If you’re learning a new language and trying to change your current accent, so as to sound more “native”, see why you should switch your focus to pronunciation, instead.

Opinions on language accents are diverging: some people think of foreign accents as something generally badly regarded by natives; other people see them in a positive way, regarding them as something that makes us unique. So, as language learners, should we struggle to get rid of our native accent, or should we be proud of it? As in most cases, the right answer lies somewhere in between.

The Struggle of Imitation

Focusing too much on imitating the local accent might be detrimental for language learning. For example, it can make us feel less comfortable while speaking. Or we might neglect pronunciation (which is arguably more important than accent). On the other hand, totally neglecting to polish a strong native accent might hinder communication with native speakers of the language we are learning.

Depending on your native language, getting rid of your foreign accent might be a more or less hard task. For example, if you are learning English and your native language belongs to the Germanic family (e.g. English, German, Dutch, Flemish, Afrikaans, Faroese, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Icelandic), it might be relatively easier to acquire a near-native English accent. It is different if your mother tongue belongs to another linguistic family. For example, if you are a native Chinese speaker who wants to learn English, getting rid of your accent could be much trickier.

The Solution: Focus on Pronunciation

So, what’s the best solution when it comes to accent? Accents are important, inasmuch they are cultural mirrors – there is not one single English accent, even in English speaking countries! However, more important for an ESL learner is pronunciation. My advice is to focus on pronouncing words accurately, so as to be able to communicate smoothly with native speakers. Even if you don’t sound like a native speaker, do not feel ashamed of your native accent, it just means that you can speak more than one language!