In language learning, prioritise the accent

What I learnt in 30 days of creative writing

Afterthoughts: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

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The most valuable facet of learning french I found was in learning the accent. It is all well and good building up your vocabulary and tenses, but you get more bang with your buck by focussing on the accent early on. For anyone that knows more than one language, there is something irksome (whether people openly admit it or not) about hearing a language butchered by a thick foreign accent. Don’t get me wrong, I will be the first to applaud people for taking the time and effort to learning a foreign language: first impressions matter, therefore the accent matters.

Native speakers especially respect you a whole lot more. There is an immense sense of pride in discovering that a foreigner can speak your native tongue with a natural accent. I’ve experienced this first-hand when I discovered an Australian-mate of mine spoke in Bahasa Indonesia, much better than I ever could. It is a mixture of delight, surprise, and pride. I have also been on the other side of that situation. Whenever I meet a French person, I will always pull out my french, because why not. I would say, on average 4 out of 5, would compliment me on my accent. One went as far as saying that my french accent was the best he had ever heard from a non-native speaker. Safe to say that I will take that compliment to the grave — hands down in my top two compliments I have ever been given.

Fake it till you make it right? With learning a foreign language, the most effective way of faking it is by mastering the accent. That is why I believe that all language students should prioritise this first. It might not make sense in an academic sense, but does so in a practical sense.

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