such an inspiration! After watching your video, I started learning (several) foreign languages. I cannot say that I have been absolutely successful but I have enjoyed the process immensly and made some really nice friends.

    So, thank you and keep up the good work!

    Now, as for accent. It is an important aspect of SLA. Perhaps it is best to go for one accent or model it on a particular person while you’re learning a language. Once, you have made some progress with a language why not have some fun with it?

    I could agree more with what you said think about how being able to speak with different accents is enriching. However, it is not easy. Those of us whose native dialect is very different from their mother tongue know this. It is hard to keep both!

  • dll says:

    @Richard: more often than not the accent you pick is a subconscious choice, however what it conveys is frequently taken as a political statement.

  • Raito says:

    Great Luca. At first I thought BP sounded nicer, but then I heard a few Portuguese songs from Portugal and the accent is also very nice. I’m still undecided which to learn, but as I’m reviving my German now, it’s not an issue. 🙂

    With German and Chinese. It’s a different story however.

    Why would I choose Swabian if the majority of German speakers wouldn’t understand me. The same applies to Southwestern Mandarin.

    Italian. Hmm. As a Czech I would probably try to pick up some of the northern accent as they don’t pronounce the geminate consonants accordingly. 🙂

  • idiomatico says:

    Al final yo creo que la elección de un acento u otro para los que no somos hablantes nativos del mismo depende más de razones sentimentales y estéticas que otra cosa. En mi caso yo elegí el acento británico porque me parecía más elegante que el americano (luego dentro de Gran Bretaña también hay una gran multitud de acentos. Es mejor estudiar el acento que te atraiga más porque así te motivará más el estudio del idioma.

  • Allan Rocha says:

    Hey Luca! Very interesting post! I am Brazilian and I do agree that point that you made about the cultural relation among the languages. Talking for me, I do not like Portuguese from Portugal, for me it seems funny or ugly. When you told about British people think the American accent a quite “stupid” I could realize that a friend of mine from Scotland said it to me :). Anyway, accents and their cultural context is something interesting to notice. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Tomoko says:

    Hi Luca, I speak English and a little bit French, I found your articles and they are very interesting, I’m working at a call center here in El Salvador, I should tell you I don’t work taking calls, but chats and emails, some days ago I applied for a position in a phone queue and they told me that my accent is so latin, I know that this is important for these kind of jobs, but I tried several things to improve my accent when I speak in English and I can’t get my English sounds better, I study a language major in the University and when I speak in French everyone says it sounds more natural and my accent is nice, sometimes I’ve thought that may be for some people is easier to pronounce one language than another, taking into consideration that in our country is most likely be more famialiarized with Emglish than French, since in El Salvador learning a European language is really expensive and harder to find people who speak and practice, and sometimes we’re lacking of tech resources or time to access to the internet information, for your attention, thanks so much, I hope you give me an advice to imitate, choose an accent and improve it 🙂

  • Interesting topic. I just wanted to tell you that Italian is spoken by 60 million people in Italy and almost another 60 million around the world, because of our emigration. Don’t forget all the “sons of Italy” born abroad, bro… and in those cases, as far as I can say as a Professor of Italian in Canada, I believe that many It-Am or It-Canadians speak Italian with the accent of the region from where they family came from. So, normally, it would be a Southern accent.

    • Tomoko says:

      Yes, I haveno problem with having accent, it’s really nice to know that people can know where are exactly you coming from because of your accent, this is what makke us more ourselves and remember us all the time our cultural identity and I’m happy to speak English and that many people like to listen to different accents , I’m one of them! 🙂
      The poblem is the prejudice of some people that may be never have been in other countries or never in their life they have been in touch with somone from abroad, I hope those prejudices could disappear soon!
      Kinds regards from El Salvador!

  • Emil says:

    Can you make a video or a post about listening comprehension?

    I’ve been studying Japanese for a while and I can speak without problems, know a lot of words, but when it comes to understanding, I just don’t know what to do. Sometimes I am not able to understand anything.
    What should I do?

  • Steve says:

    Great Topic Luca- I always enjoy the surprised look on faces when they pick up a course to learn Spanish and they didn’t realize the difference between the Castilian “lisp” and the Latin American Spanish. I enjoy them both but certainly a difference.

  • Zara Chiron says:

    This topic is absolutely brilliant! I am an English speaking African from Nigeria (a country colonized by the English). I learned French in France. I chose to learn it in France because I told myself that this was the Mother country of the language. I was amazed at how many French people adored my accent when I would speak French.

    I have an English speakers accent when I speak French…I was often asked if I was “Americaine ou Anglaise.” only because the French could hear that English was my first language but could not truly detect the exact accent of the country of origin so would automatically jump to the US or UK.

