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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Subject: Not picking up accent of new language
Question: What are the reasons why some people never pick up the accent when they learn a new language and speak it for many years?

I know well-educated people from non-English-speaking countries who have lived in the US for 4+ decades, and who speak fluent English constantly every day.

They rarely speak their first language, yet they retain an accent so thick they can be difficult to understand.

Is there a kind of tone-deafness to accents?

Reply: One reason may be unwillingness to sound like somebody else. Accents, which we all have, by the way, in all of our languages, identify us in the way that you describe, as speakers from different countries and from different parts of the same country. I’m sure you will also find, in your country and in other countries, native uses of your language which are quite unintelligible to you.

Another reason may be not tone-deafness, as you suggest, but school-materials blindness. Have you noticed that most language teaching materials rely on *printed* forms of language? We don’t learn to speak a language through written symbols, it’s the other way around.

This blog post of mine, ‘Speaking out of tune’, may be of interest to you:
<a href='http://beingmultilingual.blogspot.com/2011/05/speaking-out-of-tune.html' target='_blank'>http://beingmultilingual.blogspot.com/2011/05/speaking-out-of-tune.html</a>;


Reply From: Madalena Cruz-Ferreira      click here to access email
Date: 30-Aug-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Not picking up accent of new language    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (02-Sep-2012)
  2. Re: Not picking up accent of new language    Nancy J. Frishberg     (30-Aug-2012)
  3. Re: Not picking up accent of new language    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (31-Aug-2012)

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