Happy Abroad: for everyone who wants to live happily abroad!

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2125Accent. Lately it has become one of my challenges Nr.1. For some time I have tried to ignore it. But now I have decided to explore, what I can do to improve the situation. Where is the problem you might ask? Well, I speak 5 languages and am learning another 2 and in ALL languages (including my native) I speak with an accent.

Where from did it come? I studied in High School in Russian with some subjects in Latvian, then University was in Latvian-English, the last year of university I studied in Germany, in German. Then I moved to the UK and used English and Russian at work. When I did my Masters in UK and in Italy, the studies were in English and Italian. Now I live inRome and use Italian, English, Russian at work. So the last 10 years of my life I constantly had to use different languages every day.

The first issue arose after I finished Bachelors – I realised that I started speaking Russian, my native language, with an accent. Most likely it was because I have not used it a lot in everyday life. Now, when I come back to Latvia, people tend to think that I am a foreigner who managed to learn very well Latvian and Russian.

The easiest solution which you can find is “look at the locals and try to imitate their sounds, how they speak”. Well, in Italy I lived in Siena and Rome, and in these two places people speak very different language. Actually now I realised that the more you move, the more difficult it is to start speaking “without an accent”, as accent ALWAYS existas, and “speaking without an accent” means only that you speak like locals, but if you change towns, the accent might change.  Here, in Rome, I have Italian, American, English, German, Arabic and other friends and it is normal for me to speak 3-4 languages a day. So is it actually possible for me to speak without an accent?

One friend of mine, an opera singer, manages to speak without an accent even without mastering too much the language. Well, it is her gift “to hear the language”. But I think we could learn it, too, like learning the music sounds.

While trying to find more information on the web on how to get rid of an accent, I found this very interesting article, written by  Anthea Fraser Gupta “Ask the Linguist FAQ: Accents”, you can find it here. They offer some obvious, but at the same time the most practical tips on how to speak with a particular accent:

  • “Identify the accent you want to speak.
  • Expose yourself to the accent you want as much as possible.
  • Try to get some friends who speak with the accent you want.
  • Try to make sure you are not mixing with people who will criticise you for changing your accent.”

Hmmm I think in my case it is hard to achieve even one of these points. My main goal is to speak a language and not sound like foreigner. However I guess for Americans even British English might sound like strange…  What concerns exposure – I have so many different friends, that it is hardly possible to separate the groups and mix with one and ignore all others. So I guess in my case I better use an advice of Suzette Hayden Elgin and practice speaking without a “foreigner” accent, using audio recordings (the description of this technique I found in the article mentioned above).

Other interesting tips I found were:

  • Find which muscles are used in language you want to improve and exercise these muscles
  • Observe how native speaker speaks your own language – if person speaks with a strong accent, his/her mistakes in pronunciation will show you the main differences in your languages, which you can use to master your pronunciation and improve your accent.

More information on this method, you can find in the article “Secrets of Speaking with a Genuine Accent” by Owen Lee here.

Good luck! And let’s share our progress or may be other issues or tips on accent in the comments 🙂

P.S. If you liked this article, share it with your friends! That’s so easy, but at the same time could be helpful to others!

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Comments on: "How to speak a foreigner language and not sound like a foreigner?" (5)

  1. Ahah. Funny. I speak my native language with an accent as well. People think I’m not a local 😀

  2. A friend of mine showed me this great website: http://lifehacker.com/5903288/i-learned-to-speak-four-languages-in-a-few-years-heres-how?utm_source=Lifehacker+Newsletter&utm_campaign=9ea761b1ad-UA-142218-1&utm_medium=email
    It has lots of information on HOW to learn new language, including the tips on mastering the accent. Check it out! It’s full of useful resources!!!

  3. I think everybody has accents and that is absolutely fine. Probably the need to modify the accent when speaking in a foreign language is a sort of antidote to ward off stress.

    People continuously asking you where you are from generate stress. My wife really stresses out when people ask her where she’s from. Funny enough, I don’t really care..:)

    Great post Margarita!

  4. That’s an interesting point! I did not think about it from this perspective, but I have to admit that I also do not like when people guess where I am from by listening to my accent. I guess for me it is like a game, when in case if they guess you loose. But you are right, Tony, we all are unique in our own way and should care less about such pity things like an accent 🙂

  5. I completely support a previous comment from Tony International Couples.net 🙂

    I also have an extensive experience in living abroad and communicating with different nationalities, and I do aware that even in one country we have different accents! So, this is not possible to speak without accents at all!

    This is our beliefs about the accents and feelings to be different do matter. If one feels 100% confident and speaking with good language, making themself undesnatndble – there are no problems with that.

    Another matter, if one needs or wants to show with an accent that he belongs to certain group, or class. In that case a respectfull accent must be chosen as a pattern to follow. Yet again – this is a matter of beliefs.

    By the way, I am completely free to speak in English with any nationalities, and since I am trying to skip any accents – I can better understand them. For examples, many my colleagues reporting that this is not easy and somethimes even not possible to understand Indian English. Yet for me it never was a problem. My goal is to communicate – not to care about how I will be seen.

    Thank you for an interesting subject to discuss and to think about!

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