Are you one of those folks who thinks that in order to speak English fluently one needs to develop a near-native English pronunciation?
Then watch this interview with Antonio Banderas – even a small piece will do – and think about the initial question once more.
So, what do you think?
Would you describe his English as not being fluent? Has his distinct Spanish accent prevented him from becoming one of the most successful Hollywood actors?
So, why is ACCENT such a bid deal for so many people? Why so many other foreigners and native English speakers alike still hold the view that foreigners definitely need to reduce their accent if they want to come across as fluent English speakers?
Well… The answer lies within a stereotype of a struggling foreign English speaker who speaks in broken English AND has a distinct accent.
The reverse statement – anyone who has a distinct accent speaks broken English – isn’t always true, but it doesn’t prevent people from believing it. Why, we human beings are notorious to holding to wrong beliefs, and this is definitely not the only one out there!
How about the following:
- Antonio Banderas gets away with his accent because of his good looks;
- Spanish accent is cool and that’s why it’s OK for him to speak with thick Spanish pronunciation but NOT OK for you or me…
While there might be some truth in the above statements, it doesn’t explain HOW Antonio Banderas manages to be fluent YET retain his Spanish accent if fluency is always accompanied by perfect pronunciation…
Surely if at some stage an English learner inevitably starts to develop a more native-like (in this case it should be American) pronunciation, then how come that Antonio has never fully mastered it yet he’s totally fluent?
I think answer is quite obvious, my friends:
English Fluency and Accent Aren’t Directly Related!
I’ve received comments on my YouTube videos about my accent and the way I pronounce English words. I’ve been called by names I don’t want to repeat here in this article and all because I’m not trying to sound like an American or a Brit.
Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion; however, every time I hear this nonsense about me not being fluent just because you can tell of my East European origins by my speech, I get a bit angry.
First of all, I have a feeling that some of those naysayers upholding such high English language standards haven’t achieved much in the English fluency field and they’re trying to make themselves feel better by spotting shortcomings (or something that might look like a shortcoming!) in others.
Secondly, I think it’s quite obvious that two things are confused when we talk about foreign accents and English fluency.
Namely – pronunciation and fluency.
You see, those two language aspects represent two separate domains of the English language, and while the two partially overlap, by and large they’re not directly related.
Here’s another interview with Antonio Banderas – this time he’s teamed up with Salma Hayek – and you can listen how they both speak with quite strong Hispanic accents.
I don’t think that anyone of you will argue their English isn’t fluent
Well, there’s always something to improve upon, and no-one is denying that English improvement is a lifelong process.
I, however, define English fluency by how effectively you can speak about topics relevant to your occupation and personal life in English, not by how well you speak in terms of pronunciation.
I can quite realistically imagine a situation where someone has mastered a very American-sounding English pronunciation yet they still find it difficult to choose the right words when speaking. As a result, the verbal message mightn’t be as clear as that of someone else who speaks with a strong accent YET uses the right words and word combinations to convey the message.
Just watch the last interview with Mr. Banderas:
You can hear him use quite sophisticated language, very specific expressions: “I have a profound, deep admiration for people who do so…”
You can hear him speak quite fast (which isn’t a pre-requisite for English fluency, but hey – we have to give him credit for that!).
He answers the interviewer’s questions with little or no hesitation which just goes to show that he obviously thinks in English which is an indication of his English fluency.
I believe these facts are speaking for themselves and here’s what it means to you if you’re one of those foreign English speakers speaking with a strong foreign accent:
In your pursuit after English fluency, you have to focus on the essential aspects contributing into your ability to verbalize your thoughts into English such as learning natural speech patterns (collocations, idiomatic expressions, phrases etc.), fluency management and confidence.
Pronunciation, however vital, comes only second to the above factors and I hope Antonio just showed you that speaking English with a strong Hispanic accent doesn’t make him less fluent than Benicio Del Toro, for example, who’s also a bilingual Hollywood actor.
P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!
P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!