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Old April 16, 2014, 05:08 PM
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Haven Haven is offline
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Should I learn a native accent?

Hi all,

I just have a few questions.

I'm starting to learn Spanish (again, I studied it in high school but have forgotten nearly all of it), and I've heard different things from different people about native accents. Some people have said not to emulate native speakers' accents, but to concentrate on pronouncing things correctly and being understood. Others say to attempt a native-like accent and try to eliminate any English influence.

I've always agreed with the second camp and have wanted to speak like a native, but I realize that might not be possible or even desirable, especially for someone at a beginner's level with the language.

What do you guys think? Is it worth it to attempt a native accent, or should I just concentrate on speaking the language clearly and acquiring decent vocabulary, grammar, and so on. Thanks!

-Haven
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  #2  
Old April 16, 2014, 06:11 PM
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My advise is to concentrate on learning the language. Concentrating on accents may be putting the horse before the cart. There is a time when you build you vocabulary and learn the grammar and you will speak the language. Around that time it's good to focus on pronunciation, at which time the standard Latin American Spanish may be a good one to emulate. It's the way many well educated people speak or strive to speak. It's the kind of Spanish often spoken on CÑN or by actors in telenovelas, and it is devoid of local idiocincracies.

If you fall in love with Spanish or Argentine culture, then you may want to focus on using those accents. If you plan to stay in the States, however, standard Latin American Spanish is best to focus on.
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Old April 16, 2014, 06:15 PM
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This question has been asked before.
Some said that it's not possible to speak a foreign language without an accent.
Some said that it's not possible to become totally fluent.
Some said that you can speak a foreign language, with natural flaws, and that native speakers would be left wondering what other Spanish-speaking country you're from.

If you learn to pronounce things correctly, you are in essence speaking without an accent. I'll let you in on a secret. Every textbook and web site I've seen convinces the beginning student that most of the Spanish consonants and vowels have American English equivalents. This is mostly false. Almost all Spanish consonants and all the vowels are pronounced differently than the so-called American English equivalents. So, as I said before, if you learn to pronounce things correctly, you are speaking without an accent. If you choose not to learn a different sound for almost every letter, you will forever have an accent.
That said, everyone I know is intrigued by an accent.
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Old April 16, 2014, 07:29 PM
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Muchas gracias a todo por su aviso (I know that's full of errors).

Poli -- This time around, I'm planning to just focus on good grammar and pronunciation, and not worry about accent. I'll be living in New Mexico, so the standard Latin American pronunciation makes sense (an Argentine accent would be out of place in the Southwest).

Rusty -- I'm kind of a linguistics buff, so I learned about the different phonemic patterns in Spanish. You're right, almost all the letters are pronounced differently than in English. For me, it seems difficult to pronounce vowels and especially consonants the "Spanish" way, especially ones that are very different from English (especially /r/, /v/, /d/, /o/, etc.).
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Old April 16, 2014, 11:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Haven View Post
Muchas gracias a todo por su aviso (I know that's full of errors).

Poli -- This time around, I'm planning to just focus on good grammar and pronunciation, and not worry about accent. I'll be living in New Mexico, so the standard Latin American pronunciation makes sense (an Argentine accent would be out of place in the Southwest).

Rusty -- I'm kind of a linguistics buff, so I learned about the different phonemic patterns in Spanish. You're right, almost all the letters are pronounced differently than in English. For me, it seems difficult to pronounce vowels and especially consonants the "Spanish" way, especially ones that are very different from English (especially /r/, /v/, /d/, /o/, etc.).
I'm with Rusty on this: most native speakers easily understand anyone who uses a native-like but relatively neutral pronunciation of most or all phonemes. Some local/regional accents employ less-familiar pronunciations of some phonemes which are frequently harder for people from other regions to understand easily.

If and when you live in a particular place for an extended time, you may discover that your pronuncation evolves to become more like the local accent that you hear every day.
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Old April 17, 2014, 06:52 AM
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Well, I'm off to spain for nearly a month soon. How would they know I'm English if I only speak to them in Spanish? My accent?
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Old April 17, 2014, 10:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Haven View Post
Hi all,

I just have a few questions.

