About accents and languages

Just a quick note to inform you that since last time, I finished my very first audio book project. I am quite proud of the French Short Stories for beginners :

I was anxiously scanning the reviews everyday for some feedback on my work, and today, bingo!, someone wrote:

“(N) is a fabulous French narrator because she does not have a strong regional accent – she is as neutral as one could wish. Her speaking in English is not as strong and she mispronounced several words. Not a big deal and certainly not enough to detract from the book.”

… First, let us focus on the word “fabulous” of the review for a minute! 😉

OK. That pretty good, right?!  After all, having a French accent when speaking English, in a book about learning French, is not a bad thing, right? I obviously have an accent in English, it is not my native language, however I would be curious to know which words I mispronounced because, you know, I like to learn and improve. Was she actually speaking about “mispronouncing” words, or simply having a foreign accent in English?

This is what I am wondering, rationally.

Emotionally is another matter. Will I ever be good in English? I mean, better than just good enough? Most days I think I speak six languages, and I am proud of it, but am I actually as fluent as I think I am? Self-doubt can be crippling.

Comments about my language skills have varied widely between:

  • being mistaken by a native (while speaking German in Germany -decades ago-, in Italy by Italians -again decades ago-, by Venezuelans in Montreal when chatting in Spanish with them, even by Brazilians thinking I was gaúcha from the South),
  • wide eyed admiration (my language students in Brazil)
  • envy (“Can you imagine speaking five languages?”, asked me a new co-worker once, before realizing that it was me she had heard about.)
  • to the skeptics who cannot place my accent and say things like “but where do you come from?”, or “that’s not how we say it, but I understood”, “you don’t really speak English, do you?” (even if we have be having a conversation in the said language), “Você fala Portugues tambem?” (“Do you speak Portuguese too?”… Again, we were having a conversation in that language.)  🙄

So yeah, whatever level of fluency you think you have, there will always be room for improvement.

Exciting or depressing? Depends on the day.

And now, my next project is Spanish Short stories! I will probably have comments about my French accent in Argentinian Spanish, and weird accent in my Canadian English. *sigh*

7 comentários sobre “About accents and languages

  1. Ce que j’ai appris (à mon grand âge) c’est qu’il y aura toujours des gens à qui ça plaît et des gens à qui ça ne plaît pas. Tant qu’il y a les deux, c’est bon, t’es normale 🙂 Il y a des gens qui adorent les livres de Margaret Atwood et des gens qui les détestent. Ca n’indique absolument rien sur le type de personne qu’elle est. Alors arrête de te torturer l’esprit et continue à te faire plaisir 🙂

    • Je n’ai lu qu’un livre de M. Atwood (the Handmaid’s Tale), donc je ne peux pas me prononcer à ce sujet… ha ha. Et, rationellement, je suis bien obligée d’être d’accord avec ta Ô Grande Sagesse puisque tu es tellement plus vieille que moi! 😉

  2. On m’a déjà demandé si j’étais allemande quand je parlais anglais. Mais on m’a également posé la question lorsque je parlais français parce que des gens détectent un léger accent allemand. Je ne parle pas l’allemand et ma langue maternelle est le français 🙄.

  3. You sound so young! I mean it in a good way, tu n’as pas la voix d’une ado-qui-parle-mal, hein 😉

    Je confirme que tu n’as, selon moi, aucun accent en français. Tu n’as pas du tout d’accent franco-canadien, pour moi tu parles comme une Française d’une région neutre (ouest de la France? Pas quelqu’un avec l’accent du Sud, quoi!) C’est même assez incroyable de t’entendre passer de l’anglais au français comme ça, car ce n’est pas aussi facile que ça en a l’air au niveau des accents!

    I share your occasional lack of confidence. I don’t like “sounding French” in English or “sounding foreign” in French. But hey, I think I have an accent in every language I speak now… so be it.

    Congrats on your book achievement! I find it very cool.

    • Thank you so much, I’m pretty proud of it myself! 🙂 As for my lack of Southern accent in French: I left France more that 20 years ago, and worked on my diction during my studies, so I guess it’s a natural evolution? However, there is a story in the book where the main character is visiting Marseilles… So of course I had no choice but to have some very authentic natives give directions! 🙂

  4. The Southern French accent is unique and always sounds exotic to my Breton ears 🙂

    Your diction is absolutely perfect. Seriously. I hope you are proud of yourself (for the stories, for all the languages you speak) because you deserve it!

Oi! Tudo bom?

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