Accents are part of our life, they can tell who a person is and where they come from. According to the Linguistic Society of America (LSA) an accent is “They way you sound when you speak”; theoretically speaking people have two types of accents: The first one is “native” which comes from the way a group of people speak their mother tongue; this is determined by where they live and what social groups they belong to. The other is a “foreign” accent which, as the word itself says, comes from the process of learning a new language.

This last type, again according to the LSA: “Occurs when a person speaks one language using some of the rules or sounds of another one. For example, if a person has trouble pronouncing some of the sounds of a second language they’re learning, they may substitute similar sounds that occur in their first language. This sounds wrong, or ‘foreign’, to native speakers of the language.”

Having an accent is the result of two processes: A conscious one that you can improve by practicing, and an unconscious one which is impossible to control. Thus, and because we’re not entirely in control of it, never feel ashamed about having an accent. Even within our mother tongues, there are different ways of speaking or “making sounds”, so it makes sense that each of us make up our way to communicate.

According to the BBC article What does your accent say about you? –written by Melissa Hogenboom– “our accents can provide a window into our social backgrounds – and our biases. Our partialities can be so strong that they even affect our perception of who is, or is not, trustworthy.” Nevertheless it’s important that as humans, we see pass those biases and focus on who the person is and what they’re trying to say.

Our society has evolved from basic language between few people, to one where everybody can talk to each other in person, or through virtual ways. It’s impressive how you can travel anywhere in the world and still be able to find, at least one person, to whom you can express an idea.

And guess what, it wouldn’t matter if you don’t have a perfect accent; Alyssa Perrot from the page Shut up and go says that “Our accents are markers of what we’ve achieved. Of how we’ve had the work ethic and courage to get out of our comfort zone, make mistakes, and to develop the ability to communicate with others.

Wondering to actually work on your accent? The team from the CDLE gives the following advice: First understand that there’s no rush, you can make it happen. Second, focus on the easiest steps and learn the language basics (with help from proper schools or institutes). Then try practicing the phonetics of the language, the correct sounds you should be making while you talk; watching movies, listening to audio books may help. And once you’ve reached a higher level, try talking to others.

The CDLE provides an excellent offer for this purpose: conversational clubs every two weeks, the Dual Immersion program (virtual exchange with American students from Jesuit colleges and universities), various workshops dictated in English (How to make effective presentations, How to write a research article, and others), cultural events like our upcoming Thanksgiving celebration, and excellent trades that benefit students with our partners like the CVA, Fyr Lois, Kaplan, Caep and Coast2Coast.

For further information about our offer you can send an email to [email protected], visit us at our current location: Módulo 1, fifth floor. Call (0212) 4074111 or contact us through social media, Twitter e Instagram @cdle_ucab.

♦By Grace Lafontant/CDLE Intern

*This article is available in spanish. You can read it by clicking here: Los acentos son parte de cada individuo