    I noticed the way people, in genera, would treat me when they would first see me and after I would open my mouth to speak. Their perception of me would instantly and drastically change. It made me feel bad for my fellow African brothers and sisters who would speak with their Francophone African accents that is generally perceived to be a negative thing by the French.

    Interestingly, I would try to imitate the accent if a West African francophone singer Inna Modja (I love her and her accent!)when I first started learning French(to no avail…I am not as talented as the author of this blog!) and my French friends would ask me why (even to this day) I would ever want to lose my accent!

    In Spain, I am still trying to figure out what my accent sounds like to the Spanish (but I do not speak well enough yet for them to get a proper sample). Again, I chose Spain as my country of residence to learn Spanish because it is the mother of the language (and geographically wit was easier to make the move). I am living in Andalusia, and I had friends from Madrid and Catalonia advise me against because the accent was “bad” and “hard” … Being here has done nothing to hurt my Spanish Quite the contrary, I am so sure that I will be able to understand all sorts of Spanish from Latin America and other parts of Spain after having lived here. And although I am ambitious and would love to speak with a perfect Spanish accent, I know that I will always have a piece of me in there! What is more I have a slight natural lisp, so even I decided t pronounce he “c´s” like “s´s” instead of “th´s” it would still be a cross between the two 😉

    I truly enjoy reading this blog.

    PS I too have had many the Colombian friend who did not care for the Spanish accent from Spain. And I had a Dominican friend who would make fun the Colombian accent – saying that they spoke too formally… lol You can’t win really…

  • apostolos says:

    I am sitting in a Seminar and have to look for exapmples of Blogs on learning foreign languages. I found year blog and find it clearly structured, informative and with an easy Access for comments! Well done!

  • This is a great article Luca, and a brilliant example of just how sticky a mess you can get yourself into when learning a new language if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on around you. Accents are always a contentious issue, sometimes even in your own language. Here in the UK they are so mixed up with class and background, so someone might not realise that if they learn British English and decide to sound like the queen, they won’t always get a good reception – particularly if they do it convincingly!

    Would you ever recommend someone to learn an accent that isn’t the ‘standard’? Which is the safest accent to pick when learning Italian? Or will you always sound a bit out of place because of the huge variety of different dialects that there are in Italy?

    Thanks for sharing!

    • admin says:

      Caro Alex,

      grazie per il commento e per le belle parole. Se non ti dispiace ti rispondo in italiano perchè di solito scrivo sempre in inglese e perchè potrebbe esserti utile come pratica 🙂

      Would you ever recommend someone to learn an accent that isn’t the ‘standard’? Which is the safest accent to pick when learning Italian? Or will you always sound a bit out of place because of the huge variety of different dialects that there are in Italy?

      Domanda molto interessante…Diciamo che anche senza conoscere le statistiche precise, direi che il 95% della popolazione ha un accento regionale più o meno marcato. Solo gli attori, presentatori televisivi o persone che lavorano nel campo della cinematografia, teatro, intrattenimento si preparano con corsi di dizione con l’intento specifico di ridurre il più possibile l’accento regionale. Un esempio di un accento “limpido” o quasi è quello della ex presentatrice Rai (televisione nazionale) Maria Luisa Busi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbDxBZw204c.

      Imparare l’accento standard è possibile, ma difficile, perchè significherebbe venire a contatto esclusivamente con questo tipo di materiale o di persone che parlano in questo modo, e sono veramente poche. La soluzione migliore è senza dubbio quella di andare a vivere o essere a contatto con persone di una specifica città (anche se quest’ultima soluzione è a dir poco complicata, soprattutto all’estero).

      Molti dicono che l’accento standard sia quello che toscano, secondo i dettami dell’Accademia della Crusca circa 500 anni fa (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accademia_della_Crusca), ma ora come ora direi che in Toscana l’accento è marcato come e quanto le altre regioni.

      Per riassumere..l’accento standard esiste, ma è un accento quasi “fittizio” adottato in realtà da poche persone. Ogni regione ha un accento specifico e diverso dall’altro, e questo non vale solo fra regione e regione, ma da città in città. Se vuoi imparare un accento regionale, ti conviene venire a vivere in una regione specifica, e quell’accento e regione dovrebbero dipendere dal tuo gusto personale 🙂

      Un abbraccio e sono felice di averti incontrato per la terza volta a Budapest (dopo Parma e Mosca!)

