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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I started learning French around 1.5 years ago and I am around B2 level (but not quite there yet). While I can understand and read a lot of stuff in French when I speak with people, they always have a problem understanding me. And that's because of my accent.

My accent in French is a mix of Indian accent combined with North American accent (as I used to live in the US for 7 years). So basically, I wanted to know from all the people who have been living in France for a long period of time, did you encountered the same problems as I do?

Due to the fact that I lived in US before, my English accent is much more North American than Indian which makes me wonder. I know I can never get rid of my accent in French completely but will it get reduced overtime? How long did it took you guys to make yourself understood well in France?
 

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I don't expect to every lose my accent :D Mine's a weird mid of Australian and local French accents (vosgien and béarnais). If I'd moved back to France at an earlier age, or if my family (I'm half French) had chosen to speak French in the home, things may have been different. I'm unfortunately not a particularly talkative person so, although I'm something of a parrot and my accent has decreased in recent years, the change is relatively slow (or maybe I expect too much :D). That said, I've had no problems with people understanding me.

I think you're much younger than I am, so I would expect your accent to soften faster than mine (but that won't necessarily be the case).

We're all different.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I don't expect to every lose my accent :D Mine's a weird mid of Australian and local French accents (vosgien and béarnais). If I'd moved back to France at an earlier age, or if my family (I'm half French) had chosen to speak French in the home, things may have been different. I'm unfortunately not a particularly talkative person so, although I'm something of a parrot and my accent has decreased in recent years, the change is relatively slow (or maybe I expect too much :D). That said, I've had no problems with people understanding me.

I think you're much younger than I am, so I would expect your accent to soften faster than mine (but that won't necessarily be the case).

We're all different.
Very interesting. Yeah I hope so too. It's funny how my thick Indian accent almost disappeared when I lived in the US during my teenage years but when I speak French my Indian accent comes back time to time, it's so weird ahhaaha. That's why I asked this question. It's just so interesting. Hopefully in a few years, it will wash away. :)
 

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Accent reduction depends on so many different things - how frequently you use the language, your "ear" for the different sounds in the language, how those sounds are or are not different from the sounds in your native language, etc. etc.

One person I know (a French guy who had problems in the US because his customers complained about his thick French accent) went through the training and speech therapy normally used for stutterers. It made a huge difference for him.

It makes sense that something like that would help because, as I understand it, the "therapy" for stuttering involves learning to relax and think ahead a bit before you speak so that you don't run into problems or get "stuck" on certain sounds that make you nervous.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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This is a very good question, one with which I sympathise.

Perhaps we could rephrase the question to "how long does it take to learn French?". Because for passable French you have to read it, write it, understand spoken French and speak it! Speaking French means being understood, especially by French native speakers. And how long to speak understandable French???......that depends a lot on the individual.

I do not have a musical / language ear. When learning French on arrival in France 16 years ago I found reading and writing easier than speaking or listening. I'm better where logic and "rules" work.

As a child I had a stutter, not bad, but enough to be a bit of a handicap. With experience and helpful parents and teachers I learnt to overcome it. (not total cure, but techiques.....but how to avoid words that cause problems). I also has problems arranging words in the right order. On arrival in France at age 56, all the stuttering problems came back when speaking French!

Some hints for Anil

1 Find a native French speaker who will correct your spoken French. Not easy, but it's easy to make the same mistake over and over again without knowing it. The mistake then becomes the habit.

2. A Speech therapist's technique. Take a wine bottle cork and put it between the teeth. Then read aloud something in French. The cork forces you to think about mouth movements and to concentrate on the invidual sounds. If you can do this with a native French speaker then even better! I found my mouth / face muscles ached badly after this exercise - so it must be good!

3. I went to a language school where they used a computer learning system. Part of the software invited you speak some phrases, it analysed the speeach and told you where you made errors. I found this both difficult and useful. Can't remember the name of the software..perhaps others can help?

If it helps Anil, I still have problems speaking French, even after 16 years in France and married to a retired school teacher. My address contains the word "République", which I tend to pronounce as the English "Republic". It not recognisable to many French people - as I found out last week at a doctor's receptionist.

In the UK I've had the honour to employ many Indians. Certainly I found some had a very strong accent in English that made communication difficult sometimes. Patience and understanding are necessary from both sides!

...work at your spoken French and it will get better.

Good luck..I'm interested to read what others think.

DDDDDDDDejW (with stutter)



So I started learning French around 1.5 years ago and I am around B2 level (but not quite there yet). While I can understand and read a lot of stuff in French when I speak with people, they always have a problem understanding me. And that's because of my accent.

My accent in French is a mix of Indian accent combined with North American accent (as I used to live in the US for 7 years). So basically, I wanted to know from all the people who have been living in France for a long period of time, did you encountered the same problems as I do?

