A few weeks ago, a very funny thing happened to me. It was late in the evening and I was coming back home by dolmuş (shared taxi) with a friend of mine. Suddenly a girl looked back saying ‘Are you Polish?’. ‘Yes’, I said, ‘How do you know that?’. ‘You speak with a Polish accent. I worked with Poles in the
, that’s why I can tell’. UK
The look on my face was probably priceless as in the MasterCard commercial.
You see, for a non NEST, that’s like a slap on the face.
Not that I care. Honestly. Those of you, who have actually talked to me, may voice their opinion if desired.
The dolmuş incident made me think about accents a great deal.
Is having a native speaker-like accent really that important?
Like many non NESTs I was brought up on the Grammar Translation method and I’m a living proof that it works, regardless of the bad press it has received. If you ask me about the accents of my former teachers, however, I have to say I do not recall, as they did not really speak any English during classes.
Actually, I started speaking English and paying attention to pronunciation at university when we started a phonetics class. The aim was to make us speak with an RP accent and I can still remember the ridiculous dialogues from ‘How now, brown cow’ by Mimi Ponsonby. Apparently I was very prone to drilling as, surprisingly, my score at the end of the course was pretty high.
Anyhow, one of best English teachers I had before entering the university spoke with a very heavy Polish accent. Yet she managed to prepare me (at that time a high school student from the middle of nowhere) for the English Philology entry exam well enough to pass it without major problems.
Did her accent bother us? Sure.
Was she a successful teacher? Absolutely!
How do you feel about that? Both NESTs and non NESTs are welcome to share ideas!
P.S. Having spent hours thinking and analyzing, I know why that girl in the dolmuş thought I was Polish. But I guess I am going to keep it a secret ;)