5 Common Reasons Why People Acquire Foreign Accents
An accent is a unique way of pronouncing a language peculiar to certain people or countries, or even a social class. Every language that travels around produces accents. As the English language traveled around the world, it developed varieties and their corresponding accents. You can easily tell an American accent from a Nigerian accent or a Ghanaian accent, just as you can differentiate a South African accent from a British accent. But why do people pick foreign accents?
For some reason, certain individuals acquire an accent different from the one they grew up speaking. If one desires to learn a new accent, there’s nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, it could offer a richer life when one is able to switch from one accent to another like a hip-hop artiste drifting from one swift stanza about the streets of Harlem to a slower-paced rap about the streets of Lagos. That is the beauty of the diversity of tongues. But some motivations for this accent change aren’t totally acceptable, which is why we’re exploring five reasons why people pick foreign accents.
Check out 5 common reasons why people pick foreign accents…
# 1. To rid themselves of a heritage they aren’t proud of
Some people in Africa feel ashamed of their accents. Some have been made to believe that their accents, colored by the rhythms and peculiarities of their indigenous languages, are unattractive and not posh enough. That is one of the vestiges of the colonial mentality that must not be encouraged.
Africans have over time demonstrated through both oratory and literature how to take ownership of adopted European languages, and manipulate them to serve our needs. The accents of English across Africa and the world at large are cultural resources that enrich our experience of the world. When we embrace our accents and treat them as our cultural heritage deserving of respect, we can help inspire pride in ourselves and what we can produce.
# 2. To appear sophisticated
Some people pay enormous sums to enroll in private British or American accent lessons. Some parents forbid their children to speak in a local accent just so they can measure up to persons of the upper class whose kids study or vacation abroad. Additionally, some force themselves into an accent whose resources they do not fully grasp. Unwittingly, they “invent” strange linguistic products that can be ridiculous. “Dog” becomes “dorg,” “top” can morph into “tarp,” and “fork” can be “ferk,” a truly confusing outcome.
The assumption that if one speaks in a non-British or non-American accent, one is either poorly educated or unsophisticated is untrue. One can reach the peak of education in life and still be proud of the accent you grew up speaking. Accents, after all, are part of who we are and where we come from. Accents speak of people, places, histories, and heritages that tell stories about who they are and where they came from.
#3. To find a way into a new society one feels estranged from
Another reason why people pick accents is this. If you find yourself in a new place and whomever you say a word to cocks their eyebrows as if you uttered an incantatory spell, you can feel estranged. You’ll find it rather awkward when people greet your words with “What did you say?” or “Could you say that again, please?” No doubt, it can make you feel like a fish out of water.
For instance, if you tell anyone around that you are angry and they wonder what the word “ahng-gree” means, you might wonder if there’s a problem with your throat. You can compare the feeling to being alone in the woods, surrounded by trees. So an effort to learn the accent of a new place can be a way to achieve clarity in that community.
#4. Living in a foreign land for a long period
If you’ve lived in a foreign land for a long period, chances are that you can’t help speaking the language like the locals. The language, or accent, ceases to hold many secrets from you. You’ll have less and less of a feeling of estrangement. You can open your mouth and not fear sounding like a spell-uttering wizard from a Harry Potter movie. The cadences, intonation, and catchphrases of the place become part of you because you have engaged sufficiently with the social fabric of that place.
#5. To display one’s distinctive style of speaking
That is such a good place to be. To be yourself. To speak with style. To say: this is my way! When both native and non-native speakers of a language hear you speak, they cannot say what accent you have. It can be because you have traveled to many places, intermingled with different cultures, and absorbed eclectic sounds. It can be that all through life, you have evolved an accent no one can put a tag on. Such an accent is inimitable – just like a fingerprint.
Featured image: @lungilethabethe/Instagram
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A writer fascinated by humanity and diversity. He is the author of Do Not Say It’s Not Your Country.