DS' accent in Spanish - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 10-10-2008, 08:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My DS (4) has been raised bilingually since birth, but until now we never noticed his accent in Spanish. We traveled back to Spain this summer to visit family and they all agreed he has an American accent. I am not sure how I feel about this first of all and second of all if there is anyway to help him learn correct pronunciation.

I am the SAHM( I speak English to the DC) and we are in the US, he just started preschool this year so English is upon him full force, but my DH only talks Spanish with him and we try to get lots of books on tape from Spain and we as a family speak Spanish in the home but I am wondering if anyone else has experienced this and if anyone has suggestions for us to help him. I prefer he doesn't have an American accent and had just believed since my DH is Spanish my DS would naturally pick up the Spanish accent.
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#2 of 20 Old 10-11-2008, 02:54 AM
 
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What about Spanish speaking playgroups?

My ILs moved to the US when their youngest was 5. She didn't speak any English. Now she doesn't have much of an accent at all in either language.
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#3 of 20 Old 10-13-2008, 10:28 AM
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I don't have an answer but I will certainly be checking on this thread. My dd is 3.5 years old and she was also raised English/Spanish bilingual from birth. She started speakins in Spanish before English and was a lot stronger in Spanish for a good while, though now both languages are about balanced. I have never noticed an accent when she speaks Spanish, but recently, when she talked on the phone to my brother (in Spanish) he told me that she had an accent and I felt so bad about it...aren't children who are bilingual from birth supposed not to have an accent in either language? I'm a native Spanish speaker and talk to her in Spanish all the time, so I would think she shouldn't have an accent. She also is very good at distinguishing small variations in pronunciations in words (or names) that are the same in both languages, so it really surprised me when my brother mentioned her having an accent. I still don't know if it is true, as I certainly don't hear it and haven't asked anyone else, but I found your post interesting as I may be in a similar situation. All I can think to do is to continue to increase her Spanish exposure, read to her more and maybe try to find more Spanish speakers that she can hear (which is not easy where I live). I'll be interested in reading other people's advice...Good luck to you!
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#4 of 20 Old 10-13-2008, 11:18 AM
 
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My DS has an accent in English. I don't hear it, but all American friends and family do. It bothers me. I know maybe it shouldn't, but it does.

It is so hard keeping up two languages (we live in Holland and DH is Dutch) and any sort of American culture and identity, so to hear that he has an accent in English, even though it's his "mother language" (quite literally) feels like a failure in some way.

We will be living in the US for six months next year and he'll finally be in an all English-language environment for a while, so I'm hoping that will help his accent a bit.

Of course, the most important thing is the language itself, not the accent, but I understand how frustrating it is.
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#5 of 20 Old 10-13-2008, 12:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I feel better knowing that I am not the only who was surprised and a little disappointed about their child developing an accent. Like you stated DariusMom, it should be the language that is important, and I feel guilty for being disappointed with his accent in Spanish.

I was hoping to hear from some veteran moms possibly sharing that it might be a phase in his language acquisition and it would diminish with time!?

I think part of this is also wrapped up in the fact that this summer one of DH brothers (el gracioso) found DS' accent really funny and liked to exaggerate his accent and poke fun, not at him but between other family members (he mentioned how adorable he thought the accent was) but it still upset me and I thought it could discourage my DS and also entice his cousins to start making fun of him too. Not so funny!
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#6 of 20 Old 10-13-2008, 01:53 PM
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What about Spanish speaking playgroups?
This is ALWAYS a great idea!

As for the accent. Honestly? You might just have to accept it to some degree.

What is interesting is that this not only happens to bilingual children living in a non-native environment for the langauge, but actually happens to ADULT immigrants who live several outside of their native language environment. A former prof of mine actually wrote a book about just this phenomenon (he is a sociolinguist) and was actually able to pinpoint the stages though which adult speakers begin to lose the "native" accent in their native language. Suprisingly, it only takes a few years! Again, these are people who lived their WHOLE LIVES in their native countries speaking their native languages, and after only a few years abroad, people from their native countries could perceive them speaking with a "foreign accent". Interestingly, the first thing that becomes corrupt (according to his study, which was not based on Spanish speakers) is intontation, pronunciation of sounds is somewhat more resitant.

Anyway, all of this is to say: do not become discouraged. It is perfectly normal and after some point, there may not be a whole lot you can do about it except make frequent trips to Spain.

