Speaking English with an accent : Is there a difference between pronunciation and accent?

by | May 22, 2018

When you speak , you often hear different English accents and pronunciation of the same words. Is there a difference between accent and pronunciation? And why do people love speaking with an English accent?

Research has indicated that some words have the ability to get us steamed up, raise our blood pressure and get our hearts beating faster. And, you guessed it, the word “accent” is certainly one of those words!

Why is that so? The word “accent” broadly means pronunciation. Most people, when they hear, “ He has an accent”, conjure up negative comments and emotions about that person’s speech. In reality, you cannot speak in any language, without having an accent! The Queen of England has an English accent. You and I have our own distinct accent. So what is so strange about an accent?

A simple definition of an accent is :  distinctive way of pronouncing a language, especially one associated with a particular country, area, or social class.

So if it is an English accent, then it will be associated with England. Or American accent , will be associated with America, and so on.

 What does an accent tell us?

i) The location where they grew up.

When we listen to native English speakers, we can usually tell if they are from the UK, Canada, Australia or US. It gives us clues about the speaker’s cultural background.

ii) Socio  – economic status.

Each language has broad, general and prestige varieties. In general terms, many speakers regard the prestige version as socially desirable, whereas the broad varieties fall at the other end of the spectrum.

iii) Gives us clues about someone’s first language when they are speaking a 2nd language.

For example, when a native French speaker speaks in English, they speak it with a ‘ French Accent’. Some accents sound nicer to our ears than others, but that is a matter of personal choice.

 ‘Pronunciation’ is the way we produce sounds. The way we move our lips, tongue and jaw to  articulate sounds.

So the main difference between ‘accent’ and ‘pronunciation’ is the way we pronounce words, with different speech melody.  Eg: Tomato- tomato. The pronunciation of each sound in the word is clear, the difference is in the way you say the words.

Accents are a great addition to life. They add to a person’s cultural identity and heritage. Imagine a world where everyone spoke the same way! It would be as boring as everyone dressing the same way!

If someone has a very strong accent, it usually  means their pronunciation and their intonation of sentences are difficult to be understood by a majority of listeners. People with a heavy accent often find themselves repeating their words, or spelling them out. This can negatively influence on work performance, getting past interviews, and social communication with others, and many opportunities can pass you by. In today’s GLOBAL economy, it is often common to find English speakers from different origins communicating, with all sorts of different accents. This makes it very colourful and varied. However, you need to be understood with clarity , so that your message gets heard.

In that case, speakers might want a more neutral accent, so that others can understand them easily. Whether your goal is to reduce your accent, or to improve your clarity, Thila Raja will be able to help you achieve that. If you liked this blog, you can download a free pronunciation e-book, for further tips on pronunciation.

Watch my video on the same topic as well on YouTube!

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