Learn Languages By Studying Accents


One of the best ways to learn to speak with a proper accent in a given language is to study the accent those people have when speaking your language.

You’ll find that the mistakes nuances you hear in the way they speak English are precisely those that you’ll need to emulate to sound authentic in theirs.

It feels strange to do this, almost as if you’re making fun of the way they speak, but really—they’ll appreciate it because it’s what they’re used to. We sound equally silly to them—trust me.

I think the thing with accents is that you have to first study them, realize how they distort your own language, and then lean in with your attempt. Do an impression as much as trying to say the words.

Don’t overdo it obviously, but make it clear that you hear how bad your accent is, and that you’re trying to correct it.

So much of an English speaker’s attempt to speak a foreign language is like an impressionist only using voice. That’s only one dimension of an impression, and the word is only one dimension of an accent.

When Indians speak English, for example, I hear an undertone, similar to Mexican Spanish, like an “eh” or an “rr” sound, which you almost need to be saying at the same time as the words. And without this universal conjunction, it ends up feeling like a collection of disjointed words.

Anyway, I’m not a linguist, but I speak a good amount of Spanish with a decent accent, so that’s my take on it.

Just think of that. The accent they have is the one you should have as well.

Sep 6, 2006

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