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#7 of 20 Old 10-13-2008, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by DariusMom View Post

It is so hard keeping up two languages (we live in Holland and DH is Dutch) and any sort of American culture and identity, so to hear that he has an accent in English, even though it's his "mother language" (quite literally) feels like a failure in some way.
I totally hear you! this is exactly the way I felt when my brother told me "she has an american accent" (when dd was speaking Spanish to him on the phone). I thought, instead of focusing on the fact that she is totally fluent in both languages and that it represents a considerable effort on my part to achieve this result, he points out that she has an accent! I know he didn't mean to offend, but I did somehow felt like I had failed when he mentioned this. I guess it is difficult for people who don't experience it first hand to appreciate all that is involved in raising a bilingual child. I should be visiting this forum more often!
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#8 of 20 Old 10-13-2008, 10:08 PM
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That is very interesting, EVC. Would you be willing to share the name of the book with me? I'd love to take a look at it. At some point, it was pointed out to me that I had a "foreign accent" in Spanish when I visited Mexico...and I lived there until I was 19! this was before I had my dd so I wasn't using my Spanish as much as I do now...I think I'm accent-free now, but seeing as I cannot detect an accent in my dd, I may just not detect my own. Heck, maybe she is even learning an accent from me? I certainly hope not!!
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#9 of 20 Old 10-14-2008, 01:17 AM
 
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I second the suggestion about many trips to Spain. He will have the base of the language and I would think that the more time he spends surrounded by Spanish, the more his accent will develop in that direction.

Also, at a young age, a child wouldn't have the same kind of "control" over his accent that an adult might. This is to say that an adult or teen could pay more attention to music/tv/radio/friends/family and purposefully imitate.

I think keeping up with the language is the most important part. The accent will develop with time.

And the play groups sound like a great idea!

Buena suerte

Jane: mama to 3 angels and The Champ(11/08) and Baby Z appearing in December

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#10 of 20 Old 10-14-2008, 04:45 AM
 
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Originally Posted by iot View Post
That is very interesting, EVC. Would you be willing to share the name of the book with me? I'd love to take a look at it. At some point, it was pointed out to me that I had a "foreign accent" in Spanish when I visited Mexico...and I lived there until I was 19! this was before I had my dd so I wasn't using my Spanish as much as I do now...I think I'm accent-free now, but seeing as I cannot detect an accent in my dd, I may just not detect my own. Heck, maybe she is even learning an accent from me? I certainly hope not!!
I was fascinated by EVC's post, too.

I had the shock of my life (well . .. not really, but anyway . .. .) at a conference last year when everyone thought I was Dutch, not American!

I've been living outside the US for eight years and my last name isn't a typical "American" anglo-saxon name. The university I was representing is in the Netherlands where I live. However, I thought that everyone at this international conference would know immediately that I was American. After all, I have an American accent, right? Umm. . . well . . no . . .

They thought I was Dutch with a very good American accent . .. . eeeckk . . . . . Of course, a big part of this is that Dutch people tend to speak great English, my name (although my maiden name, not my Dutch DH's last name) could be Dutch, and I was coming from a Dutch university. *However* . . . .my English wasn't as clearly American in intonation, accent, etc. as it used to be . . . Oh well . . . .
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#11 of 20 Old 10-14-2008, 01:42 PM
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This is the link to the Google book preview:

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&...result#PPP1,M1

Unfortunately, the relevant chapter (Chapter 4) isn't available in the preview version. If interested, I'm sure you could order it online somewhere..

PhDin' mama to dd (Oct. 2005)
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#12 of 20 Old 10-14-2008, 05:09 PM
 
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Don't worry too much about the accent. Kids pick up whatever they're used to hearing at home.

Two examples:

An acquaintance of mine moved from the UK to Chicago when he was five. He's 40ish now and still speaks with the same British accent his mother has.

Apparently I picked up my father's speech patterns instead of my mother's. Everyone around here (Chicago) thinks I have an accent. His family is from New Orleans -- they spoke French until the 1920s, and tend to speak slowly. It drove my fast-talking husband crazy until he met my aunt and said I sounded just like her.

2 happy kids makes for a happy mother.

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#13 of 20 Old 10-14-2008, 11:17 PM
 
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I lived in Spain from the age of 6 until I was 15 from ages 0 to 5 I lived in Mexico. I sound as a Spaniard with a really heavy accent thanks to my uncle. My DD doesnt and we live in Mexico but her accent is not like a Mexican child either so...
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#14 of 20 Old 10-15-2008, 12:17 AM
 
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I don't know if this matters or anything, but sometimes people THINK they hear an accent if they know that a child has been exposed to any other language.

I have no accent in English. I know this for a fact. And yet sometimes when people heard me talk, and then they found out I was NOT American... THEN is when they would start to say "oh yeah, you have an accent..." etc. I even experimented on this when I was a teenager. When people thought I was genuinely American and I gave them a fake name, and even hinted about having an accent, they staunchly disagreed. Blah.

Also, my family in Hungary would very often point out things that were "too American" about me. When they weren't even American. i.e. They would talk about my clothes being "too American." Riiiight. I had JUST gotten them new from a Hungarian store. (Back then they weren't chain department stores either; they were just little shops. So definitely not imported or the style not imported etc.)

I hate to say it, but sometimes people just ache to make others seem "different" - or perhaps it's a subconscious thing on their part.

