17 October 2012

Accent block

Normally, I do pretty well at speaking a language in a native-like accent, but my French accent had kind of slipped due to lack of use.  I figured it would come back once I was here, but it never happened.  I've found myself sounding more like my brother than a French speaker.

This frustrated me.  This annoyed me.  I tried a little bit, but I could only improve my accent while consciously working at it -- as soon as I stopped thinking about it, it got worse again.

The frustration is compounded when I say something in Corsican, and though my accent is far from good, I'm still new to it, and in terms of "time on task", my Corsican accent is much more promising than my French accent.

My first theory was that it was down to "speaking with learners" mode.  After all, most of my French recently was spoken with other Scottish people.  Given that I'm teaching English all day, could it be that I was simply slipping unconsciously into assuming that I was supposed to be speaking in a way that was easy for learners to understand?

But that didn't really sit right with me... it wasn't that.

So a few days ago I was thinking about it, and I was talking in my head in a fairly good accent -- the accent I think I used to have.  I tried speaking, and while it was better than normal, it wasn't as good as it was in my head.  Then it struck me: my accent was based on the north -- Paris, Lille and the like; people don't speak like that in Corsica.

And yet I'm not picking up the Corsican accent.  My brain seems to have filtered it off as incorrect, and left me in a bit of a limbo.  I'm not speaking with my old northern French accent, and I'm not picking up a Corsican accent.  I'm speaking a weird accent that muddles up vowels that I never muddled up before.

It's weird.  It's frustrating.  It's confusing.  And yet I don't think there's anything I really can do about it.  Should I write this one off as a lost cause?  Shrug my shoulders and just get on with other, more pressing, matters?

Well, for now: yes.  I've got a lot of lessons coming up, and not a lot of time to prep for them.

Maybe I'll work out how to deal with it, and maybe that will give me some extra insights into how to help my students, but it's not something I can really do much about right now.

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