Understanding How to Build Confidence
Often times an accent is perceived as an inability to speak a language. This perception is incorrect. An accent is nothing more than a sign of bravery. It could be so simple as a separate dialect. There is no shame in having an accent. With that said, I understand the desire to sound like a native speaker. While it will take time, there are some strategies that can be used to overcome the burden of sounding like you’re speaking a language that is not native to you. First, let’s talk about some of the things to keep in mind when embarking on this journey.
There are reasons that people get so hung up on being perfect with their accent and they are worth addressing.
This is probably the number 1 reason someone wants to master the accent of their target language. By and large people do not like to stand out, especially not in what may perceived as a negative way. However, just because you have an accent does not automatically put you in an out group.
People screw up their own native language every single day and 0% of polyglots can speak their languages indefinitely without fault.
Mistakes make you human and if you and the people you’re talking to are both human there is already more that connects you than there is that separates you. Through this process of using the language, even when you are making mistakes and sound foreign, will get you to the point where people question whether or not you’re a native speaker. In order for that to happen, you need to start getting some Ws under your belt.
I’ll repeat this until I die, momentum is one of the most important factors in successful language acquisition. There will be plateaus and periods where you feel stagnant. The momentum you build going into those times is key to your success. So define for yourself what a good day looks like:
- Repeating lines after an audiobook orator
- Singing a song and looking up the lyrics to sing along properly
- Translating an article, learning 5 new words, and using them all in sentences
- Having a conversation via voice notes with a native speaker
- Mimicking a voice you would like to emulate until your words match their to the best of your ability
Whatever it looks like for you, it is worth writing these goals down and executing on them daily. Getting 1% better every day is powerful.
Building up your confidence will help you achieve this and more, and here are some simple strategies we will discuss in detail on Thursday:
- Listen to your target language as much as possible
- Speak your target language as much as possible
- Make as many mistakes as possible
- Get corrected as much as possible
You may take a hit to the ego, but if you can put that behind you you’ll be able to make enormous strides.
There’s a reason languages are taught in schools. They are difficult to learn and fostering an environment that is conducive to your learning styles is extremely important. If this is your first time learning a language (taking it seriously), there are some ideas on setting yourself up for success here:
If you’ve decided you are ready to take the plunge and you’ve gotten as far as you can on your own, check out the 12 Week Course
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The course launch was incredible and I am so excited for the many aspiring polyglots and the legacies they are building for and with their families. For more on what that looks like see here:
Make sure you check out the full catalog of FREE resources as well. Now, let’s discuss something that not many people take into consideration.
Where Accents Come From
Understanding how and where accents develop from can not only help you eradicate your accent, it can help you understand people who may have an accent when speaking to you in your native language. Bridging this gap is a great way to disarm people and create bonds that are easy to build from which is worth taking into consideration.
This is relatively obvious, but just as easy to overlook. Much of what an accent is breaks down to an inability (temporary) to make certain movements and noises with one’s mouth and nose. Until we understand why this is happening it is a relatively difficult thing to fix. For example:
We do not have the French “U” sound in English. It is rather difficult to replicate without constant effort and intentional exercise. However, it is not impossible to learn. Similar to the letter “R” in just about every language. It changes sound, but the sounds are not impossible to learn if you understand how they are made. More on that Thursday.
In short, if you can figure out which letters you struggle with and which you have never even attempted to use before through studying and thoroughly understanding the alphabet of your target language, it will be a lot easier to get to the point where you sound like a native speaker. Remember, they grew up with this alphabet, used it for decades. If you don’t know it like the back of your hand, you don’t know it well enough to lose your accent.
Another reason that having an accent is no reason not to speak your target language is this:
Austrians still come to Germany and claim to speak German. (All love for my Austrian homies hahaha)
But in all seriousness, dialect changes are so noticeable that people from small countries will be able to tell whether you’re from the north or south or east or west just by how you sound and what words you use. There is no point in getting hung up on it. Keep working and you will improve. If you want to avoid falling into the trap of learning only one dialect, be sure to diversify the auditory and written stimulus you have and use. This is also good because it will prevent you from turning to stone when someone with a different dialect speaks to you for the first time.
There are strategies that can accelerate and enhance your language acquisition, but they all require work on your part. Accent work is a "trick" but it is also a lot of work and demands consistency for quality results. I can give you the roadmap, but I cannot learn the language for you.
Becoming bilingual is difficult, but you can do difficult things and be great. So go do difficult things and become great. Here I’ve given you some of the tools, but in the end, there is no comprehensive guide, no tips or tricks to carry anyone across the finish line. Language acquisition requires time, effort, and consistency. That said, it is something that anyone of any age is more than capable of accomplishing. I’ll be here rooting for you and watching your progress.
For more content find me on Twitter or Instagram. If you are struggling to get speaking in your target language, try out Pimsleur free for 7 days using this link. I look forward to seeing everyone’s progress in the months and years to come.