PEARTREE LIFE: Experiencing Languages

Everyone has an accent!

The way you speak your own mother language (whether it is Spanish, Arabic or Chinese) is closely linked to the place you grew up in, your community, your social status, and/or even such things as age and gender (Have you ever noticed the differences between young and older people when they speak?).

However, when students are learning English, they often seem to forget about this (Well, maybe because we never pay much attention to our real accent)! I’ve heard students say: I want to speak with a perfect English accent! But, what is a ‘perfect’ English accent (or a ‘perfect’ Spanish, Arabic or Turkish accent)?

It is said that in the UK alone you can find nearly 40 different English dialects (this may include differences in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation) and, if we include all the people that speak English as a second language, we will come across countless varieties (which the English learner will just have to deal with).

So, what do students mean when they say ‘perfect’ English? I believe there’s a combination of two factors: (1) Some students may expect something like a ‘Harry Potter’ English or BBC English (which is one of the dialects spoken in the UK and commonly seen on TV), called the Received Pronunciation (RP). Most books and English schools (teaching British English) use this variety as an ‘educated’ standardised form of the language (and it’s the pronunciation indicated by dictionaries such as Cambridge or Oxford). Even at British schools, children were encouraged to use some of its features not long ago; (2) Students may feel embarrassed about their own foreign accents and feel it is evidence they do not speak the language well enough, or something people might make fun of.

Well, let’s have a look at the title again: Everyone has an accent! Think about a British person speaking your language and I’m sure you won’t feel so bad about your pronunciation. It may be something hard for you to come to terms with, but think of your English accent as you think about your own: It is just part of who you are!

Does this mean we shouldn’t teach pronunciation anymore? Well, I strongly believe that accent can be a problem when it impedes communication and, then, it is the teacher’s role to help you pronounce the words and sentences in a way that other English speakers (natives or not) can better understand you.

So, do you have any problems being understood when you speak English? Check our blog post next week for some pronunciation tips.

Also, check this link to have a brief idea of the different accents you can find in the UK. What does it say about South Wales?
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About Peartree Languages

Peartree Languages is a language school located in Cardiff.


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