Does your accent affect how good a teacher you are, and how easily your students can understand you? This is probably more a British thing, since the UK has such a wide variety of accents, but in my experience, it's other English-speaking people who have the most trouble understanding different accents, whereas foreigners don't seem to notice. Those with a strong accent, does it affect the way you teach? Do you tone it down, or just try to speak clearly in your accent?
Oh, the US has a huge variety of accents.
My own accent is pretty much RP with some Westcountry colour and has never been an issue with students: it's pretty much indistinguishable from the English they hear on the CDs that come with their textbooks.
Generally, non-native speakers don't have an "ear" for different accents as long as they are not too far removed from the standard they've learned. I doubt if you could tell the difference between a Bavarian and a Berliner speaking German unless it was pointed out to you.
However, if you were learning German and heard a broad Swiss German dialect, you wouldn't have a hope.
The issue is, however, less one of your students understanding you, and more of what they learn from you. If your students end up speaking nothing but Geordie, they would flummox any American; and also be flummoxed by American speech.
Be reasonable. The difference between, say, the RP pronunciation of "cake", and its pronunciation by an educated speaker of the Yorkshire dialect, will pass unnoticed by foreigners (Germans, for example, have trouble with the PR diphthong and hear it as the pure "Yorkshire" vowel sound anyhow) and be of no consequence to any native speaker (Americans had no trouble following the speech of Daphne in Frasier, although British viewers couldn't help noticing that it sort of drifted back and forth between Manchester and Scarborough). However, I have used old episodes of Last of the Summer Wine in lessons occasionally (as a special treat), and my students have always been grateful for the (English) subtitles.
Speak clearly, avoid actual dialect, and try to sound like an educated person from wherever you come from. But don't try to sound like Harry Enfield doing one of his spoof black-and-white documentaries.
Last Of The Summer Wine as a treat? A punishment more like.
The actress, Jane Leeves, who played Daphne, is actually from Sussex, which is why her spurious Northern accent was so weird.
It's good for more advanced students to be exposed to as many different regional accents and varieties of English as possible.
Sometimes people talk about accents like they're talking about a very unimportant thing. Actually, as far as you are a native speaker, there is probably NOT much you can do about your accent or else you will sound unnatural, but if you are not a native English speaker, you better practice a stnndard American or British Pronunciation - not accent - because accent is a combination of three major features:
2. Word Connection
All you can do - in case you are a non-native speaker - is to correct your pronunciation first. Learning the IPA ( International Phonetic Alphabet ) helps a lot, although you can forget about the traditional method and easily get your hands on talking dictionaries available on CD or DVD for computers. Second, you need to use any chance to listen to general American/British accents - you can choose - to work on the second and third elements (WORD CONNECTION AND INTONATION). Listening to BBC or CNN news could help you a lot to improve your second and third elements of a standard British accent. Watching CBS news, Good Morning America, or ABC news could help you a lot improve your General American accent. Remember that you need to be very patient.
Finally, your standard and general accent will make your students even more motivated, and believe it or not, helps them improve their listening unbelievably in general!!!
English Teacher Trainer
Last edited by godfingers; 14-Feb-2008 at 01:48.
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