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ⓘ The Age of Data


Legacy Member
Feb 27, 2016
I have noted with some interest that people learning English as a second language face significant challenges when it comes to accentuation. You find someone who speaks French speaking English with a guttural sound. There is the problem of direct translations and a healthy dose of mother tongue influence. This can be embarrassing as some of these people are in senior positions. On the other hand, English speakers are not hindered by such issues and speak other languages flawlessly.
English has a rather expansive linguistic profile. While there are some more Indigenous sounding vocals (mainly from the laryngeal/glottal areas) that we cast off when growing up as English speakers, we can generally make every sound available to the human race. Languages with more constricted vocalizations--take Korean, for example--will struggle to learn new sounds. Koreans can't say "za" because of its absence from their language and often say "ja" or "sa" instead. This isn't to say it's impossible. A lot of Japanese can't say "va" and will ultimately say "ba" instead.

Language plays such a fascinating role in our lives.
My experience with learning languages has been different and is probably more specific to individual abilities. Some people can learn languages really well, and some people struggle despite their efforts. I believe some people have a "better ear". I've heard English speakers in Spanish, Portuguese, French and German. The rolling "r" can be a problem for some in Spanish, the nasal "ã,õ" in Portuguese, the nasal vowels or "u" in French and "ü" and "ö" in German. Some do it like natives, some struggle. I've also heard Koreans that struggle with Portuguese sounds including an "f" that they pronounce as a "P", but I've also met some that speak perfectly! Just now my boyfriend is learning Spanish and sometimes translates phrases literally as he would say in English and it cracks me up!
I agree that the sounds that you are use from your childhood are sometimes hard to change. However, I believe as long as a person can convey the message and get his work done the main purpose of the learning a language is served. Nonetheless when a person desires to ensure that his/her speech skills match those of the native speakers they could enroll for accent neutralization courses. Unlearning and learning new accents is the only way to speak like a native speaker.