Ive read a lot of posts lately, about immigrants who want to lose their accents. I came to a conclusion that if we all share our experiences along with voice samples, we can all improve and sound more native. Thats why Im opening this post for everyone who wants to participate.
I came to Canada when I was 15 and right now Im 18. Ive been often annoyed with questions of my origin (Im from Poland). The problem here was not about people asking where I was from, but rather, whether I was Russian or not. Whenever this question comes up Im always irritated since I have nothing to do with Russia...
Ill write more about myself after I read some of your experiences. Im very interested in immigrants' problems relating to the new language aquisitiom.
Accent reduction is must if you are living in North America esp USA and canada. People from these countries are not used to hearing foreign accents on a regular basis so they have a hard time communicating with immigrants and they guess their origins incorrectly because of this. It is also irrittating to repeat yourself most of the time during conversations whentalking with Americans in particular so, yeah, it is a frustrating problem for foreigners and they have got to fix it. No leeways there. On a personal note, I am repeated all the time when speaking with Americans. And I need to imitate their way of talking or in other words their accent. Otherwise I would be wasting my time simply learning their language.
No, It is not that Americans are not used to hearing foreign accents, it is that they've got the laziest brains in the World!!
We have the laziest brains in the world? No, wait, I'm too lazy to think about that.
Yes, the Guest poster is correct, many Americans (at least) are not used to foreign accents and this impedes communication.
Sometimes there is only some small thing which makes the non-native sound foreign and yet the listener will focus on that. I can hear intonation in my mind now of non-native speakers who actually have a good vocabulary, and grammar, but I can hear where the melody goes awry when they speak, where their pitch goes too high on certain words. They carry slight traces of their homeland and for people not accustomed to their "song", it plays out like a tune which is slightly off.
If it makes you feel any better, quepasa, I do make an effort in my lazy American way to have a native-sounding accent in the languages I speak and learn.
I'm going to recommend shadowing. Ask Jasper about it. It works. It works for English and it works for other languages.
Nonsense. Americans can understand foreign accents just as well as any one else. The thing is that every man and his dog is trying to learn English so there is a big chance of coming across one with a terrible accent. On the other hand there is not much chance of meeting a foreigner speaking Polish, and if you do it's likely they speak Polish well with a genuine interest in the language, whereas many people speak English even though they hate it or don't care.
I have to disagree with you. Granted, I don't live in NYC where accents are more frequently heard, but it is not unusual for me to talk with immigrants and they certainly complain about the difficulty they have communicating with Americans.
"My mecanic doesn't understand me."
"You understand me, but patients complain that they don't understand me."
It's always because of intonation issues or accents, not grammar problems.
Most people who cannot speak, stay in their immigrant community unless a crisis forces them out.
I'm not sure what you mean about a foreigner speaking Polish. Do you mean that you are in Poland and you rarely meet a foreigner who speaks Polish?
Were I a Pole I would be extremely pleased if a foreigner (without Polish lineage) made the effort to speak Polish out of love. Of course, it would say a lot because there are so many "popular" and "hot" languages vying for one's time. The BBC has a Polish course, but no one will even have tourist level Polish as they only tease learners with a phrase a week.
<<quepasa: No, It is not that Americans are not used to hearing foreign accents, it is that they've got the laziest brains in the World!!>>
You have to be careful about generalizations, especially with respect to the United States which is a HUGE place. What may be true for some, is not for others.
Many regions have lots of immigrants and are more exposed to foreign english speakers. I personally am very used to heavy accents from all over the world, and pride myself for having a flexible ear for understanding almost anybody - even the roughest most broken english.
>>>On the other hand there is not much chance of meeting a foreigner speaking Polish<<<
I think it's been a most chronic problem of communication, when everyone finds it so hard to listen to accented speech and to learn foreign languages. Our site here already offers a lot of useful information, which I do recommend to some fellow natives, even though some STILL find plain English of Antimoon hard to understand.
Ultimately, it's a question of what the power of a language is and the chronically huge costs of learning one.
>>>and if you do it's likely they speak Polish well with a genuine interest in the language, whereas many people speak English even though they hate it or don't care.<<<
Even though I only know very little about a bunch of regional languages, I can see how bad it is to speak English with a heavy French, German, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin, Mexican, Hungarian and Pakistani accent. As a mere non-native mortal, I can see how difficult it could be once your accent appears to be fossilized. My metaphor is: I think you do know what a fossil is. How do experts find fossils? They dig them out. But this requires a lot of effort, isn't it?
I think learners need a bit of both mental, practical and social work to deal with this problem, if they care to. Our OP has been brave to post this to ask for help, but strictly speaking, your fellow natives who own this site would say you had better learn better before you write or speak, because you can't produce good output when you haven't learnt how to well.
