Avoir l’Accent

Accent: nom masculin
1.  Signe graphique sur une lettre
In English: A mark indicating stress, vowel quality or pitch.
2. L’accent est une particularité de diction d’un locuteur dans une langue donnée. Il est propre à une région ou un milieu social.
In English: A distinctive way of pronouncing a language, especially one associated with a particular country, area, or social class.

Ever since I can remember, I have loved the French language. One of my mother’s favorite stories to tell is how when I was young, I used to want to switch my movies to French. She never wanted me to do that and would switch them to Spanish so that I could learn her mother tongue so I could speak to her family in Spain. I applaud her for how she was so strict with that, because today I speak Spanish sans accent

I also remember being obsessed with the French culture and food, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe. I thought it was written beautifully, with its multiple different style of accents (they are not easy to memorize where they go). Around the age of 8, my parent’s met another pair of parents in my sister’s piano class. The wife was from Spain (hence how they bonded) and the husband was American but spoke Spanish without an accent. When I learned that he had also studied French, I would beg him to teach me words and phrases. He, being a teacher, would go so much further than that and teach me grammar and show me French songs and films. I never really picked it up well, for having no one to practice it with bugged me*.

When I moved to France in August of 2014, I understood French decently. I could mutter words and phrases that were important (I would like wine, cheese and bread, please. Thank you!: Je voudrais du vin, du fromage et une baguette, s’il vous plaît. Merci!), but to hold a conversation was practically impossible after the first five minutes. Then by January, I understood so much more than I could reply. My host family that year were impossible to practice with. They would always point out my faults (which I don’t mind, my new host family still corrects me, they just are not mean about it), talk to me about my accent and ask me if I was even trying to learn French. It annoyed me and I was always super self-conscious about speaking with them. Tip number one I can give to people who are learning a language, don’t be afraid about speaking and just go for it. Just make sure that the people you are speaking with are nice and willing to help you. If you don’t make mistakes while learning a language (or with anything in life), you will never learn. In February, when I met my recent boyfriend, was when my level of French when up. I had someone who was patient and willing to hear me mumble and stutter over words. Man, is he patient.

Me being (or more like trying to be) French on Bastille Day - 14.07.2015
Me being (or more like trying to be) French on Bastille Day – 14.07.2015

Today, I can communicate. I can hold a conversation. I can write, express myself and I want to learn how to debate in French, because thinking in another language is not the same as our native. Dating someone who doesn’t speak your language is stressful, especially in fights when you can’t 100% get there so they can see what you mean in the heat. When I speak to people who do not know my story, they ask me where I am from because they can’t pick up on my accent. When I say I am an American, they do not believe me. When I say I am Spanish… they nod as if they can hear the accent somewhere in my words. My accent is mine. No one knows where I am from without knowing my story. It makes me different, and I can’t help but like that. Having an accent is not all roses and romantic, because some people once they hear me, roll their eyes and possibly think, “oh yet again, another tourist”. One thing I can say for sure though is that my accent makes me proud. I’ve learned a language that is not fundamentally mine.

J’ai un accent à moi.



*I actually have made friends with people who taught themselves English by just watching movies.

You can follow more of Veronica: 

Twitter: @kikalavil

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7 thoughts on “Avoir l’Accent

  1. I’m attending a French Film Festival all weekend in Richmond, VA so I enjoyed this very much!

    Have fun on the A to Z. I’m #1628 Thesaurus Tyrannosaurus. Next year, I’m going to choose a theme that’s easier to spell.

    1. Hello! Thank you so much for stopping by. You’ll have to let me know how the film festival goes, and have fun!

      Hope your A to Z Challenge goes great as well 🙂

  2. It’s so hard to begin speaking a language when you are constantly being corrected. With my students I try to encourage them to speak as much as possible and, with my beginners, I very rarely correct their grammar. I experience the opposite often with my French colleagues and the frequent corrections make me less confident in speaking French at all. I find Chinese much easier as generally Chinese people have tried to understand my meaning and work around my terrible grammar and/or vocabulary to help me communicate. It’s interesting how different language learning can be.

    1. For me, I don’t mind being corrected but it highly depends on how it’s done. I like being corrected in a sense of helping me understand why it’s said that way, but hate when it isn’t explained and is done condescendingly which used to happen a lot with my host family. I highly believe that when learning a language, you should just go for it without fear of making mistakes, because if not you won’t learn. It is quite interesting, I agree! I have heard Chinese is hard… Good luck learning it! 🙂

  3. You have no idea how inspiring and relatable this is to me!!! Thank you for sharing! I used to “talk” to a French boy who condescendingly corrected my mistakes and it made me so infuriated. My French host family, my best French girl friend, and my new French boy all correct me in a way that is kind and helpful to actually making my French *better*. It makes all the difference in the world… Especially when it comes to accepting the sometimes self-conscious fact that I have an accent! Je suis américaine, donc j’ai un accent américain !

    1. I’m so glad it was relatable! Yeah, it’s not fun when people talk to us condescendingly when all we want is to speak their language. They take away the joy of it and don’t realize it.

  4. Ugh, I hate that tendency for certain French natives to criticize others’ French. Sometimes it is regional differences, other times it is flat-out being a picky jerk about the way the word is pronounced, other times they just want to tell you that you’re an idiot… none of it makes people want to learn more about the language, does it?! I took French in high school and figured I would be fine in Montreal… but theirs is a whole different take on the language, and NO ONE teaches you about slang. Maudite!

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