If you speak a foreign language, and know the grammar well and have a large vocabulary, but people find it difficult to understand you because you have a strong foreign accent, can we say that you speak it well?
This is something my friends and I were discussing last night. We recognise that there’s nothing wrong with having a non-native accent when speaking a foreign language, and that few people manage to sound like native speakers of languages they have learnt as adults. This is because you tend to carry over elements of pronunciation from your native language, or from other languages you know.
However, if communication is difficult due to your accent, then it might be a idea to try to modify it so that others can understand you more easily. This may difficult, but is worth the effort.
What are you thoughts on this?
2 thoughts on “Accented”
When I lived in Thailand, I found that rolling my ‘r’ sounds made people much more likely to understand me when I spoke Thai. Most Thai people don’t roll their r’s because it is considered overly antiquated and/or formal. I don’t know if it helped because it differentiated between r and l sounds, making up for other ambiguities or if it was just a sign to the listeners that they should understand me if they paid attention.
I wonder to what extent this is dependent on the target language and the country of origin of the listeners. Speakers of some languages – English being the obvious example, but also minority languages where there is revival effort and a lot of learners – are more used to hearing non-native speakers (and possibly more tolerant of non-native accents) than, say, speakers of Dutch or Icelandic.