What is (in) an accent?

If you are a speaker of a second language, you
might have already listened to comments about your accent. The way we say the
words is the primary instance of judgments concerning our language abilities.
When we learn English, for example, we know if our teacher speaks British
English, American English or Australian English and we spend years trying to
speak as a native. The question is, why is it so important to speak as a
native? What does an accent carry with it to be hated so much?

Well, let’s start clarifying the difference
between accent and pronunciation. Pronunciation is, according to the Oxford
Living Dictionary: “The way in which a word is pronounced”,
while accent is: “A distinctive way of pronouncing a language, especially one
associated with a particular country, area, or social class”. This means that
having an accent is not related to the rightness or wrongness of speaking a
language, it is rather a different way to speak a language.

Studies in linguistics show that everybody has
an accent, and, as stated above, it can be related with diverse cultural
factors. One of these factors is the social status of the language. In English,
for example, we have the Standard English as the most valuable accent because
it shows that the speaker learned the language in a formal way, such as
language courses, private lessons or immersion, indicating, thus inferring in a
higher social status. On the other hand, someone who learned English without
having contact with native speakers will, most likely, have a stronger accent,
and, therefore will be associated to a lower social status.

When a foreign speaks a language with an
accent, it shows a lot about this person and it is deeply connected to our
identities, because it shows who we are beyond the strict language abilities.
It is also a way to demonstrate how a language can be alive and used
differently among different people. Having an accent should not be in anyway a
matter of shame or depreciation, it should, actually, be a reason to be proud of
our cultural roots and abilities of learning a new language.  

So, now get
your accent and come to speak and learn with us at WLS.