Accent and identity

Steve K   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 04:44 GMT
From time to time I browse forums used by ESL teachers. It gives me a sense of how little I have missed by not taking courses in teaching English as a second language.

One occasional theme is that accent is part of one's identity and therefore the learner should not be encouraged to minimize his/her distinctve native accent.

Should the English speaker learning another language also try to maintain as broad an English or American accent as possible? Does this make the native speakers of these other languages feel better as they sense that the English speaker is bravely clinging to his/her identity, while they struggle to understand? Does this enhance the self-esteem of the person trying to speak another language who is spared the awkwardness of having to imitate the very sounds of another language? I recognize that perfection is not attainable but surely the goal.........

Can someone explain how someting so inane could become dogma for some in the ESL profession. I assume it is very much a minority point of view. Yet it comes up quite frequently. Any comments?
Damian   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 06:49 GMT
<<Should the English speaker learning another language also try to maintain as broad an English or American accent as possible?>>

Pardon my regionally nationalistic and provincial tendencies here, Steve, but are you really sure you mean "English" as opposed to "British" in this context? ;-)
Mi5 Mick   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 14:55 GMT
It is inane (or insane) and doesn't conform to the anal retentive nature of the ESL teacher. It doesn't make any sense to maintain as a broad foreign accent as possible for the sake of native speakers. Why? In fact, it lowers the self-esteem of the outsider to the language. Think of that poor American actress and her dreadfully broad accent in the French film "A bout de souffle". You actually feel for her, but then she also played a bimbo.
Steve K   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 16:41 GMT

I meant English accent, I could have added Scottish, Irish, Australian accents to my examples, I could have said North American accent instead of American accent or could have included Canadian as an example. I didn't. So what? It is impossible to express oneself in such a way that nobody can take offense if they wish to.
Mxsmanic   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 18:17 GMT
It's possible to be an ESL teacher and stupid at the same time, and people who are in both categories may cling to the politically-correct but irrational notion that accent is somehow connected to "identity." It's just a formal institutionalization of linguistic ego ... which happens to be one of the greatest obstacles to success in learning a foreign language.

Accent has nothing to do with identity. Gaining or losing an accent does not change who one is. Language is just a tool for communication, not a part of one's essential being. Students who understand this do very well in learning languages, and teachers who understand it teach languages very successfully. Students who believe that by switching languages they some out carve out a chunk of their souls are doomed to never be fluent in any language beyond the one they learned as toddlers. And teachers who labor under the misconception that accent is part of identity may be worse for their students than no teachers at all, since they encourage mediocrity and failure.
Damian   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 19:20 GMT
Yes, Steve K...ok....I far as I'm concerned, no offence (offense) was involved. It's just that many Americans use "English" when they mean "British" the guy from Mississippi USA who was convinced that Scotland was in England.

Did anyone here in the UK watch the "Weakest Link" earlier this evening......I did, as I was having my tea. On the usual team of 9 people was a guy from Scotland......Elek, from Livingston. His accent was indistinguishable from mine, as it should be, seeing as he is just 15 few miles down the road from here. He had a fantastic sense of humour and played up really well to Anne Robinson's usual barbed comments. True to style, she began to mimic his accent as a means of extracting the Michael, so he responded in what seemed to me to be a perfect English RP accent. I could hardly believe it, so I wondered if he had ever received any coaching in assuming accents. I've tried to speak in an English accent, partricularly RP, but it's never convincing, so after seeing that it made me think even more about going to drama school! I believe you automatically get taught to adopt various accents as part of the course. You then stand a much better chance of getting parts in any professional acting career.

That cool (and cute) Scottish guy won through in the end and walked away with £3,650. One up for Scotland. ;-)
Damian   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 19:23 GMT
<<partricularly>> = a keyboard needs a refresher course in spelling (traditional style)
Ed   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 19:19 GMT

I miss Anne Robinson on TV here in America. She's so good at what she does!
Someone   Friday, September 17, 2004, 04:26 GMT
Wasn't she fired after she made an offensive comment about Americans?
Ed   Friday, September 17, 2004, 16:55 GMT
I don't know but I'm sure whatever she said was true LOL
Steve K   Friday, September 17, 2004, 17:32 GMT
Typical cowardly cheap kick at Americans. I can only imagine what kind of a dink Ed is.
Damian   Friday, September 17, 2004, 18:23 GMT
<<Wasn't she fired after she made an offensive comment about Americans?>>


It's common knowledge here in UK that Anne Robinson has a very low opinion of Americans and, being the sort of person she is, probably made her feelings known while she was there, so it's no surprise she was given the Big-E from America.

About 3 weeks ago there was an American woman on the team of nine people...someone who lives in London now, and AR was particularly nasty and bitchy towards her and gave her loads of grief.

DINK: In Scots dialect, this means neatly dressed and smart!

Dictionary version:-
In Oz and NZ it's slang for carrying a second person on a
horse or a bike.
Two people travelling together on a horse or a bike.

What's your definition, Steve K?
Peter   Friday, September 17, 2004, 19:58 GMT

I wanted ask the same! What does that 'dink' mean?

I didn't understand it - I only knew that it's offensive.
I really thought that native speakers like you will understand it, but as we can see, even natives have problems sometimes ;)

According to Macmillan Dictionary: DINK - AMERICAN OFFENSIVE someone you do not like or respect
In my opinion Steve K. had something much offensive in mind. Canadian slang? ;)
Ed   Saturday, September 18, 2004, 02:14 GMT
Steve K,

Take a hike grandpa! Dink was used as an offensive reference to North Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnamese War - a little bit before steve lost his senses HAHAHA
Steve K   Saturday, September 18, 2004, 02:33 GMT
Peter was right. This is Canadian slang used to describe jerks. I have used it since the 1950s, i.e. well before Vietnam.

I had forgotten the anatomical nature of the etymology, as did the Canadian Press no doubt in the headline that I found in a search of the Internet.

1) Headline on Canadian Press website

"Canuck is the dink in the drink"



(about the Canadian streaker at the Athens Olympic pool)

2) Definition from following website

Source is Wayne Magnuson: English Idioms
Prairie House Books
Box 84007 Market Mall, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T3A 5C4, Phone +1 403 202-5438, FAX +1 403 202-5437, Email

dink [B] penis, dork, hoo-haw Did you wash your hands after you touched your dink?