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Hi everyone
This is Koya Mohd from India. I just joined your wonderful group. It's said that if one acquires a second language after 12 years or so of age, one cannot speak the language like a native. Everytime one speak the language , there'll be an accent. What do you think of it? I'd like to hear from you.

Noyi 6 July 11
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I have to admire the depth of knowledge that you have in the realmof languages.

Noyi Level 6 Aug 27, 2020

I've never heard about it, but I think it all depends on your native language, how many languages you spoke growing up and what the target language is.
However, I think a lot of people focus their attention on the accent too much. Even if one sounds 'like a foreigner', the goal should be to speak as correctly as possible. Ultimately the accent makes no difference. Taking English as an example, I know many Americans who 'sound native' but their grammar is horrendous.

HannaYou Level 6 July 15, 2020

Most of the people in my country, India, speak English as a second language. As you may know or may not know, India had been under British rule for a long time. However, the variety of English we speak is not intelligible to most native speakers. So, the accent does make a difference, doesn't it? Had the Indians spoke in British or American accent, the natives would have been able to understand them clearly.

@Noyi I lived in an area in the US where there was a large community of people from the entire Indian subcontinent, and while, yes, there was a noticeable accent when they spoke English, I never had an trouble in understanding/communicating. I can see, however, if someone doesn't have a strong command of English and they meet a person with a very strong accent that deviates from the standard we know from the mainstream (movies, news, etc), they might have a problem speaking with each other. But I can only go from my own experiences and from those around me.

Because the Indian people who live in your area have been living there for long, they're constantly exposed to the accent of that area. It being so, they have an edge over the English speaking people living in India without exposure to American English.


I have encountered a few people who learned English as adults and had no trace of any kind of foreign accent left in the way they speak, but I've also known people who learned English as children who never lost their original accent, so there's no absolute dividing line. Children are certainly more adaptable and can adjust more easily as they aren't so set in their ways, but I think motivation likely has a big role to play too. If people like the way someone speaks (and I'm thinking in particular of a Dutch friend at school), there's no pressure put on them to change it, but a child who's bullied or made fun of because of it will make very sure that they fix that. Adults aren't so open to such pressure as they can usually walk away from abusive people.

Yes. You seem to be right. However, what you said may not be true of everyone


It's true in my case. My Irish accent won't back down!

brentan Level 8 July 12, 2020

Koya! What is native? Everyone has an accent! In every language they speak! I speak two languages with native fluency and have accents in both. To me, English speakers from Glasgow, New York, Sydney, London, Toronto all have accents. You are from India. You too have an accent in English, as well as Hindi or whatever other languages you speak. Rejoice in your accents. Accents are the spice of language. It is what makes a flute sound differently from a violin or a clarinet even though the notes are the same.

amymcmxcii Level 6 July 12, 2020

I fully subscribe to your views. I do like your musical instruments analogy. But, put it simply, my question is whether it is possible to speak without an accent.

I mean from the point of view of a native speaker

@Noyi Then I would have to reword your question to: "How easy is it for anyone to mimic the accent of a particular group?" The answer is: "It depends!" Any human child at birth has the ability to reproduce any sound in any language. With age, we all specialise in a fairly narrow range of sounds, a grove that becomes increasingly set after puberty. With a good ear and practice, most of us can learn to produce most of the sounds in any languge even later in life. However, some sounds are harder than others for some. The English "W" and "R" are mysteries to most non-Anglophone Europeans. I teach French to Anglos and very few of them master the vowel sound in "feu". I think the big issue is training the ear to listen to different sounds rather that the actual production of sounds. Some differences are quite subtle. Arabic, for instance, is language of consonants. Vowels, such as they are, are normally not even written. So an Arabic speaker would find it difficult to distinguish among, English words such as "hill, hall, hull, hell". They would all sound the same whereas an Arabic sound such as "ain" absolutely does not exist in English.. Hmmm. I have run on a bit. To answer your question directly, it is not possible to speak without an accent. It is possible to speak with a different accent, but one must listen really hard! Most people cannot be bothered.

You're absolutely right when you said "With a good ear and practice, most of us can learn to produce most of the sounds in any languge even later in life." But the fact is that, at least from my experience, however hard you try to listen, you won't "hear" certain sounds in a foreign language. When an American speak, normally I can make out what he or she says, and I know the points of articulations of almost every sound, but when I speak the same sentences observing all the rules of phonetics and phonology, I drastically fail to sound like the American.
I can't understand the inexplicable reason behind this phenomenon🤗. Do you have any idea?

Btw, you say there are only consonants in Arabic. But the sound represented by "alif" is a vowel. Also, by using diacritical marks above or below a consonant letter, you can make a consonant+vowel sound. For example, put a kasar below the letter b and it becomes bi (consonant+vowel)

Anyways, thank you for sharing your knowledge with me. And I'd like to hear more from you.

@Noyi Last things first! I didn't say Arabic had no vowels; I said it is a language of consonants, meaning, consonants are significantly more important than vowels. I wasn't clear. Alif is not a vowel but a glottal stop, close to the "T" sound in "bottle" or "butter" as pronounced in certain British dialects. The syllabic short vowel diacritics are normally omitted because usually the meaning is clear from the consonants.

It is no mystery as to why you, or I find difficulty in perfecting an accent or language. Knowing how to do it is not enough. One needs training, time, and practice. It's like sport. One can know all the rules and techniques required for football and still have no chance of reaching a professional level. Techniques must be totally integrated not just understood at an intellectual level.

I have to admire the depth of knowledge that you have in the realmof languages.

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