Due to the fact that I lived in US before, my English accent is much more North American than Indian which makes me wonder. I know I can never get rid of my accent in French completely but will it get reduced overtime? How long did it took you guys to make yourself understood well in France?
 

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The Rosetta Stone program includes excellent pronunciation software - you need headphones. I found it extremely useful and well worth the cost of the program. Whilst you will likely still have an accent, your chances of being understood will significantly increase if you take the time to work through the pronunciation with this program.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This is a very good question, one with which I sympathise.

Perhaps we could rephrase the question to "how long does it take to learn French?". Because for passable French you have to read it, write it, understand spoken French and speak it! Speaking French means being understood, especially by French native speakers. And how long to speak understandable French???......that depends a lot on the individual.

I do not have a musical / language ear. When learning French on arrival in France 16 years ago I found reading and writing easier than speaking or listening. I'm better where logic and "rules" work.

As a child I had a stutter, not bad, but enough to be a bit of a handicap. With experience and helpful parents and teachers I learnt to overcome it. (not total cure, but techiques.....but how to avoid words that cause problems). I also has problems arranging words in the right order. On arrival in France at age 56, all the stuttering problems came back when speaking French!

Some hints for Anil

1 Find a native French speaker who will correct your spoken French. Not easy, but it's easy to make the same mistake over and over again without knowing it. The mistake then becomes the habit.

2. A Speech therapist's technique. Take a wine bottle cork and put it between the teeth. Then read aloud something in French. The cork forces you to think about mouth movements and to concentrate on the invidual sounds. If you can do this with a native French speaker then even better! I found my mouth / face muscles ached badly after this exercise - so it must be good!

3. I went to a language school where they used a computer learning system. Part of the software invited you speak some phrases, it analysed the speeach and told you where you made errors. I found this both difficult and useful. Can't remember the name of the software..perhaps others can help?

If it helps Anil, I still have problems speaking French, even after 16 years in France and married to a retired school teacher. My address contains the word "République", which I tend to pronounce as the English "Republic". It not recognisable to many French people - as I found out last week at a doctor's receptionist.

In the UK I've had the honour to employ many Indians. Certainly I found some had a very strong accent in English that made communication difficult sometimes. Patience and understanding are necessary from both sides!

...work at your spoken French and it will get better.

Good luck..I'm interested to read what others think.

DDDDDDDDejW (with stutter)

Hello Dej,

Thanks for the tips. I can make myself understood around 60-70% of the time when I speak French but I think it will come with time. I do practice with Native speakers and while my comprehension has improved, my speaking is still on the lower side. But it is certainly getting better. And I agree with the part about Indians in the UK having thick accent. Thankfully I never had that problem with English due to my long stays in the U.S.

I also must accept that French people in general (the ones on the streets, shops,etc) are quiet understanding and are really appreciative when they see a foreigner trying to speak their language which is super encouraging. I've only met one bigot during my 5 month stay in France before who was like "Eh ben, si tu veux rester en France, Il faut parler tres bien Francais, hein" But the rest are really kind and understanding.

I think the key is to never give up the language learning.
 

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I think there is something, too, to accepting the fact that there are those "limited" individuals in all countries and cultures who simply refuse to make any effort to understand a foreigner with an accent of any kind. (OK, maybe also a few who have never been exposed to someone with an accent.) I knew several folks like this back in the US, and have run into one or two here in France. It is for these folks that the expression "tant pis" comes in handy.

If someone doesn't understand you at first, try re-phrasing what you just said. Good practice for you (there is ALWAYS another way to say something) and maybe the second (or third or fourth) iteration will get through.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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A

Agree Bev! Nearly all my French family understand me, sometimes asking me to repeat, but we get there. However one female member doesn't understand me, and refuses to try. I just don't talk to her. I think we both prefer it that way. Interestingly her husband who has a bit of brain damage understands me to the extent we swap jokes ok. Perhaps you need to be brain damaged to understand my jokes?

I used to teach at a business school, usually in English. Sometimes I was asked to deliver a course in French. I found that very good for my spoken French, and invited the students to say when they did not understand, and to correct me. After a little while they entered into the spirit of the thing.

I think the OP has the right idea, never miss an opportunity to speak, never miss an opportunity to check for understanding, never miss an opportunity to invite correction. Accept that just when things are going really well, you will meet someone who refuses to make it easy.

I've known people in the UK who were from non English speaking countries. Some lost their accent after 10 years, others still with a strong accent after 20+ .....don't know why. Anybody remember the Italian musician in the UK...Semprimi....always a lovely accent.

