Opinion / Blog

Chinese students' obsession with the American accent

By pnp ( Updated: 2015-06-23 17:08

Chinese students have a weird, illogical obsession with speaking English with an American accent. Even here on Forum there are threads promoting it. For instance Which is better, British or American accent', and 'Speak English with American accent'.

Many schools recruit students by offering them lessons on “speaking with an American accent”.

Good English has nothing to do with an American accent. It is not the standard for English pronunciation, the international phonetic system (IPS) is. There is no one single American accent anyway, there are several, depending on location. For instance, a New Yorker speaks with a different accent from a Texan. 

Instead of wasting time and money attending classes to learn how to imitate American accents students should concentrate on improving basic English language skills. They will not be judged by their accent but by their language skills. Listeners don't care whether they speak English with Japanese, Korean, Indian or even Timbuktu accents, as long as they speak English as it should be spoken. Chinese students seem to think that speaking with an American accent can impress others. This is a huge misconception. We are unimpressed by accents; we care if they talk sense or nonsense, and we care for their clarity of expression, which has nothing to do with a fake American accent. Many Chinese, even at college level, speak Chinglish (unfamiliar to foreigners) with a fake American accent, more to try and impress than communicate. They sound really weird, like a chicken trying to quack like a duck.

The best accent is your own, not some fake American or British twang, or for that matter, any other. By the way, don't try to imitate the Aussie inflection either. When an Aussie tells you I am going home to die, don't worry, they are not about to die, they just mean I am going home today.

The world's leaders speak English with their own native accents, not some fake American one. A good example is UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He speaks perfect English with his own native Korean accent, and when Mr Ban speaks, the world listens. What else need I say?

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