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To ACCENT or NOT is the question


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One of my Spanish-speaking neighbors recently told me he gets offended when someone (non-native speaker) uses his language and over emphasizes a Spanish accent.  He felt they were making fun of or stressing a stereotype about Latinos.

I could sort of see his point, but I also believe that without any accent, speaking another language sounds flat and is even more of an insult.

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It shouldn't be considered an insult not to try and perfect an accent, as for some people it might be physically impossible to due so, because they haven't exercised specific muscles in the mouth. Forcing an accent is never a good option, as well, as some people might indeed think you are mocking them. I believe practice makes perfect, so if someone speaks naturally for some time, their accent will develop in time and become closer to the language used in his linguistic community.

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I understand how it can sound a little annoying to someone who's grown up with the language, but I wouldn't take it as an insult, personally. Usually, foreigners are just finding their own way of speaking, and having no idea of how it fits best on him or her initially, it's understandable that he or she would start off by copying the most prominent factors of the new language.

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Perhaps it could be something that happened to this person specifically? While they were growing up or even today people may have insulted them by making fun of their accent so they may gravitate toward the feeling that someone trying to speak the language is not being genuine but a jerk.

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I agree, that this is not exactly a insult. I mean there are tons of people who try to learn a new language and go overboard while doing so. It is just a mistake on their end, but it happens if it is not their native language.

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I think it's hard to feel like you have a real handle on a language unless you properly accent the language. Words don't sound the same when you say them without a least a tiny hint of the native accent. It does sound flat and sometimes the way a word is said enhances it's meaning.

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I don't get offended if someone pronounce a word in my native language in a wrong way, as long as he doesn't do that in a mocking way or trying ot make fun of me or others.  I think trying to speak a language other than yours is hard enough, and having someone getting mad at you because your accent isn't perfect is just too much pressure.

I'd personally feel really stressed if my boyfriend's family took my bad accent as an insult.  I guess I'd be completely and absolutely screwed id that was the case, lol.  I hope my boyfriend's family don't take it wrong if I say something in a wrong way.

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I think that some people try to compensate for their novice-like skills and attempt to imitate that certain language's accent to come off as more genuine, but they end up looking like they're trying too hard in the 1st place. Maybe that's the kind of people your neighbor has encountered, and they're not really making fun of the Spanish accent. Maybe he just misinterpreted them. If they really are making fun of the accent, then shame on them, and he should just ignore those people.

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I wouldn't say it's an insult because the language in which the person speaks isn't their native language. He or she emphasizes too much because that's how he or she learns the language sometimes. I don't think it can cause any harm for those who have accents when they speak the language in which it's not their native language.

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Excellent comments.

I definitely was not trying to insult my friend or anyone by using a Spanish accent.

When I began learning Spanish years ago, I distinctly remember a teacher 'calling out' a student for NOT using an accent.  He had a Cali-twang and he was butchering the Spanish language with it.

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One of my Spanish-speaking neighbors recently told me he gets offended when someone (non-native speaker) uses his language and over emphasizes a Spanish accent.  He felt they were making fun of or stressing a stereotype about Latinos.

I could sort of see his point, but I also believe that without any accent, speaking another language sounds flat and is even more of an insult.

I don't blame you for speaking a language with an accent. Your friend could be offended due to arrogance or maybe hes not used to seeing a non-Spanish speaking person speak in Spanish with an accent. Whatever the case may be, if you clearly aren't doing it in a derogatory fashion, its not wrong and should not be seen as an offensive gesture.

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I believe that it all depend on what accent are you trying to use.

Spanish has many accents depending on the country of origin.

An Spaniard from Andalucía doesn't speak like a Spaniard from Madrid or Aragon.

Similarly, a Mexican from the capital city doesn't speak like someone in Veracruz, Monterrey or Yucatán.

None of those accents should be offensive because are regional to the different places.

However let's take as in example Mexico City, where some people talk in what locals consider a "vulgar style" best known (locally) as "naco" style.

If you would try to learn this accent, then a local who is not a "naco" may consider offensive the way you speak, as many of them also think from their local speakers talking in a vulgar way.

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I found that one of the harder things to learn and do well is accenting in a new language.  I can see how someone might find it insulting if the accenting isn't correct but perhaps they need to be more patient with the beginner.

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Excellent comments.

I definitely was not trying to insult my friend or anyone by using a Spanish accent.

When I began learning Spanish years ago, I distinctly remember a teacher 'calling out' a student for NOT using an accent.  He had a Cali-twang and he was butchering the Spanish language with it.

Oi jeez, yeah that happens too. There was a woman in my Intermediate-level German class who had both an old lady voice (she was indeed an old lady) and a slight northern Kentucky accent, which colored everything she said auf deutsch. I still cringe thinking about it. I know she was older but.... nails on a chalkboard, you know? D:

He shouldn't take it as an insult though, especially if it's an American putting forth an honest effort to learn Spanish. I know a lot of Americans who won't make that effort and would tell him to learn English instead. :(

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I am not a native English speaker but my professional jobs require me to be fluent and adept in the language. My accent is not American nor British. Mine is what we call "neutralized accent". In some jobs where they require you to sound like a native speaker, they conduct accent training and the sort. I disagree that one is insulting or degrading the language when one doesn't have the accent of a real native speaker. :) It is quite difficult to fake an accent and sooner or later, people will find out you are merely faking it. For me what is more essential is your fluency and understanding of the language itself and that you are able to express yourself well. :)

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I am trying to use the accent correctly as often as I can and it's only a sign of respect for the language, not an insult. I am really trying hard to use it well and not sound stupid. If I would speak English with an Romanian accent I'm not sure how many people would understand me.

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This has happened to people whose English isn't their native language, which I think most of them carry some sort of accent. I think it is ok to have accent and there's no other ways you can do about it. I have accent too, but as long as people understand you, that's all it matters.

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When ever I hear someone speaking my native language in a different accent I do not consider it as an insult. In the first place it is not their mother tongue and should not expect them to say it fluently but indeed I am proud that they are trying to speak my language and it only means that they are interested in our country and language.

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