I am always impressed when I hear a non-native speaker speaking English with a very good accent, and I have always strived to do this myself when speaking French. I study French at university and am now in France on my third year abroad, so I thought that within a month or so I would be speaking the language like a native …
In actual fact, I am finding it a lot more difficult than expected to lose my English accent! No matter how hard I try to roll my r’s and emulate French gestures and expressions, I am always asked what country I come from. People often know that I am English, though I have also been asked whether I am Russian or Danish on several occasions – I think that it’s the blonde hair! It sometimes only takes me speaking one or two sentences in French before someone asks me where I am from, and this was beginning to bother me. What I have realised, though, is not to be disheartened by this. I have only been living in France for a month, and it would be very unrealistic to be speaking like a native already, especially in unfamiliar contexts like setting up a bank account!
An accent like a native is very impressive, but it is not necessary, and a firm grounding in grammar and vocabulary should come first, as well as a general enthusiasm for learning more about the language and wanting to practise it. Perhaps I will never fully lose my English accent, but I have decided that rather than letting this get me down, I can focus on ways to improve it. For example, watching television programmes in your target language is a great way to listen to native speakers’ accents. Perhaps one day I will be able to shrug like a true French native and manage to recite any tongue twister without a problem, but for now I have realised that it is better to speak a language with an accent than to not speak one at all! So my advice would be – go for it! Don’t let the worry of not sounding like a local hold you back.
How important is to you to have a good accent in English? Do you think you can ever lose your native accent?