The idea of losing your native accent might seem counterintuitive since everyone wants to sound like they belong to their home country. But the truth is that, depending on the circumstances and context, many people find themselves without a native accent when they speak the language they grew up speaking in as an adult. For example, people who move countries later in life are much more likely to lose their accents than those who do so at an early age. There are several factors that determine why some people lose their native accents and some don’t; read on to learn more about them!
The Science Behind Linguistic Change
Just like anything else, language changes over time. For example, young Americans are less likely to pronounce words with a hard r sound, particularly in coastal areas. However, as language changes over time, so do dialects. To understand how linguistic change can affect speakers’ accents (for better or worse), check out why it’s easier for some people to lose their native accent than others. The strength of your accent at birth: Have you ever met someone who was born in one country and has lived abroad most of his or her life yet still speaks English with an accent? It’s because they have already pruned out those harder-to-produce sounds when they were younger; those sounds simply weren’t necessary for effective communication. That said, if you’ve been living abroad since infancy, your brain may not need to work so hard to correct itself—because you’re not used to speaking any other way.
The Mechanisms Behind Accent Shift
Research has shown there are a few different things that influence whether or not you’ll retain your original accent or pick up a new one. The first factor is exposure: if you’re speaking to new people frequently, it forces you to alter your speech patterns in order to make yourself understood. If you’re living abroad (i.e., far away from family), they also say it’s likely you’ll adjust. In both cases, these issues become even more pronounced over time; after five years of interaction with other English speakers, for example, there’s about a 50% chance you’ll speak like them too.
How Long Does It Take to Lose an Accent?
How long does it take to rid yourself of a foreign accent? It depends on a lot of things, including how deeply you internalize your first language. For example, linguists have found that it takes longer for children to forget their native language when they learn a second one before age 5 than if they learned another language between 5 and 10 years old. However, these research results seem to apply only to languages with relatively distinct grammatical structures; many linguists suspect (though they haven’t yet proven) that Mandarin and Cantonese speakers may not need as much time as English-speaking learners because Chinese has fewer rules about word order in sentences.
Why Do Some People Keep Their Accents Even When Living in Another Country for Many Years?
Research has also found several answers to why people lose their native accent. First, a person’s personality can affect how much they change over time. In other words, someone who is open to new experiences is more likely to adapt to different cultures than someone who tends to be rigid in his or her beliefs. Second, speech fluency is often learned rather than inherited. That means you’re not born with an innate knowledge of proper pronunciation; instead, you have to study it just like any other subject at school. The better you learn pronunciation, grammar, etc., by being exposed to them over and over again—be it through singing songs in your native language or speaking with someone every day—the stronger your accent will remain based on your usage and age of learning another language even when living in another country for many years.–MM
Hi, I am Michele Mitchell, also known as Neftalia2017. I am the President and Founder of Ubuntu Village and the author of this blog post. I have been writing for ten years as a pastime.
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