Some questions for an accent coach.

Accent construction:

1. How are accents made,  historically and geographically?

2. How does the body make an accent (the mechanics of the voice I guess)?

3. How do people connect their identity to their accent?

Accent change:

4. Who wants to change their accent and for what sorts of reasons?

5. What makes it hard to do?

6. What makes it easy to do?

7. How do you change your accent? (where do you begin and what do you need to bear in mind?)

Accent destruction:

8. How do you loose an a accent?

9. Can you keep it up?

10. Who wants to loose an accent?

11. What is hard about it? (you mentioned something about loosing  your identity)

12. Are accents changing? What conditions cause the erosion of an accent?

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One Response to Some questions for an accent coach.

  1. Jeff Madigan says:

    Wow. That’s a lot of questions to ask at once. I will do my best to answer but will also try to be concise.

    1. How are accents made, historically and geographically? Languages are living things that change over time. Rules for its written form of not strictly followed in the spoken form (for English). If you have ever heard someone speak in Old English, it is not recognizable. Many accents occur due to physical geography, which separates groups of people. (rivers, mountain ranges, etc.)

    2. How does the body make an accent (the mechanics of the voice I guess)?
    Please visit our accent guide (www.L2accent.com/accent-guide/) to see video animations of what happens inside the mouth. Accents occur when people use variations of this guide. For example, making the sound for T with your tongue further back may create a T sound that may sound like a Punjabi speaker’s accent.

    3. How do people connect their identity to their accent?
    Accents, and language in general, are part of your culture. Just as certain things may represent a certain culture, so does a language and/or its accent.

    Accent change:

    4. Who wants to change their accent and for what sorts of reasons? There are many reasons people come to us for accent reduction. Here is one example. A care-aid at a nursing home found that her accent caused frustration with patients who struggled to understand her. (Old people generally have narrower sound boundaries) This often led to outbursts and more stress for her. Accent reduction reduced the number of patient outbursts that were often triggered by the difficulty understanding her accent.

    5. What makes it hard to do?
    It is not hard, it just takes practice. Also, someone who knows what they are doing needs to help. English does not sound as it is spelled and repeating words (as many people try) is not useful unless you are being monitored by a speech professional.

    6. What makes it easy to do?
    Children who are younger than 14 have very broad sound boundaries. They easily pick up a new language and can imitate the sounds they learn more easily because they more easily hear the slight differences.

    7. How do you change your accent? (where do you begin and what do you need to bear in mind?) You need to know what sounds you are making that are incorrect. These “incorrect” sounds occur because of your first language. For example, “joy” has a lot of muscle movement in the front of the mouth. Mandarin produces many sounds in the back of the mouth. A Mandarin speaker will likely have trouble saying “joy”. With practice, they can retrain the muscle memory (like using fingers on a guitar) to produce the sound more like others of the cultural group they want to imitate.

    Accent destruction:

    8. How do you loose an a accent?
    I don’t think an accent can be lost 100%. In movies, actors often imitate accents for certain roles and are frequently criticized for sounding wrong. And for those who are applauded, I have to wonder if they can say anything with said accent, or just the lines they practiced. Maybe it only happens in the movies.

    9. Can you keep it up?
    A lot of people naturally blend into the accent they are around if they share the same first language. I have had friends return from England or Australia with accents that were neither British or Canadian.

    10. Who wants to loose an accent?
    A lot of people we train are working professionals. Accent reduction is a service that gives them benefits in their work. I mentioned the care-aid already. For others it is for sales skills, customer service, job promotion.

    11. What is hard about it? (you mentioned something about loosing your identity)
    I don’t think you lose your identity. I suppose some people from your own cultural group who hear you may accuse you of selling out, but it has always been common to imitate the dominant cultural group to empower your own.

    12. Are accents changing? What conditions cause the erosion of an accent? Accents are changing. The best way to see this is the growing acceptance of other accents. Media has traditionally been where the standard “correct” accent has been set. I think you will see more broadcasters with “accents” in the future, which will likely bring about criticism that “correct” English is being corrupted.

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