I have an accent. We all do. Even those without a “regional” accent in England, for instance, have a way of pronouncing words which is different to other people’s way of pronouncing the same words. I’ve recently decided to pick up French lessons again after a few years away from it.
French is the only language other than my native English which I can use to any degree beyond “stringing a few nouns together”. I am very self-conscious speaking French, though. In French lessons over the years, I’ve spent quite a long time working on pronunciation. French vowels are – in the main – very different to English vowels and the key to making what you’re saying “sound French” is largely about getting the vowels to sound French.
But doing so exposes the accent I have in English. I have a Liverpudlian accent when speaking English. It’s really mellowed over the years, but it’s still there and one of the places where it comes across most strongly is in the vowel sounds. When I’m speaking there’s no difference between “her”, “hare” and “hair”. They all come out “hurr”. I’m not ashamed of my accent, but it does make me self-conscious as it’s something people tend to notice.
Learning to speak French tends to make these things seem more pronounced (no pun intended) – or at least in my mind.
Fortunately, consonants are (pretty much) similar in French and English, so you’d think that’d be safe, but there’s one particular consonant I have trouble with in English. It’s bothered me for years, so much so that I avoid saying words which start with this letter if I’m speaking formally although I can pronounce it quite well at the end of a word. And it’s a consonant which is the same in French as in English. I’m not going to say which one it is, because I don’t want people to be listening out for it and making me more self-conscious about it, but it just sounds weird to me. I’ve mentioned it to people in the past and they tell me all is fine, and they don’t notice – but I can hear a weird noise whenever I start a word with this consonant.
So not only am I hoping that a very pronunciation-based approach to learning French will help me to get back some level of fluency in French, but may even help me to become more confident speaking in English…