Leer en: Español (Spanish)
Benefits and myths
As an English language learner, I know I have an accent that will proudly carry for the rest of my life. As an ESL teacher, I was once asked by some of my students how they could get rid of their accents. The student asked that spend part of the ESL class to teach them how to “change their accent.”
My response reinforced the fact that everyone has accents and that our accents are part of our identity. It is discouraging to see how so many colleges and businesses often fool students into thinking that an accent can be “corrected” or changed. It is also upsetting to see schools and individuals make money selling a false idea about “correcting” an accent.
What is an accent?
According to wikipedia.com, an “accent” is a way of pronunciation particular to a speaker or group of speakers. Then I wonder why will people spend time creating courses or teaching something that’s part of someone’s identity? Why not instead, educate bilinguals about being proud of their identity, including our unique accents.
One of the best articles about accents discusses the experience of Hernan Diaz, an associate director at Columbia University. In his article and video, Mr. Diaz discusses his experience being accent discriminated whenever he uses one of the three languages he speaks.
Myths and benefits
Some might wonder why some students’ accents are stronger or more noticeable than others. Subsequently, as part of our identities, accents are part of our ongoing development as a person. Accents are often more prominent in the additional languages that we learn to speak. The older we are when we learn a second language, the stronger the accent.
Nevertheless, there are times I struggle to pronounce words correctly. I am living proof that an accent does not make us any less smart or knowledgeable. Having an accent makes us more in-tune with the language we use.
There are times when I have to be extra careful about the words I use when speaking to others. We just have to know that is ok. Nevertheless, there are always different words we can use to get our point across with or without an accent. Having an accent is a powerful sign of being bilingual.