First, it's about what it means to speak with an accent, I mean, a foreign accent that natives aren't supposed to hear. I find it alright to learn to different native accents, but even the Scottish accent sounds, IMO, already a bit remote from the standard speeches (this is a plural) I'm used to. The same for certain English or regional American accents. Referring to above, "I" would find it really hard to understand a thick Mandarin or Mexican accent (yes, alike) because it's JUST too thick. One social consequence might be that natives (like...if you study or live with them) might not bother to correct you, or they find it embarrassing to. If you enjoy a very high social status, then...well, you may not have to learn any language at all, but this doesn't happen to everyone.
Two of my linguistics professors have accents (with native wives), and one admits that his accent is somewhat fossilized. One simple reason is that, like Polish, I'd be so pleased to speak to both of them in my native language, and as long as they can get their messages across without much effort, I wouldn't hesitate to speak this language to them usually, and .... well, even with native wives, they don't seem to have got rid of an accent (yet). They know theories about acquisition much better than I, but I guess it's (insufficient) social needs (with students, and their wives) that keep their very slight accent intact.
So, like you, I've kept on learning, I mean, on correcting mistakes I make every day, but really I don't write much English now, except here, since I know I must be making loads of mistakes unconsciously.
My native language should be fairly obscure and should be even more chinois than Mandarin (termed, as, just, Chinese). Many natives are fairly forgiving, and this forms a unique social hurdle in our culture because many of us have been so curious to listen to foreign accents, and typical responses are "Gott sei Dank, they can learn our language!", "That's unbelievable!", "But how difficult it could be!". Many are happy to see YOU the learner struggling with a single phrase, sincerely or sarcastically, and so I think it's a very bad hurdle. For my language or your language or English, a learner has really to do a bit of practical work, namely shadowing.
>>You have to be careful about generalizations, especially with respect to the United States which is a HUGE place. What may be true for some, is not for others.
Many regions have lots of immigrants and are more exposed to foreign english speakers. I personally am very used to heavy accents from all over the world, and pride myself for having a flexible ear for understanding almost anybody - even the roughest most broken english.<<
I myself generally can understand even heavily foreign-accented speech quite well, even though sometimes I get a bit confused by vowel length which is neither allophonic (as in much of NAE and Scottish English) nor phonemic (as in English English, Australian English, and some eastern NAE dialects) or the lack of aspiration of plosives, as I find such to be often rather necessary for proper word-recognition. Aside from such, the main problem I encounter is non-native speakers not understanding *my* speech; I normally do not encounter this problem with non-native speakers who have lived for a while in the northern US, but individuals who really have not lived there relatively recently can sometimes have significant trouble understanding me. (The biggest example that I can think of is a bunch of French computer security specialists who were meeting with my team at my workplace who seriously found me very hard to understand, even though they could understand my team lead well despite his also being from southeastern Wisconsin, likely due to his speech being significantly more conservative than my own.)
How unusual is your accent? Do you speak quickly? You often write about your speech but I've been in your state and never had any trouble understanding anyone there.
Your English is improving. It's better than some posts from people who start out from an an IE language and half the people in my state.
How unusual is your accent? Do you speak quickly? You often write about your speech but I've been in your state and never had any trouble understanding anyone there<<
My speech is rather different from any standard form of English, but really seems to have a lot in common in practice with many English dialects throughout the Inland North and North Central dialect regions in the US, aside from some quirks such as my [ʁ̞] for non-post-coronal /r/, my frequent use of vowel length and nasalization in a distinctive fashion, and that I probably have more frequent assimilation and elision than many (which is probably on the more progressive end of such dialects). I do definitely speak quickly at times, with very heavy elision and assimilation, but not always; in the case of the guys from France that I spoke of above, I was actually speaking rather carefully by my standards.
The main thing here seems to be a matter of familiarity. I have not had any significant problem with non-native speakers who actually live in the northern US, and only from ones who have not lived there, which implies that it is simply a lack of passive exposure to such features which is why some people have a lot of trouble with my speech. I really have not had any problems in Real Life with any other natively English-speaking North Americans, even though I have had some of them say that I sounded "foreign" or even difficult to understand in speech samples.
Another note, though, is that speech here in southeastern Wisconsin varies a lot with respect to conservativeness versus progressiveness. My own everyday speech is very progressive overall while retaining very many local dialect features, but many middle aged and older people here actually have very conservative speech by North American standards which is often not too far from General American. Many Americans would probably only consider their speech to sound slightly accented at most, whereas it is not surprising that many would find my own speech rather accented. I myself can speak more conservatively if I want to, but it generally feels forced, over-enunciated, and like I have to add sounds in many places where I normally do not have them as such. Hence, I tend to be more comfortable speaking in the fashion that I do, which is not too different from how most other people my age here also speak (which a degree of internal variation, of course).
Have you posted a sample here?
I have the newer sample:
It is reading of a prewritten text, so it probably does not actually reflect my everyday speech. If anything, it is much more "careful" than my everyday speech.
I also have the older sample:
It is just me speaking relatively normally in an unscripted fashion (and without trying to be deliberately "careful" at all), but it does contain some self-references to some pronunciations in my own dialect which may trip some up (especially if one already has trouble with the rest of the sample).