      Luca

  • Trevor says:

    For me it is a question of proximity. I am English, so much more likely to take frequent short-haul flights to visit European countries, than travel to distant lands. I have lived in Spain, so speak Castilian Spanish. I have lived in Portugal, and speak mostly Lisbon Portuguese, but many of my friends there are Brazilian, and I kind of switch accents depending on whether I am addressing Brazilians or Europeans. My French is of France; I like Swiss French, but my teacher tells me off for saying ‘nonante’ instead of quatre-vingts-dix! I’m just beginning to familiarise myself with German, and will soon learn High German, but love Bavarian and Austrian pronunciation.

    In my native tongue, I can switch between a northern version of standard British English, and local idiom, depending on context.

  • Eric says:

    Such an awesome article I want to learn mexican spanish since it’s widely in use where I live, but I would love to learn french from martinique or just france either or but this post gives such a good realization that a lot of people seem to not put into use when speaking a different language.

  • Chris says:

    Great Post!

    Since your own motivation is really important with language learning, I think personal taste is really important. Certain dialects sound “sexier” than others and I find this assist with learning.

  • […] For me, the choice is very simple. While I lived in the middle of the Gwenedeg area when I moved to Brittany (the photos above were taken in Vannes), I now own a house smack in the middle of the KLT zone. I’m technically in Cornouaille, but so close to the border that Léon and Trégor are but a few kilometres away in opposite directions. For me, the choice is already made for me by geography. If you have more say in the matter, The Polyglot Dream has a nice article on choosing an accent. […]

  • Gleb says:

    I’m a graduate student doing a PhD on adult language learning in a digitally connected world.This blog post along with the comments have probably given me a new perspective on language learning as a whole.I this is coming from someone who researches this area full time. I’m a non native English speaker myself so I completely understand how difficult it is to learn a second language as an adult, let alone be proficient at speaking with a particular accent. I think the best way to learn to speak a language is to practice speaking with natives, Things like the right accent (if there is one), the right grammar, the best word usage etc will follow naturally. Fact is there aren’t a lot of places for non natives to practice and engage like this, other than a few websites like Spoken English Practice http://www.spokenenglishpractice.com. So you end up with the same old and ineffective methods you have been trying all your life like memorizing grammar rules and cramming up lists of words you will never use. And, you end up with little improvement. I digress, I know.
    With accent, thankfully there is no right or wrong. I would always strive to be clear. Expressing is more important than impressing to me. That’s where I would sway towards in picking an accent.

  • […] 33.) Read an article about learning languages in Italian and English on The Polyglot Dream.  […]

  • lucia says:

    Nice article. Just a couple of quick thoughts: 1) I think Americans don’t consider British accent as “unpleasant”, more likely they think it’s outdated/old-fashioned or snobbish. 2) Italian is also an official language in Switzerland, don’t forget!

  • fabio says:

    Hi, Luca! That’s an interesting topic, but I’d like to share my take on this. I’m from Brazil and I agree that the ex-colonies have some kind of resentment, but in my opinion when it comes to accents, it’s a little different. We all learn how to talk immitating the sounds of those who live near you, your community. Family, friends, nieghbors, teachers. So we incorporate the languange and accent we learn as part of or identity, that’s why we find it weird when we hear a different accent. Brazil is a big country, there are different accents here. Everybody makes fun of each other’s accent. We makee fun of each other’s accent even within the same state. So I dont think it’s about dominance, it’s about not recognize the other accent as part of your identity.

  • When I started learning English, I got interested in classes by an English teacher from England, who lived very near my house. She hated American accent and she insisted that what I had to do is to learn the British accent, which is more “pure” (according to her). To me it was shocking because an accent is just an accent. It doesn’t make the language better or worse. To make it short, I ended up listening American accent most of the time 🙂 (and I never attended to her classes).

    Òscar, http://www.unlimitedspanish.com

    • MARCO says:

      Higuys, if you want to have an interesting experince in learning a new language in an amazing country like Spain come to visit this site http://www.idiomas247.com/. It is a well organised school of languages, present in all the main cities of Spain, where all professors are native. Just have a look and believe me you will not forget a trip in Spain

  • Keith says:

    I think you’re right on so many levels. Here in Canada, us Anglophone Canadians often feel like we’re compelled to “choose” from a huge variety of French accents. There are dozens of different French accents in Canada, and some of them are very different from one another (you sometimes have a difficult time understanding some, but not others). It’s interesting to hear English Canadians adopt the different French accents of their regions.

    But like you said, there are now many materials available (the internet changed everything). There are a few good websites about this. One is http://www.offqc.com. Another is http://www.quebeccultureblog.com. It’s interesting.