DejW

I think there is something, too, to accepting the fact that there are those "limited" individuals in all countries and cultures who simply refuse to make any effort to understand a foreigner with an accent of any kind. (OK, maybe also a few who have never been exposed to someone with an accent.) I knew several folks like this back in the US, and have run into one or two here in France. It is for these folks that the expression "tant pis" comes in handy.

If someone doesn't understand you at first, try re-phrasing what you just said. Good practice for you (there is ALWAYS another way to say something) and maybe the second (or third or fourth) iteration will get through.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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I'm unfortunately not a particularly talkative person so, although I'm something of a parrot...
I'm the same plus a bit deaf so it's an uphill struggle. I'm a beginning French learner so go daily to get the baguette, then the weekend vide grenier sales offer the best opportunity to practice French. I ask questions about items the vendors have for sale and have gotten some good lessons. The only problem has been I feel obliged to buy something which is only fair but the OH is a bit put out from all the stuff I've brought home. Guess I'll have my own vide grenier sale someday :)
 

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Yes, your own stand at a vide grenier is an excellent way to speak French. I did it when I moved to France...I moved from the UK with far to many things. Because vide greniers are not really profit making I put up a big sign to say that I'd give the takings to the local school....not only good for my reputation, but also brought lots of people who wanted to support the school too.

DejW

Ps went to our local vide gren on Sunday. Also last year moved 1000 km in France. Not surprisingly exactly the same old rubbish on sale as on the other side of France!

I'm the same plus a bit deaf so it's an uphill struggle. I'm a beginning French learner so go daily to get the baguette, then the weekend vide grenier sales offer the best opportunity to practice French. I ask questions about items the vendors have for sale and have gotten some good lessons. The only problem has been I feel obliged to buy something which is only fair but the OH is a bit put out from all the stuff I've brought home. Guess I'll have my own vide grenier sale someday :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I think there is something, too, to accepting the fact that there are those "limited" individuals in all countries and cultures who simply refuse to make any effort to understand a foreigner with an accent of any kind. (OK, maybe also a few who have never been exposed to someone with an accent.) I knew several folks like this back in the US, and have run into one or two here in France. It is for these folks that the expression "tant pis" comes in handy.

If someone doesn't understand you at first, try re-phrasing what you just said. Good practice for you (there is ALWAYS another way to say something) and maybe the second (or third or fourth) iteration will get through.
Cheers,
Bev

Indeed! You just have to keep on trying and don't let these minor mishaps let you down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Agree Bev! Nearly all my French family understand me, sometimes asking me to repeat, but we get there. However one female member doesn't understand me, and refuses to try. I just don't talk to her. I think we both prefer it that way. Interestingly her husband who has a bit of brain damage understands me to the extent we swap jokes ok. Perhaps you need to be brain damaged to understand my jokes?

I used to teach at a business school, usually in English. Sometimes I was asked to deliver a course in French. I found that very good for my spoken French, and invited the students to say when they did not understand, and to correct me. After a little while they entered into the spirit of the thing.

I think the OP has the right idea, never miss an opportunity to speak, never miss an opportunity to check for understanding, never miss an opportunity to invite correction. Accept that just when things are going really well, you will meet someone who refuses to make it easy.

I've known people in the UK who were from non English speaking countries. Some lost their accent after 10 years, others still with a strong accent after 20+ .....don't know why. Anybody remember the Italian musician in the UK...Semprimi....always a lovely accent.

DejW
For the last part of your sentence I found it fascinating as well on how long it takes for some people to loose their accents. I've been to Britain a few times and it's my own personal little theory (and I may be completely wrong) that the younger immigrant generations are integrated well in countries like the U.S and Canada than in Britain. I wonder if that could impede the language learning abilities of a person as well.

When I was in the US, we were encouraged to kinda "step-out" and make a contact with Americans on a daily basis but in Britain and some parts of Europe, a lot of communities seemed to be bubbled off. Now we can't say that's the case with everyone but anecdotally, I can say it does matter. Or maybe I'm completely wrong lol.

But it's nice to see so many people adding their feedback on it. It's interesting to read all of your experiences.
 

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hi Anil

Well, if it's any help...one of my best friends at school in the 1960s was an Indian....before the large scale immigration. He came to the UK when he was at primary school I remember. He spoke at school with no hint of acccent, spoke to his father with a strong Indian accent, and spoke to his mother in Hindi. I was impressed!

DejW


For the last part of your sentence I found it fascinating as well on how long it takes for some people to loose their accents. I've been to Britain a few times and it's my own personal little theory (and I may be completely wrong) that the younger immigrant generations are integrated well in countries like the U.S and Canada than in Britain. I wonder if that could impede the language learning abilities of a person as well.

When I was in the US, we were encouraged to kinda "step-out" and make a contact with Americans on a daily basis but in Britain and some parts of Europe, a lot of communities seemed to be bubbled off. Now we can't say that's the case with everyone but anecdotally, I can say it does matter. Or maybe I'm completely wrong lol.

