Episode 32 – Q&A Should I worry about my child picking up my non-native accent?


Should I worry about my child picking up my non-native accent?

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I answer a listener’s question who is concerned that his son will pick up his Russian accent when speaking English. I discuss the linguistic behavior of children when it comes to accents as their speech develops.

Episode #32 – Transcript

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I answer a listener’s question who is concerned that his son will pick up his Russian accent when speaking English. I discuss the linguistic behavior of children when it comes to accents as their speech develops.

Should I be concerned with my child picking up my accent to a second language?

Hey there and welcome to another Question and Answer Edition of the Bilingual Avenue podcast.  We have a really interesting topic to discuss today.  This is actually a concern I have heard many parents share so I am looking forward to the opportunity to talk about it on the podcast.

Let’s check out the question for this week.

Question: Hi Marianna! My name is Nikolay, first thank you so much for the Bilingual Avenue project especially for the podcast.  It’s exactly what my family was looking for. My wife and I are from Russia now living in the United States. We are raising a son and we want him to be bilingual so my wife speaks Russian at home and I speak English all the time.  My English is quite good but I have a heavy Russian accent.  I try to sound more like American but it’s hard for me. I worry that my son will catch my Russian accent and will speak Runglish instead of English so my question is, so my question is should I be concerned about this? If the answer is yes, what should I do?

 Thank you Nikolay for your kind words about the podcast.  It really makes my day to hear that you are finding the information helpful!

Also, thank you also for submitting a question and sharing your concerns with the Bilingual Avenue audience. This is a common concern that I have heard many parents voice lately.

The first thing I’d like to point out is that we all have accents! We all know that an American English accent is very different form a British accent.  Even the American accent can be very different.  Think about a New Yorker accent versus a Texan accent.  In my case for example, I have a strong accent when I speak Spanish.  You can tell nine times out of ten, someone who is familiar with Spanish accents can accurately guess that I am originally from Venezuela just because of the accent.  So having one is normal!

The multilingual journey may present a lot of obstacles and hurdles.  There are many many things that will make us worry and stress and accents is one that we should place in the “let’s not worry too much about it bucket.”

Nikolay’s question is specific to having a Russian accent while speaking English. So let’ talk linguistic behavior for a minute.  After the age of 3-4 children become very aware of their peers. In other words, children their own age.  They become less and less interested in some adults behaviors including things like linguistic behavior like accents, speech patterns even the tone of our voices.

What happens is that these peers become the linguistic role models.  Children want to fit in just like adults do and they start essentially picking up the accents of other children around them.  You mentioned in your question that you live in the United States so his peers are likely other native English speakers. Chances are then that your son will start “sounding” (I say sound in quotations) a lot more like other children around him and pick up your Russian accent much less as time goes on.  You will likely notice that your son will go through this process without realizing.  It just a natural process.

So accents is likely one thing you will not have to worry about!  In the meantime, make sure you continue to provide rich exposure to vocabulary and grammar.  That will still be your job.  As for the accent, leave that job to his friends!

Well Nikolay I hope you found the answer helpful! Thank you again very much for sending your audio message.  Remember you can ask a question too! Just head over to BilingualAvenue.com/contact and leave your questions.  We’ll answer it on a future Question & Answer edition of the podcast.

Now before I sign off, I just wanted to remind you of the Aesop Fables for All Project.  We are working together to translate and record a select number of fables in as many languages as possible.  But we need your help! Head over to bilingualavenue.com/fables and select any of the twenty fables listed on the site and consider translating it into one or any of your target languages.  We’ll upload your audio to the website so that other families around the world working on the same language can use it as a resource on their language journey.   If interested, I talk about the project in detail on episode 30 so check it out bilingualavenue.com/episode30

May you have fun travels on your language journey. Hope to see you again on the avenue.

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