Everyone loves to listen to a beautiful accent, whether it be British or French, or any other language. We just love a nice accent! Why? Simple! It’s easy on the ears, it sounds a lot more professional and most importantly it’s the easiest to understand.
So many people have the feeling that they don’t speak very well when they try to communicate in a foreign language even though they actually studied it for quite a while. Can’t say I’m surprised. Take this example: One of my students went to order some mint tea at a bar. She tried her best to speak Dutch and the bartender immediately switched to English. How demovating… Of course people start believing that their language skills are just no good. Have you ever considered the possibility that there might be a different reason to why natives do that?
If you don’t pronounce it exactly right, you’re saying something else.
Dutch is one of those languages where if you pronounce a word slightly differently, you say something completely else. One of my other students, an engineer and a very good student, learned grammar like it was a piece of cake, but he often accidentally said something offensive because he mispronounced a word. Somehow he always ended up saying something sexual while he actually didn’t mean to. It doesn’t have to be Dutch though! There were so many people who weren’t aware of the problem, thinking that they would never be able to learn, while actually they were just pronouncing it in a way that is difficult for natives to pick up. I once had a student telling me that ‘he was forest’, while what he actually meant to say was that ‘he was angry’. Same word, just pronounced a bit too short.
“I’m a forest!” – “Excuse me?” – “I’m a forest!” … “Oooh, you mean you’re angry!”
(in Dutch: “Ik ben (ee)n bos!” – “Excuseer?” – “Ik ben (ee)n bos!” … “Aaah, je bedoelt dat je boos bent!”)
And this is one of the nice examples. I’ve heard some pretty bad things from students that got blown completely out of proportion just because they accidentally said something offensive at work. Or people just didn’t understand them which triggered delays at work. Don’t really know which situation they considered worse. It was clearly enough for them to take pronunciation classes though in order to try and avoid these unwanted situations.
If you’re thinking that maybe it wasn’t your knowledge of grammar or vocabulary after all! Maybe it’s just my pronunciation!
Then it might be worth it for you to find out whether this is really the solution to your riddle or not.
So find out, ask me!
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