Is it possible to speak a foreign language without an accent?

Tom   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 00:20 GMT

What if someone speaks English in an understandable way, but it takes listeners some effort to understand them? I mean, you have to use your brain to understand them. For example, if they say "I wasn't barn here", you know they must have meant "born", because of the rest of the sentence, but it takes you a second longer to understand what they're saying to you. Perhaps sometimes you have to ask them to repeat the whole sentence.

Such speakers could be described as "understandable". However, they are less pleasant to talk to than people who speak with a standard accent, so in my opinion businesses should have a right to discriminate against them, if they feel smooth communication is an important aspect of the service they provide to customers.
Ryan   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 01:45 GMT
Tom, I just don't believe that everybody should talk exactly the same. I take great value in diversity, including diversity of speech patterns. Would you make everybody look exactly the same if you could? Would you make people get plastic surgery to correct facial features that are "displeasing" to look at?

A similar debate goes on in the UK. A lady named Beryl Bainbridge wants to eliminate regional accents even though they have existed for centuries. But the way people talk is part of their identity and their places of origin. Some people do not want to be the same as everyone else. They are proud of their differences, and wanting to be different than other people should not be punishable.

People should not expect to understand every word someone speaks instantly. That is unreasonable. Most people don't understand everything George Bush says because of his Texas accent but we don't impeach him because of the way he talks. I think you are too extreme in your viewpoint, but I'll agree with you that developing an understandable accent is important for communication purposes.

Wingyellow   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 02:20 GMT

I don't think it takes a thinking process for native speakers to understand me. I just don't know why you had to hear my recording 8 times to understand. I have to explain very accurately to my clients before they sign the contracts, and they never asked me to repeat even when they had every right to do so. Don't tell me they did not want to embarass me. With their money, they just did not have to care my feeling.

At least when people speak Cantonese with a broad accent, I can understand without any thinking. For native speakers, the languages are kind of imprinted in the brain. I admire your accent very much. But your hearing skill is a little bit too dictionary.
Tom   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 11:18 GMT

I'm not sure I see any real value in diversity, but that's not the point.
People can use their regional accents when talking to their friends, but when they're talking to customers from all around Britain/America/the world, they would improve communication by using a standard accent. It's perfectly possible to use a standard accent in some situation, and your "native" regional one in others.
Tom   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 11:21 GMT

Of course you can understand a broad Cantonese accent, just as like I can understand Polish English.
Wingyellow   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 11:51 GMT
I was talking about Cantonese with a broad accent, not a broad Cantonese accent.

I respect you. I admire you. And I want to speak like you do. But if you really have to hear my recording 8 times, then you have a very serious problem communicating with people all around the world in English. Most English speakers speak with accents worse than mine. (That's true, at least in southern China.) Some of them are rich, like Japanese, Middle-Easterners.

I think it is right to speak a standard accent. But the ears have to get used to as many accents as possible. Bear in mind: speakers of "understandable" English are more than that of native English.

I do not mean I will not change or I don't accept criticism. I accept. But I want to make it very clear that it is also very important to understand "understandable" English.
Antonio   Saturday, August 16, 2003, 18:21 GMT
I think Ryan is right. We all speak a little bit differently, at least. I donĀ“t speak in the same manner my sister does. (ie)
Ryan   Saturday, August 16, 2003, 20:12 GMT
As I said in another thread, I think Americans are more tolerant about language and accents than other countries are. We are already a big huge melting pot of people so we had to learn throughout history to be tolerant about language. But Tom has a good point, even though most Americans don't require people to sound exactly like Americans. That's why that lady could win a discrimination court case in our country to begin with. She might not have won a case like that in other countries.