So, you’re learning a new language? Whether it’s Brazilian Portuguese or Mandarin Chinese, learning the technical structure of the language is one thing. It’s entirely something else to learn the nuances of the language so that you can perfect the accent. Remember, speaking like the locals isn’t necessarily about the vocabulary; it also has a lot to do with gestures and mannerisms and perfecting your accent.
Here’s how to sound like a local when you speak their language.
Go cross-generational: Certain generational differences exist in language. For example, while it may be perfectly acceptable for a 14 year-old to say “dude” – the same can’t be said for an 80-year-old grandmother. Words are always morphing in meaning, and to know what’s appropriate for your age or status, it becomes necessary to hang out with people of varying ages. So, spend your time speaking with kids, teens, young people, middle age adults and older adults. You’ll get a much broader sense of word meaning and intention.
Focus your accent to district: While here in the United States, New Yorkers, Bostonians and Texans all speak English, the way they each speak is extremely distinct. Similarly, the western part of the United States uses the word “pop” rather than “soda,” which is unique to easterners.
So, while you may be learning Spanish, narrow down the dialect to focus your efforts on perfecting your accent for this one area. This may depend largely on where you’re planning to live abroad, or where your online teacher is from. Accents you hear in conversation will pinpoint region, socio-economic level and even education level. As you get more experienced with the language, you’ll be better able to determine these things just by talking to people.
Gain common ground: The first words you’ll learn in a language will be main ones, like car, school, ice cream, phone, dog, etc. But it’s equally important to learn the slang – the naughty words if you will. These slang words endear you to the speaker, putting you on common ground – something that sets native speakers apart from newbies. Also important are filler words. In English, we use words such as “like” and “um” to fill space between thoughts. This use of fillers is common in all languages.
Learn informal language structure: When first learning a language, you likely focus on formal sentence structure, and for good reason. This is important. However, if you’re to study or live abroad, you have to know how to fit in like a local and perfecting your accent will help with this. Thus, you need a good knowledge of so-called street language. One of the best ways to achieve this is to stay on top of gossip. Check out reality TV shows, celebrity magazines, etc. – believe it or not, this is a great way to stay abreast of the latest slang words, double meanings and sexual innuendos. Knowing some juicy gossip or current news will allow you to participate more thoroughly in conversations and even better understand jokes.
Learn to perfect your accent with BRIC Language Systems. Contact us today to learn why our approach is so innovative.