Just playing the devil's advocate here. For all I know all the accents you guys talk about could be very real. I have no idea, obviously. Just my experiences.
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#15 of 20 Old 10-15-2008, 03:13 AM
 
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Our 3.5 y.o. dd definitely has an accent in her English, but it is a baby accent. Like she cannot yet pronounce all things correctly in either language. Will it become a real accent, I have no idea. At this point, though, she is still practicing the sounds of both languages so I would be more surprised if she did not sound like there are two languages affecting her development.

For us the comments end after "Yeah... Let's hear you try to speak Finnish!"

Mama to a little lady and always praying for more.
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#16 of 20 Old 10-15-2008, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by AlpineMama View Post
I don't know if this matters or anything, but sometimes people THINK they hear an accent if they know that a child has been exposed to any other language.

I have no accent in English. I know this for a fact. And yet sometimes when people heard me talk, and then they found out I was NOT American... THEN is when they would start to say "oh yeah, you have an accent..." etc. I even experimented on this when I was a teenager. When people thought I was genuinely American and I gave them a fake name, and even hinted about having an accent, they staunchly disagreed. Blah.

Also, my family in Hungary would very often point out things that were "too American" about me. When they weren't even American. i.e. They would talk about my clothes being "too American." Riiiight. I had JUST gotten them new from a Hungarian store. (Back then they weren't chain department stores either; they were just little shops. So definitely not imported or the style not imported etc.)

I hate to say it, but sometimes people just ache to make others seem "different" - or perhaps it's a subconscious thing on their part.

Just playing the devil's advocate here. For all I know all the accents you guys talk about could be very real. I have no idea, obviously. Just my experiences.

This is a good point, and I think people's biases do tend to play a huge role. If they are expecting to hear and accent, they'll probably hear it, especially it they are hearing a toddler or young child who still may have their own "toddler accent" as they are still sorting sounds out or may even have (developmentally appropriate) problems with pronunciation. When dd was about 1.5 years old, a cousing of mine in Mexico heard her saying probably one or two words at the most, and she said that she had an accent. I was like "she is just learning to talk, how can she have any kind of accent!", so in that case at least I think she was simply expecting to hear something different and she did (or claimed she did). Pretty annoying.

So, to be honest I have no idea if my dd really has an accent when speaking Spanish, even though a family member pointed it out. She has a particular way of speaking but I have always considered that just "her way" of speaking as her speech develops with the influence of both languages.

Anyway, thanks for raising that point. I think it is really valid and something to think about!
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#17 of 20 Old 10-15-2008, 11:32 AM
 
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Accent is so fluid that I wouldn't worry about it. I came back from 2 years in Mexico to the UK with a 'foreign' accent and had people asking me where I was from in my own home town. Speaking Spanish every day with my ex-dh who was Mexican and my children kept my English accent slightly odd for a long time even though we were living in the UK.

I have some friends with strong northern UK accents and I have real trouble maintaining *my* regional accent when I speak to them. When I was in Mexico I was pure Chilanga with blue eyes for ages til I moved to south of Cancun and heard the Yucatecans and ended up with their intonation.
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#18 of 20 Old 10-20-2008, 11:43 PM
 
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Accent is so fluid that I wouldn't worry about it. I came back from 2 years in Mexico to the UK with a 'foreign' accent and had people asking me where I was from in my own home town. Speaking Spanish every day with my ex-dh who was Mexican and my children kept my English accent slightly odd for a long time even though we were living in the UK.

I have some friends with strong northern UK accents and I have real trouble maintaining *my* regional accent when I speak to them. When I was in Mexico I was pure Chilanga with blue eyes for ages til I moved to south of Cancun and heard the Yucatecans and ended up with their intonation.
chilanga..

i get called that often..

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#19 of 20 Old 10-21-2008, 12:34 AM
 
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My husband was raised by British parents in America & a little bit in Spain. He heard mostly British English for the first 6 years of his life (including 2 years in British preschool in an expat community in Spain), and had a British English accent during that time. When he was 6 he started public school in America and his accent turned into an American English one. It's been that way ever since though his parents continue to speak with British English accents, and he visited England regularly as a child (2+ weeks each year) and his parents have many British friends locally too. Even when we lived in England his accent stayed firmly American. Me, on the other hand.. apparently mine changed, and picked up hints of British English. I think some people are more adaptable than others re: accent?

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#20 of 20 Old 10-28-2008, 10:46 AM
 
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I'm interested in this because I find my son (almost three years old, bilingual English and Dutch) has strong accents in both languages, from the other lanuage (so, Dutch accent in English and vice versa). Everybody has an accent - for example, even if you feel you speak English neutrally, you're still going to sound American or English, even if you don't have a strongly regional accent. From what I learned about second language acquisition, what your accent is is at least partly defined by where your tongue is when you're relaxed. For example, if your native lanuage is English, your tongue will be up against the top of your mouth, behind your front teeth, when you're relaxed. But if your native language is Dutch, your tongue will be resting against your *bottom* teeth. Some recent research showed that bilingual children are more likely to stutter - I have actually noticed this with my son and I wonder if this is to do with the fact that he might have two different tongue-at-rest positions. Has anyone else noticed this?
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