  • Adrian says:

    Estimado Luca:
    Soy cubano y quisiera añadir a tu magnífico post mi experiencia con el tema de los acentos en idioma español. Para la mayoría de los cubanos resulta muy “pesado” cuando vemos una película “doblada” al español con alguno o muchos de los acentos peninsulares, sencillamente porque no nos parece creíble. Por otro lado si la película o serie es realizada en España pues lo aceptamos con la mayor naturalidad porque nos resulta “creíble”. Pero nunca nos burlamos del acento de los españoles, sí nos puede hacer gracia, pero no es lo mismo burlarse. Cuando sí no tenemos piedad en las burlas es en el caso de algún compatriota que pasa una temporada en la Madre Patria,en Argentina, Chile o Colombia y regresa con el acento de aquellas tierras tan incorporado que pareciera se le ha olvidado el propio. Un abrazo y siga ilustrándonos con su pasión y conocimientos.

    • admin says:

      Muchas gracias por el comentario Adrian, y por compartir tu experiencia con migo y los lectores del blog 🙂 Que tengas un buen dia! Luca

  • Andrés says:

    Soy mexicano, pero acento que me parece más agradable es el colombiano. Antes no me gustaba el acento español ni el acento argentino, pero ahora me dan igual. El acento colombiano es más suave, para mí es uno de los que suena mejor, se parece al acento mexicano en cierta medida.

  • Manies says:

    I wanted to ask about the start dates for the prrgoams. When do the 4 month to fluency prrgoams start? Are they rolling throughout the year? How many people per class on average? How much is the homestay and what does it include? Do they teach the class in the target language? Thanks and talk to you soon.

  • […] 33.) Read an article about learning languages in Italian and English on The Polyglot Dream.  […]

  • […] I started learning European Portuguese at the exact same time as Mandarin. I had never learned two languages at the same time, and so I gave myself very precise guidelines. Portuguese, like Spanish, came very naturally to me. I focused on pronunciation, which can be tricky. Unstressed vowels are barely pronounced and sentences often seem like an uninterrupted sequence of consonants. Portuguese can even sound like Russian to untrained ears as a consequence. I often get asked why I opted for European Portuguese and not Brazilian Portuguese, which is much more widely spoken. The truth is that I often don’t choose a language. I let languages choose me. […]

  • […] I started learning European Portuguese at the exact same time as Mandarin. I had never learned two languages at the same time, and so I gave myself very precise guidelines. Portuguese, like Spanish, came very naturally to me. I focused on pronunciation, which can be tricky. Unstressed vowels are barely pronounced and sentences often seem like an uninterrupted sequence of consonants. Portuguese can even sound like Russian to untrained ears as a consequence. I often get asked why I opted for European Portuguese and not Brazilian Portuguese, which is much more widely spoken. The truth is that I often don’t choose a language. I let languages choose me. […]

  • […] I started learning European Portuguese at the exact same time as Mandarin. I had never learned two languages at the same time, and so I gave myself very precise guidelines. Portuguese, like Spanish, came very naturally to me. I focused on pronunciation, which can be tricky. Unstressed vowels are barely pronounced and sentences often seem like an uninterrupted sequence of consonants. Portuguese can even sound like Russian to untrained ears as a consequence. I often get asked why I opted for European Portuguese and not Brazilian Portuguese, which is much more widely spoken. The truth is that I often don’t choose a language. I let languages choose me. […]

  • […] I started learning European Portuguese at the exact same time as Mandarin. I had never learned two languages at the same time, and so I gave myself very precise guidelines. Portuguese, like Spanish, came very naturally to me. I focused on pronunciation, which can be tricky. Unstressed vowels are barely pronounced and sentences often seem like an uninterrupted sequence of consonants. Portuguese can even sound like Russian to untrained ears as a consequence. I often get asked why I opted for European Portuguese and not Brazilian Portuguese, which is much more widely spoken. The truth is that I often don’t choose a language. I let languages choose me. […]

  • Hannah says:

    This is exactly what I’m looking for!

    I have Spanish “multiple personality disorder”, which is affecting my ability to go completely native. I first learned in Mexico. Then spent many years in Spain. Then last year again in Mexico. I speak fluently, but can’t “land” permanently on one accent/way of speaking over another. I don’t have a permanent language personality, so to speak.

    I’ve decided to gird my loins and finally speak Spanish at native level (I really should by this point), but now comes the question: WHICH version? Spanish from Spain would be easiest for me (I spent the most amount of time there), but as you have said, that accent is pretty much disdained in much of latin America (at least in Mexico and Colombia), where I like to spend a lot of time too.

    What I would really like is a fairly NEUTRAL Spanish, that would fit in, in the most countries. What “accent” is Susanna speaking? It does in fact sound like a mix between Spanish from Spain and Spanish from Mexico. This is kinda what I’m looking for. Anybody know?

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