Want to rid yourself of your accent? Wishing you did not have one? Perhaps read this before you go against what makes you, you.
What is an accent?
Some may argue that the definition of an accent only relates to the way words are pronounced. However, an accent encompasses several additional aspects of speech:
Your pronunciation (as mentioned above)
The rhythm of your words
The flow of your sentences
The tone you use to get your message across
All of these components together make up an accent. In some ways, these factors can have an impact on the way people understand you, and sometimes people feel so ashamed of their mispronunciations that they take conversation-type classes in order to rid themselves of their accent. However, if your goal is to lose your accent altogether, I am here to say, "You really shouldn't."
Why losing an accent is so difficult
A Smithsonian magazine article, "Your Accent Is Here To Stay", talked briefly about why losing one's accent can in fact be difficult. It mentions how one's accent is a part of us from as early as 6 months of age, stating that "the baby begins to draw a map of the sounds he hears." So, from the very beginning of who we are becoming, our accents are present. Since the accent is with us from such a young age, the success of losing one's accent and gaining a new one greatly depends from person to person. It depends upon one's understanding of different tones and the ability to adapt to new ones. Classes are available of course to help those along who are determined to lose their accent. However before you sign up let's discuss why your accent is important.
Fighting my own accent
To first understand why so many of my students ask me to help them remove their accent, I first had to read more about accents and take myself into account.
I myself come from a region in the United States where accents are very "thick": the South. I have taken classes to remove my accent, but why? Well, mainly because I wanted to be an ESL teacher and I didn't want my accent getting in the way of properly teaching English. I find that reason a fair enough reason for shedding one's accent. However, did it have anything to do with how society perceived me? Yes and no. After looking into my own story I can greatly understand one's desire to lose an accent because many perceive an accent to be undesirable.
Now I am able to hide my accent at any given time; I do, however, feel ashamed at times. Of course it makes sense to hide my accent when teaching but when I am not teaching I still hide my accent. What does that say about me? Am I ashamed of where I am from? Am I trying to be someone I am not? Asking myself these questions greatly affected what I did next. I went back to my accent. When I am not teaching ESL and am speaking English during my everyday life, my accent is present.
Perhaps that is why I find this such an important matter. Your accent is who you are as a person; it tells so much about yourself and makes you even more unique and beautiful.
"What about my speaking tests?" you may be asking yourself
Does my accent affect my scores? Well, yes and no. After doing research on that exact question I found that many tests do not take off for an accent. In fact, the only time they mentioned lowering a score because of an accent is because the accent made it impossible to understand the words. Accents are common in someone who is a beginner speaker in a foreign language, but if you are at the level where you are ready to take your exams then you know how to work with your accent. You and your teacher have prepared you for that moment.
"So then, what are you saying?"
Well, to put it simply, I am saying "Keep your accent". It is who you are—it is a part of your identity. Everyone, no matter where they are from, have an accent. Now, I can help minimize your accent to enable you to clearly communicate with others in a foreign language; however, if you wish to remove your accent altogether... just promise me you'll reconsider!