How do accents work?


So I was born and brought up in India but have been studying abroad for almost two years now and my accent has changed significantly. Everyone I know from home has noticed it yet I don’t think it has changed all that much. I know people who’ve lived abroad for almost 20 years without having any changes in their accents. I’m 19 at moment could it be possible due to my age I’m more prone to subconsciously picking up words I hear around me?

In: Other

A Canadian that’s made fun of for saying “eh” would consciously stop saying it as often (or double down on it if it’s part of their identity).

But then there’s also the subconscious, where if you keep hearing “home” as “hawm” instead of “hoome” for 100 times straight you’ll start changing to that as well. But similarly, if it’s important to you and you make a conscious effort to say it one way, then it won’t change for you.

So it depends how much mental effort you’re putting into how you pronounce things, with minimal effort resulting in you matching the people near you.

People who pick up a new language later in life have a harder time learning the sounds of the new language because their brain only process the sounds of the languages known from childhood as “language sounds” unless you consciously train yourself. (As a baby all sounds all language sounds until you distill the ones you need.) This is possible to train. Accents are simply the way a language is pronounced by a group of people. If there are sounds that are not in your native language, learning how the sound is made is helpful, followed by practicing using the language with those sounds and listening to the sounds being used until it becomes natural.

All human spoken languages are composed of simple sounds called phonemes. These are like the primary colors of speech, the number of possible phonemes is only limited by the different sounds the human mouth and vocal cords can produce. Any one particular language does not use all of the phonemes. As a baby, you learn the phonemes which your language uses, but you don’t learn the ones that aren’t used. For the rest of your life, you will have difficulty making these other phonemes. This is the major cause of accents, struggling with differences in phonemes between languages. One classic example is that some eastern Asian languages do not use the “ell” phoneme. When people who grew up speaking these languages attempt to speak english, they have difficulty pronouncing words with the “ell” sounds properly.

Other difference which contribute to accents are difference in cadence and pitch between languages. Some languages are spoken with a lower pitched voice (like French) while other languages are spoken with a high pitch, or with a widely varying pitch. When someone speaks a foreign language, they may use their native instincts relating to pitch, which make it sound odd to native speakers. Cadence has to do with how rapidly words are spoken. Some languages use rapid sounds, while other use longer sounds, and still others use a combination of the two. If you use a non-native cadence when speaking, it will sound foreign.

Grammar is different between languages. When learning a new language, it is often easiest to speak your native language, just using foreign words. This can usually be understood by others, but sounds very weird. One example would be French, where adjectives are usually placed after words. A native French speaker might say in English “I have a car red”, whereas a native english speaker would say “I have a red car”.

Lastly, there are idioms and slang. Idioms are small sayings or speech patterns which don’t really make sense, but that all native speakers have learned to understand without thinking about them. In english, you might say to someone “How do you do?”. This question makes no sense, if you learned english from a text book, you might respond “How do I do what?”. It takes experience to learn idioms from another language. People learning a new language may try to use idioms from their native language, or may use the new foreign idioms incorrectly.