Does your accent really matter?

Everyday English can be scary especially if you’re spreading your wings and beginning to learn a new language. Now if you’ve heard a quick comment or two on your accent, congratulate yourself; you’re courageous & bilingual, probably multilingual.

Accent is tricky. It’s acquired and depends on so many factors like your native language & your environment. If you want to be confident in your speech, you first have to understand the reason why you’re learning this new language. English has acquired the status of ‘lingua franca‘ which means..

a language used for communication between groups of people who speak different languages

Cambridge Dictionary

It’s a common ground for people from diverse geographical areas & varied local languages. So if you ask me, the only thing that matters is clarity. Clarity is often forgotten in pursuit of pretence & polished accents and superfluous vocabulary.

Clarity is made up of various things like – grammatical structures, vocabulary that fits context, & speech clarity.

I look at Grammar as the skeletal structure of any language. While it’s acceptable to make some mistakes, other mistakes can change the meaning of the sentence and make whatever you’re saying unclear. So how do you make sure you’re making great sentences? By becoming aware of grammar rules. (Not that exciting, I know!)

Now coming to the exciting part, Vocabulary. It’s all about words that fit the context. This is one of the things that I love about the English language. There are different words to express the same thing in varying degrees & contexts. The feel of a word is different from its meaning, mood, setting & strength. (See what I did there?) Now, how to use appropriate words for appropriate settings?

First of all, stop memorising new words everyday. That wouldn’t work even if you’re the most motivated person in the world. You can only remember so much! You need to have 17 exposures to a particular word in order to build that vocabulary muscle*. (More on this later). But the point is to start with the words you’re aware of but not comfortable enough to use them. Understand the circumstances in which the word is used. Learn the pronunciation. And practice, practice, practice!

Now coming to Speech Clarity. It’s the trickiest of the three. Hold on.. don’t stop reading yet; I have a solution. It’s tricky because there are many, many different ways words are pronounced in English. And here comes the buzz word- Accent! Like I mentioned, the accent is specific to a particular region. It depends on other languages you know & accents of people you interact with. The only thing you need to do is :

  1. Stop worrying about your accent.
  2. Start focusing on the sounds you utter. For example: Understanding that /p/ sound that comes from the letter P is a plosive. It’s produced by stopping the airflow using the lips, followed by a sudden release of air.

Here’s how: Step 1: Press your lips together Step 2: Make the /p/ sound by releasing air from the mouth suddenly. And practice! Check this video for a detailed explanation.

We’ll continue to make mistakes while we learn something new. And it’s okay! The only thing we have to remember is to have fun while continuing to learn. What you think about yourself greatly impacts your confidence. So believe in the magnificent being that you are and continue to add value to the world by being yourself.

I hope this was helpful. If you want to start your English learning journey, sign up for the coached and practice discussions on Mentza & be a part of this buzzing, growth oriented English learning community. See you then!

*Citation: Bennett, Colette. “Top 17 Exposures to Learn New Words.” ThoughtCo, Apr. 18, 2021, thoughtco.com/vocabulary-reps-4135612

Nancy Verma
Nancy Verma

English Fluency & Confidence Coach

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