Why Copying Mel Gibson’s Scottish Accent in Brave Heart Can Help You Learn Spanish Faster!
This really works. Actually slip in a “Braveheart” DVD (you know, the 1995 epic movie starring Mel Gibson as the Scottish knight William Wallace) and copy his Scottish accent.
Surprisingly, when you learn to copy regional or foreign accents from movies or people you meet, you will help yourself learn Spanish, French or German much faster!
Learning Accents Accelerates Language Learning
Can it really be true? All you need to do is ‘imitate accents’? Well, it’s not all you need to do, but it is an important part of learning Spanish or the language you want to learn. Native speakers will be able to understand your new language much faster if you have learned how to listen and copy other accents.
If You Are Good At Copying Accents, You Will Be Good at Language Learning
I met a man who had been told in school that he wasn’t very good at languages. Unfortunately, he believed this and had never tried to learn a language after dropping out of Spanish class in college.
But he was very good at identifying regional accents in English and copying them. He probably had a super genius talent for learning a foreign language but didn’t know it.
Fortunately, you can improve your skills at learning a foreign language simply by copying regional accents accents in your native language.
Be Nice When Copying Accents
Please do this in a polite way; I don’t want to encourage you to make fun of anyone. So if you are copying someone’s accent in person, make sure you ask for permission and stress that it’s not you are not mocking them.
But if you hear a regional accent or a foreign accent on the radio or in a movie, always try to copy it. This is the identical skill you will be using when you learn a foreign-language word and are trying to make your accent sound like the native speaker of the language.
As your skills at copying regional and foreign accents in your native language improve, you will automatically become better at copying the correct accent in the new language you want to learn.
Can Language Learning Software Help You Learn an Accent?
The answer to this question is definitely yes. If you want to accurately speak with a foreign language accent in English it’s a great idea to study the foreign language.
For example if you want to be able to talk with a Spanish accent, then study Spanish.
Commercial language learning software can help you with this. You’ve probably heard of the Rosetta Stone program, made by the Rosetta Stone company of Arlington, Virginia.
Well for foreign accent learners Rosetta Stone wouldn’t be a good choice because it starts you out with individual words, and not with the longer phrases that you would need to really learn a foreign accent.
A much better choice for language learning (and foreign accent learning) would be Language101.com. You may want to read this review of Language 101 to see if it might be right for you.
Last Updated: October 3, 2012
I am a dialect coach, so I study and teach regional accents for a living. I have found that learning the language of the dialect you are trying to learn is VERY helpful. Think of it this way: a native French speaker speaks English with a French accent because they are using aspects of French pronunciation in their speech. Therefore, if you know a thing or two about French pronunciation, you’ll be able to do a very accurate dialect.
When my students need to learn a dialect for a foreign language, I encourage them to study and listen to that language. Language101.com is a great way to do that.
I never thought of that but i’m sure it’s true. If you’re an actor who wants to do a persuasive French accent in English, then studying French would be a good way to learn how.
Thanks for your comment.
35 years ago, as a new financial analyst at Revlon’s HQ in New York City, I observed a funny exchange. Richard spoke perfect English and no French. Although the person on the other end of the line spoke English, Richard would have a terrible time when speaking on the phone with the French office. Out of frustration, Richard would then hand the phone to John, who spent some time in France during WWII.
Then the laughter begins.
See John only knew a few French words and couldn’t speak French at all. John, however, could speak English with a heavy French accent. That worked! John was understood, and Richard was not. John would say the same exact thing that Richard said, in English, but with a French accent. Richard would throw his hands up in disgust, “that’s what I said!”
My side was spitting open from laughing so hard. It was like watching a skit on Saturday Night Live.
I bet if Richard spoke French, with a heavy American accent, he would have still not been able to communicate to the French office.
If I hadn’t experienced it myself, I wouldn’t have believe it: speaking in the listener’s accent is essential, regardless of the language.
That is precisely correct! The words ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ comes to mind as I read your statement. The Frenchman could only comprehend the syllables his mind was prepared to hear. Switching to something more familiar to him gave him the opportunity to listen more easily and effortlessly.
Thanks for sharing your story!
I agree with Michael Cushman with an observation that plays off the title of this note, but from the other direction.
During my first trip to Italy, I did OK, using the marvelous Berlitz phrasebook and speaking slow Spanish. I was even surprised at how easy it was to conjugate the two verbs for “to be”, probably due to the two years of Latin I had studied in high school.
After that, I took a master’s degree in an international program, with a fellow student from Italy. He had a heavy Italian accent in English that I later realized was more intonation than accent. It was the heavy emphasizes he gave to the penultimate syllable of each word, not the way he pronounced the vowels, that gave him such an Italian accent to our ears.
Lesson learned: When I copied his intonation in English when I spoke Italian, the Italians understood me much better. So, even before you can travel to the country of the language you want to learn, listen to those native speakers in English, and copy that accent / intonation in your new language. You may feel a little funny doing it at first, but, as in the story above, you will relax when you get such great results!
That is an EXCELLENT observation! It is true – if you can identify how foreigner’s speak the syllables they are used to in English you can certainly begin to put together how you might speak that apparently same syllable in their language too. Consider that Germans don’t use a W sound – it sounds like a V. Knowing that will drastically help the pronunciation of W’s in German whenever you see them. It’s also very helpful to identify syllables that are strange to us. For instance Polish has a szcz sound that is very foreign to English speakers… that is until you break down the syllables and discover that English DOES have that sound, only we use it in two words together rather than one word – FreSH Cheese. Learning that SHCH is SZCZ makes a HUGE difference in the ability to easily pronounce that once beguiling combo!
Thanks for your input!