Do accents matter when teaching English abroad?

When it comes to accents we all have one no matter where in the world we were brought up. Most of us are familiar with the basic differences between British and American accents, but what about accents from Australia and New Zealand, Canada and South Africa? And within each of these countries there are dozens of regional accents, just to complicate things further. So, we all have an accent, but is it a problem when teaching English as a foreign language?

Table of Contents

What English accent should I teach my students?

How do English language students learn English accents?

What English accent should I teach my students?

It is important to understand that there isn't a universally correct accent. The debate typically centers on British versus American English. Historically, the British accent (often referred to as the Queen's English) was widely adopted in classrooms globally. However, this viewpoint is outdated. Every accent has its merits, and the key is consistency and clarity in instruction.

  • Teach Naturally: Prioritize clarity and ensure students grasp your teachings, irrespective of accent.
  • School Preferences Matter: Some European schools lean towards British English, while many in Asia favor American English. While you don't need to adopt a faux accent, it is crucial to align with your institution's preference.
  • Accent Awareness: Use diverse listening exercises to expose students to various accents. This equips them for real-world English interactions, emphasizing the rich tapestry of English accents globally.

In conclusion, the accent you teach should be authentic to you, aligned with your institution's preferences, and supplemented with exposure to various global accents.

How do English language students learn English accents?

The learning process is multi-faceted and often influenced by the teacher's accent, exposure duration, and individual student factors:

  • Teacher's Role: Every time a teacher speaks, they model the English language for students. As a result, students tend to adopt the words, phrases, and even the accent of their instructor to a certain degree.
  • Neutral vs. Strong Accents: Some learners develop a neutral accent over time, while others maintain a pronounced native-language accent regardless of extensive pronunciation practice.
  • Factors Affecting Accent Development:
    • Student's Age: Younger students are more inclined to assimilate a native English accent.
    • Exposure Duration: The longer one is immersed in the English language, the greater the likelihood of adopting a native accent.
  • Addressing Accent Self-Consciousness: Some students may wish to lessen their native accent. There are methods to aid this, but results vary. It is essential to note that many might never significantly alter their accent despite earnest efforts.

Ultimately, while accents are a natural facet of language learning, the primary objective should be clear communication. Instead of focusing on accent perfection, emphasize clarity and comprehension in your teaching.