When you have an accent in your second language, which most of us do if we started learning it as an adult, people sometimes react to you differently. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not.
Here’s my list of 19 things that are true when you have a foreign accent.
Things that are true when you have an accent
After moving to France and being the one with the accent, I have a greater appreciation for all my fellow language learners out there. And when back home in the USA, I make sure not to do any of the annoying things on my list to others. Even if it feels like we’re the only ones fumbling through life in our second language, that’s far from true. According to this piece, there were an estimated 232 million people living outside of their homeland in 2013.
And in the USA alone? 13% of the 316 million residents are immigrants.
For an interesting read on how foreign accents are perceived by our brain, take a few minutes to read this article.
Here’s my take on things people do when you have an accent. They’re not French specific and sometimes we aren’t even aware we’re doing these things. I’m sure I’m guilty of a few of ’em too.
19 Things that are true when you have a foreign accent
- You get asked where you’re from ALL THE TIME, so you’ve considered wearing a t-shirt like this one that clears that up.
- You get used to people speaking loudly to you, as if having an accent means you don’t understand. A high volume won’t change anything! I’m American, not deaf!
- You become instantly more interesting to those around you.
- You psych yourself out sometimes before you open your mouth and feel self-conscious when you do speak up. Especially around those you just met.
- People might find you charming just because of the way you speak and they’ll tell you as much!
- The flip side is people might find you too “different” and not want to talk to you because of their own hangups with foreigners.
- People might cut you off mid-sentence and talk over you more than you’re used to in your native tongue. It might not have anything to do with your accent. I find it a little frustrating when I’m doing my best to get my words out.
- You’ll get asked, “How do you say <random word> in English?” a lot!
- People speak to you at regular speed — which means FAST! — and you get used to people not realizing an accent might mean you’re still learning. Playing catchup is mentally exhausting when you’re talking to a frantic speaker and you are always a few words behind.
- Sometimes people ask you to repeat yourself when you’re sure you’re speaking super clearly. It’s OK!
- When out and about, especially in the summer, you’re often asked if you’re a tourist. You get used to telling people, “Nope, I live here. And have for several years!”
- If you’re in a smaller community, you become instantly identifiable as “The American” since there probably aren’t too many others that sound like you.
- People assume good and bad things about you based on where you’re from.
- Having an accent means you know 2 or more languages and that’s impressive. Congrats!
- People sometimes automatically lean in and squint their eyes at you a little bit when you start to talk (I find this really unnerving!).
- To that end, you sometimes tell people upfront that you’re a foreigner (almost apologetically) to help them get used to how you speak. Comes in handy when someone is expecting you to sound like everyone else.
- People often repeat things in your accent because they think it’s cute or cool.
- You might find yourself smiling and being more friendly when speaking a foreign language to overcompensate for your “otherness.”
- You get a little nervous before opening your mouth in a high-pressure situation where a bunch of people will hear you speak.
Do you have any to add? What do you find to be true when you have an accent?
P.S. If you’re looking for a longer read, click over to read my cousin David’s interview on being a flight attendant. He talks salary, scariest moments and more!