Can You Change (or Keep) Your Accent?

Your accent says a lot about you: it tells someone where you grew up, hints at your ethnicity, and gives clues about your social class and economic status. Even though the details of your life obviously change long after your accent has “set”, people can still guess a lot about you from the way you speak.

And yes, you have an accent. People who have not traveled much outside their area sometimes think that they do not have any accent, but this is a delusion. We all pronounce words in a certain way, use certain rhythms, and use common vowels and consonants in a way that is usually tied to the region and culture in which we grow up. This is because we learn to speak by listening, and it is commonly believed that, at the age of 7, your accent has kind of stuck. In fact, your accent is very specific to you : some linguists believe that we all speak with the so-called ” idiolect “, a unique way of speaking that is specific to us.

Considering how revealing an accent can be—and the proven fact that accent bias exists —it’s no surprise that people sometimes seek to change their accent. But is it possible to completely change the way you speak to get rid of your natural accent?

How difficult is it to change your accent?

You can change your accent, and in fact many of us do it unconsciously all the time . Almost everyone changes the code in different situations, whether at work or with another group of friends. Hanging out with people from the old quarter can suddenly heighten an accent that has softened for example, and we all have a friend who spent a summer or break year abroad and came home with a strange new accent that made us roll our eyes and whisper things behind our backs. .

And, of course, professional actors manage to convincingly change accents all the time. Sure, they have access to expensive dialect coaches and millions of motivations to get the job done – and only need to manage a few lines of dialogue at a time – but it’s still proof that you can actually change your accent. if you are working on it.

However, this is not easy. Most people who spend time abroad and think they have a new accent actually speak a jumble of accents (and, as Madonna proved a few years ago, they are absolutely not fooling anyone). Changing your accent involves changing every aspect of your speech, and it’s not easy to do. Most likely, even if you study well, you will still never be able to deceive native speakers – you will always have a clear “speaking” that gives it away.

How to speak with a different accent

Okay, you’re the “challenge” type, and perfect should never be the enemy of good and all. You want to change your accent, even if it’s never going to be the perfect transformation. Here’s how to do it:

  • Attend a master class in public speaking. There are established schools that focus on de-emphasis and modification. Dialect trainers will work with you to change your accent. Keep in mind that this can be a long process: it will start with a series of tests and exercises to write down how you speak in order to determine what needs to be changed, and the whole process can take months or years depending on how much you search only slight modification or a completely new accent.
  • DIY with immersion. Learning a new accent involves two main strategies: listening to people speaking with that accent and practicing your pronunciation. Finding videos and podcasts where people speak in the accent you want and then repeating everything they say is a good way to not only hear the difference in accents, but also train your mouth and throat to make the appropriate sounds, which can sometimes be very difficult.
  • Tongue Twisters. Accents have a habit of reverting to their natural state when we’re stressed, so stress is a good way to get used to a new accent. Tongue twisters are an incredible challenge for your natural language, so if you solve them while paying attention to your new accent, it will help you burn it into your brain.

How to keep an accent

It can be difficult to completely change your accent, but it is equally difficult to avoid shifting your accent when you are immersed in a different language or accent. If everyone around you speaks with an accent, you might catch a little flash. Or maybe you don’t want to, because you don’t want to be mocked and accused of embezzlement or just stupidity. So how can you prevent the accent from changing?

It’s actually much more difficult to prevent an accent change when you’re in a new environment than it is to deliberately change your accent. This is because we are all naturally programmed to pick up on new accents – partly because it will make it easier for us to understand, and partly because we psychologically imitate the people around us in what is called the chameleon effect .

There are two things you can do to prevent unintentional “accent shift”:

  • Stay Connected. Talk regularly to people in your home region to deepen your accent, or immerse yourself in your home TV and podcasts to keep hearing the accent you love.
  • Be careful. Pay attention to the way you speak and watch for a sprawling accent. This process often happens unconsciously, so paying close attention to how you speak and pronounce words can help guard against suddenly waking up with an outrageous French accent.

There is a lot of evidence that accents actually begin to blend across regions, perhaps early in the process when all regional accents blend together. This means you may not need to worry so much about your accent if you can just live long enough.


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