The Evolution of an Accent

I recently stumbled upon a post at LexiBlog entitled "Multiple Personalities in a Foreign Language." The author poses the following questions:

When we learn a foreign language, we may have an accent bearing light traces or strong semblances of our native tongue or we may be able to pick up on our instructor’s accent or that of a native speaker.

What happens when we have studied with instructors with various national accents or have “lived” a particular language in various countries where it is spoken? What kind of multiple personality disorder can we have when we open our mouths?

While I think it would be considerably difficult to consciously alter my accent in English, strangely enough, I haven't struggled much to adjust to different Spanish dialects and their accompanying accents. I found that it was easier to absorb what was being said to me if I internalized the differences in pronunciation by changing my accent to reflect that of the speaker.

How My Spanish Accent Has Changed Over Time

» When I first began learning Spanish in high school, my teacher for the majority of those years was a Spaniard from Andalusia. Peninsular Spanish with its accompanying "lisping" accent was drummed into me by Señor Capaldo. 

» In college I dropped the European pronunciation and developed more of a Mexican accent—once again, courtesy of my professor—which persisted later on since most of the Spanish speakers I encountered in my professional life were Mexican. 

» After getting to know Daniel, my accent morphed once again as I started to absorb the special brand of Spanish spoken here in Argentina, a dialect known as Rioplatense Spanish. Argentines are well-known for their unique accent, use of voseo, and numerous slang words. It seems that at this stage, Argentine Spanish has taken over my brain!

Of course, I still haven't managed to completely rid my Spanish of my American accent (and I don't believe I ever will), but I don't think my accent is particularly heavy (Tomás says my r's often give me away). Of course, Daniel says I speak perfectly (hah!), but other more objective Argentines have commented that my accent is relatively mild or, at the very least, pleasant to listen to and well-understood.

If you're a non-native speaker of a language, what does your accent sound like?  How has it changed over time?

Resources // Accents

I find accents fascinating. If you do too, check out this excellent resource from the blog es-xchange with recordings of native Spanish speakers from all over the map. [Scroll halfway down the page to where it says "Audio clips."] 

» Click here to listen to the Argentine Spanish accent.

Do you wonder what Argentines sound like when they speak English? I've got a clip for that too. Access the International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA) to listen to English spoken with a variety of accents.

And lastly, if you're curious to hear how an American living in Argentina speaks Spanish, click here. (No, it's not yours truly.)

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