I'm starting to learn Spanish (again, I studied it in high school but have forgotten nearly all of it), and I've heard different things from different people about native accents. Some people have said not to emulate native speakers' accents, but to concentrate on pronouncing things correctly and being understood. Others say to attempt a native-like accent and try to eliminate any English influence.

I've always agreed with the second camp and have wanted to speak like a native, but I realize that might not be possible or even desirable, especially for someone at a beginner's level with the language.

What do you guys think? Is it worth it to attempt a native accent, or should I just concentrate on speaking the language clearly and acquiring decent vocabulary, grammar, and so on. Thanks!

-Haven
You will aquire the native accent of the people you speak Spanish with.
If you're around educated speakers of Spanish you'll speak like they do.
If you're around uneducated speakers of Spanish you'll speak like they do.

Get audio books in Spanish which almost always have educated speakers.
Listen to them over and over again. You're brain will automatically pick up
the accent. I have audio recordings of Spanish speakers from Colombia,
Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Venezuela and Argentina among others. I can
immitatate all of them. A guy from Colombia told me I sound just like I'm from
Colombia. When I'm with Cubans I speak like them. I recorded my classes in Mexico
and people tell me I speak like a university professor.

Last edited by Villa; April 17, 2014 at 10:32 AM.
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Old April 18, 2014, 03:24 PM
Zarnium Zarnium is offline
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As a rather recent Spanish student myself, I'll give you my thoughts.

You don't need to sound perfect with your accent, but I'd say you should avoid blatantly wrong pronunciation mistakes, particularly with words similar to English ones. For example, "música" should be pronounced "moo-see-ka," not like the English word "music" with an a at the end of it. ("Myoo-zi-kuh"). Same thing with "universidad;" it's pronounced more or less like "oo-nee-bare-see-dawd," not "yoo-ni-vers-ih-dad."

(Maybe I'm nitpicking, but I'm really tired of hearing my fellow students make egregiously wrong pronunciation mistakes like these, even though they've been studying Spanish for two semesters.)

Also, I'd recommend making some small attempt to sound "native," though you don't need to bother getting it perfect at this point. Most notably, I'd recommend pronouncing all "r"s like English "d"s. You don't have to do the trilled r sound if you have trouble making it, but a "d" sound is much closer to a Spanish "r" than an English "r" is. Maybe it's just me, but I find the use of the English "r" sound in Spanish to be really grating on the ears, and all English speakers should be able to make a "d" sound.

I'm very new at this myself, so someone more experienced than I am can correct me if they I'm wrong about something.
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Old April 18, 2014, 03:41 PM
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Rather than using a 'd' to pronounce the Spanish clipped 'r' (not the trilled 'r'), this post helps you to develop the correct sound, if you speak American English.
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Old April 19, 2014, 04:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Liquinn3 View Post
Well, I'm off to spain for nearly a month soon. How would they know I'm English if I only speak to them in Spanish? My accent?
That and your sunburn

On the topic of accents, most people speaking a foreign language betray their origin just as much as they do when speaking their own language. It's usually not hard to identify a Brit or a US American speaking Spanish, any more than it is to identify a Spaniard speaking English. The biggest giveaways are vowels and phonotactics. For English-speakers learning Spanish, I recommend concentrating on the vowels.

I remember staying the best part of a week in a hotel in Ecuador which was next to a primary school, and hearing the children reciting the vowels every morning: A E I O U. Find out how they're pronounced in Spanish and practise them. Then when you're speaking whole words, try to remember that Spanish vowels are the same in isolation as in words. (It doesn't necessarily help with diphthongs, but it's a good start).

I don't think I've ever been mistaken for a Spaniard by a native speaker, but I have been asked if I'm Argentinian. (And no, I wasn't using voseo or the distinctive Argentinian elle).
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