As an accent coach, this is one of the most frequently asked questions I encounter.
Before I answer this question, I always stress the fact that everyone has an accent. Non-native speakers have non-native accents, and native speakers have native accents.
So the question should be restructured as “Is it possible to achieve a native accent?”
My answer – yes, it’s possible… but not likely.
To qualify my answer, one needs to understand the top 3 factors influencing your accent (in order of importance):
- By far, the most important factor is your age of immersion. Studies have shown that if you were immersed (meaning living, not just studying) in the language environment before adolescence, it is likely that you would speak the language with a native-like accent. If you were immersed in the language after adolescence, then chances are you will have a non-native accent.
- The second most important factor influencing your accent is aptitude. Let’s face it; some people are just more talented at sports, drawing, dancing… and others are more adept at learning languages or modulating their accents.
- The third most important factor is the only factor under your control – the quality and consistency of accent training. Here, I emphasize “quality” because it is not true that practice makes perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect, and imperfect practice makes, unfortunately, imperfect. Read my article on why you should be working with an accent coach, and stop wasting valuable time and energy on free online content or a generalized accent program. Consistency is also of utmost importance. As the saying goes, “success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally; it comes from what you do consistently.” And accent training is no exception. Read this article for my top 3 tips on how to achieve consistency.
So, here comes the long answer to the question of whether one can achieve a completely native accent – If you have guidance from a qualified accent coach and practice consistently for at least 15 minutes per day, you can definitely reach your potential. Where your potential lies, however, will depend on your aptitude. Achieving an accent that is considered “native” is rare if you were immersed in the language after adolescence, but possible if you’re talented.
I often give the example of a soccer player. With a good coach and dedicated practice, you can definitely be an excellent soccer player. But to be a professional player, you’d need more than that; you’d need talent.
In accent training, our goal is not to “lose your accent.” Instead, we aim for CLEAR and EFFECTIVE communication skills. “Accent modification” is a byproduct of this process rather than the end goal.
Reach out to me today for a free complimentary consultation, and find out how I can help you reach your potential as a confident speaker.