Can you erradicate an accent?

This is a highly debated area and many people agree that it is difficult to completely erradicate your accent.

However i am currently working with Charlotte O’Sullivan, an actress born and raised in Spain who moved to the UK a few years ago. To talk to her, you would have no idea that she was born in a foreign country and attended foreign schools. Her English accent is impeccable!

This got me thinking about what separates Charlotte from other foreign people who move here and learn English. Why are their accents so apparent and Charlotte’s not?

The key is when you first learn a foreign language. In school we are taught writing, listening and speaking in a foreign language but very little emphasis is spent on accent.

You learn your accent from your parents, you imitate the shapes of the sounds that they make, this helps you to form the accent in the correct place. Charlotte grew up speaking English with her parents and is the defining characteristic that differentiates her from people who learn a language academically or in later life.

Does this mean that you cannot completely erradicate an accent? No, I believe it is possible to achieve this but you need incredible determination and commitment.

My brother-in-law (who had to learn to speak Russian for his job) has been told by several Russians that he sounds just like a native! He is however married to a Russian woman – has this had a major effect?

Perhaps the key is being constantly surrounded by people who are native in the language or accent in which you are learning speak? or is it just an affinity to imitate your surroundings?

Leon and I would be very interested to know your thoughts, so please leave your comments below.

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About gemmaboaden

Company Director of TemperVox Ltd - Making Professional Voices Heard. Vocal Coaches for professional people, we work with anyone who uses their voice as part of their job. This includes Teachers, Lawyers, Actors as well as Business People and Politicians.
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