There’s a sad lie going around in this world that only some accents are worthy of the top. Everything else needs to be hidden, padded down, and cleaned up to sound more “presentable” to the outside world. When I first started learning Japanese, I really, really tried to hide my American accent as much as possible. I wanted to sound like a native so badly, but do you know what?
Native speakers are totally overrated.
It is a known fact that non-native speakers of English outnumber natives. Recently, Ethnologue, the most comprehensive publication on world languages, listed native speakers as a measly 335 million. Add in non-natives to the mix and the total skyrockets to over 1 billion! English–and all the accents that go with it–now belongs to the world, my friends!
Do you have an accent when speaking English? You are a part of the majority! Do you have an accent speaking Japanese? Then good! Everybody should embrace their accent and have some fun! Here are some reasons why:
Accents Tell a Lot about Your Identity
One of the first questions you will get asked wherever you go in life is, “Where are you from?” Accents help answer this question–fast. In many ways, accents can be a great way of honoring those who put so much time and effort into us as children. What better way to honor your parents then to speak like them, right?
I used to think that everybody had the ability to change their accent if they only tried, but for some, they can’t shake that strong identity rooted in their native language. In the case of Japanese and English, you’re dealing with two completely different identities behind the languages. That’s why–for most of us–after speaking Japanese for a long period of time, our English starts to get weird.
Why Rebuild When It’s Easier (and Cheaper) to Renovate?
So you’ve got a great mind with lots of rooms and pretty decorations throughout. The house looks great. Why tear it down? People spend a great deal of money trying to get rid of accents, but there’s really no need. Why destroy a perfectly good house? Well, maybe if your accent shows up as a big, bright red all over the walls of your dining room, then maybe you should think about painting it a cool green instead, but there’s certainly no need to tear down perfectly good walls. Worse, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could cut through cables and short circuit! Yikes! Point being, it is way easier to modify the accent you’ve got then to try to completely get rid of it.
Accents Remind Your Listener You Are Still Learning
You don’t want people coming at you with full-blown language when you are still just starting out. In these kinds of situations, kids have the definite advantage in that people just assume they don’t know anything. No one in their right mind is going to bombard a kid with massive amounts of difficult vocabulary.
You know, speaking of kids, little kids could care less about accents. They just talk. If you focus too much on accent building in the beginning of your language learning, you could wind up constantly getting overwhelmed by yourself and others. Let people know where you’re coming from and allow yourself to make those grammar and intonation mistakes.
Accents are Attractive
Yes, even your American accent. Yes, even your Japanese accent. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something beautiful about sound. Why in the world does everybody want to sound the same? America would be a boring place if we lost our Southern Soul. Japan would be oh-so dull without the slap-stick comedy brought to you by the Osaka Dialect. Why confess love with “Suki da yo!” when you can say, “Suki ya nen!” Accents make your love that much more personal.
Thou Shalt Not Covet
Tisk tisk. We know we’re all guilty of coveting at some point in our lives. You’re learning that new language, you see someone else’s superior language skill, and you can’t help yourself–you want it. This surely has to be one of the reasons God confused languages: to keep us humble.
It’s so crazy how once you get proficient in one language and then step out of the boat into learning a new one, you feel that drowning feeling all over again. Nobody can learn every single language out there. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t be upset that someone can speak with a “more refined” accent than you. Everybody’s journey is different and it’s good that way.
God Doesn’t Make Mistakes
God has a plan for you. It was not an accident that you were born into the language you were born into. You are a beautiful creation. Your voice matters. Wherever you were born in this world, you have worth. Embrace what God has given you and get on out there and shine!