A Great Reason to Reduce Your Foreign Accent

If you have an accent when you speak English, it probably adds to your charm. It also gives people an immediate conversation starter when they hear you speak (“What country are you from?”). Or they may enjoy guessing where you’re from. However, there is a “downside” to having a foreign accent when you speak. What’s a downside? It’s a negative aspect of something.

Research from the University of Chicago shows that foreign accents make speakers seem less truthful to listeners. What’s behind this? The listener’s brain. Non-native speech is more difficult for the listener’s brain to parse (analyze). This difficulty causes the listener to doubt the accuracy of what they’re hearing.

Researchers tested this with a simple experiment. People in the study were asked to judge the truthfulness of statements said by native and non-native English speakers. An example of the type of question asked was: A giraffe can go without water longer than a camel can. The people in the study doubted the statements more when they were spoken with a foreign accent. Native speakers got a score of 7.5, people with some accent a score of 6.95, and those with heavy accents got a score of 6.84.

So reducing your foreign accent may not only make you more clear when you speak, it will also make you more credible. This gives me (a native speaker of English) motivation to work on my Russian accent!

You can read more about this in Scientific America by clicking here.