How can I master different accents

Do you speak like a German?

Not all accents are the same, especially not in the assessment of German native speakers. They perceive the respective origin-related pronunciation as differently beautiful or ugly. This is shown by a survey by the Institute for the German Language in Mannheim. A French accent is particularly popular, followed at a considerable distance by an Italian. Fourteen percent of the respondents do not like Russian, about ten percent think that a Turkish-speaking accent sounds ugly. Almost half of all participants in the study state that there is no accent they do not like, and one fifth does not find an accent likeable.

Turkish accent? Postmarked!

Basically, experts emphasize that speaking with accents is rated negatively, especially by speakers of very specific languages: "Accents have a bad image, especially in the context of migration, that is, when it comes to typical immigrant languages," says Dr. Katharina König, who works on accents at the German Institute of the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster.

It is not uncommon for German native speakers to conclude from an accent that a person speaks to a lack of skills in other areas. This can also lead to these people being denied access to career entry or promotion, for example. Such processes take place not only in Germany, but all over the world, as Brigitta Busch, Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Vienna, emphasizes: “In South Africa, for example, even after the end of the apartheid system, group-related ideas that negotiate about language prevail become. For example, job advertisements are aimed at people 'with a normal accent', which is the pronunciation of English that is common among whites. "

"I am more than just German"

There are therefore good reasons for foreign and second language learners to try to use an “accent-free” pronunciation - with the aim of not attracting attention sooner or later as someone who speaks “differently”. But some behave very differently. In a survey, Joanna Błaszczak and Marzena vomygis from the Center for General Linguistics in Berlin found that some German-Polish children and young people who speak German without an accent emphasize their Polish part of their identity in certain situations with their pronunciation. “The students consciously use the Polish accent when there are classmates with and without a Polish background. In doing so, they signal to the others which group they feel they belong to. They are proud of their identity and don't want to hide it. This is possible for them because they feel accepted in the majority society, ”explain the researchers.

İnci Dirim, Professor of German as a Second Language at the University of Vienna, suspects that similar behavior among other speakers could also be interpreted as a strategy of resistance against linguistic discrimination. Corresponding explanations exist, for example, with regard to youth language phenomena: linguists, for example, deal with German young people who think it is cool to speak with a Turkish or Arabic accent, or with Swiss students who use Albanian-sounding German.

Who actually speaks normally?

Don't be afraid of wrong pronunciation

It is controversial how teachers address deviations in DaF and DaZ lessons and when they should insist on correct pronunciation. Of course, language lessons must aim to ensure that communication works smoothly. But should the aim be for learners to acquire a standard of pronunciation that is accepted by the majority of society? “If young people find it cool to use a certain accent among themselves, teachers should accept that. But they should also make it clear to them that they should also master a standard in order to be able to score points in job interviews, for example, ”says linguist Ingrid Hove, who works on the subject in the Section d'allemand at the Université de Lausanne.

İnci Dirim, on the other hand, is of the opinion that people with a migration background have their own accents and are allowed to keep them. She points out that there are many different pronunciations in the standard German languages. “You can usually tell whether a person is from Vienna, Saxony or Hamburg. Why should people with a migration background then assimilate instead of expressing their group affiliation with their accent? And why are people whose parents and grandparents lived in an area the real speakers, even though we live in the age of globalization and media spaces? "

What do I rate, how and why?

The experts agree that DaF and DaZ teachers should reflect on their own language attitudes with regard to accents. If you love the French accent, if you think Arabic sounds harsh, if you don't like the pronunciation of a Chinese immigrant, then you should at least be aware of it and consider what experiences these ratings may be based on. Last but not least, this is important when dealing with learners. Because teachers can exercise a certain power over them - and not only when it comes to grading and thus access to educational institutions, scholarships and interesting job options.