But it's nice to see so many people adding their feedback on it. It's interesting to read all of your experiences.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
hi Anil

Well, if it's any help...one of my best friends at school in the 1960s was an Indian....before the large scale immigration. He came to the UK when he was at primary school I remember. He spoke at school with no hint of acccent, spoke to his father with a strong Indian accent, and spoke to his mother in Hindi. I was impressed!

DejW
Hahaha! Wow! That's nuts. I guess we can't never underestimate people and what they are capable of. :D
 

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hi Anil

Well, if it's any help...one of my best friends at school in the 1960s was an Indian....before the large scale immigration. He came to the UK when he was at primary school I remember. He spoke at school with no hint of acccent, spoke to his father with a strong Indian accent, and spoke to his mother in Hindi. I was impressed!

DejW
Actually, a Brit friend of mine and I have often discussed the tendency we seem to have (and I mean "all" of us) when speaking a foreign language to try to reply at the same rate as the other person. This leads to many problems if we happen to be speaking with someone who simply talks fast.

But I've also noticed that people have a tendency to "reflect" the accent of the person they're speaking with. I grew up in the Boston area, where there is a very distinct accent. I lost that accent when I went to university in the Midwest, but when talking to my family on the phone, the old accent would creep back in. Even now, when I'm back visiting in the Boston area, my accent comes back. While I don't adopt a British accent when I'm back there for a visit, I do note that I pronounce some words differently and use more "Britishisms" than I normally would otherwise do.

It's all probably related to EH's "parroting" reflex.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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I'm the same plus a bit deaf so it's an uphill struggle. I'm a beginning French learner so go daily to get the baguette, then the weekend vide grenier sales offer the best opportunity to practice French. I ask questions about items the vendors have for sale and have gotten some good lessons. The only problem has been I feel obliged to buy something which is only fair but the OH is a bit put out from all the stuff I've brought home. Guess I'll have my own vide grenier sale someday :)
LOL - I'll have to try this method - I am a big shopper and after we retire there next month, funds will be more limited. I can still do my shopping and practice my French also!

Karen
27 days till départ!
 

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The Rosetta Stone program includes excellent pronunciation software - you need headphones. I found it extremely useful and well worth the cost of the program. Whilst you will likely still have an accent, your chances of being understood will significantly increase if you take the time to work through the pronunciation with this program.
Dear Mr EH,

We seem to agree on alot of things, but on this one, I'm in strong disagreement with you. I purchased the entire Rosetta Stone French (Volumes 1-5) for a small fortune. I completed them all, all with the headphones and pronunciation. And my French was still terrible. I then completed Duolingo (and was told by people - "You did what? I didn't even know it was possible to finish Duolingo!") And my French was still terrible. Different strokes for different folks I guess. I'm very academic and tend to succeed in anything with levels and structure (like Rosetta Stone), but when it came to the real world, Rosetta Stone failed me terribly. I found the only thing that has really helped me is listening to real life news podcasts and getting out there and talking, talking, talking, but unfortunately I tend to squirrel myself away sometimes and take the easy option of talking to English speakers. So there's no free lunch for me I'm afraid,the only way I improve is to put myself out there and speak to native French speakers.

I will give Rosetta Stone this, it did imprint several phrases in my memory for life. I still say "Je vous en prie" to my fiancée (calling her vous in the process).
 

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I tend to think sometimes accents never go away. My Father was born in Malaysia and moved to Australia when he was 20, and he still speaks with a strong SE-Asian accent (he's 75 now). Ironically I just thought he spoke with an Australian accent as I grew up with it, and 2 years ago my fiancée told me he sounds very Chinese, which was a huge surprise to me.

I've been in France for 3 years and my accent is still there. Ironically French people seem to find my bumbling Australian-anglo accent charming or cute (for the most part). Or at least that'what they say to my face.

Good luck!
 

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I think there is something, too, to accepting the fact that there are those "limited" individuals in all countries and cultures who simply refuse to make any effort to understand a foreigner with an accent of any kind. (OK, maybe also a few who have never been exposed to someone with an accent.) I knew several folks like this back in the US, and have run into one or two here in France. It is for these folks that the expression "tant pis" comes in handy.
Cheers,
Bev
Haha Bev, this was well timed. I called a Dr a couple of days ago and the receptionist was probably the rudest person I have encountered in 3-4 years in France. Normally when I apologize for my poor French and ask them to speak slower and more clearly, people are very nice and encouraging about it, but this lady was terrible, all but hanging up on me. After going through the trademark stages of anger, then feeling bad about my level of French, I calmed down and happened to mention to my French fiancée over dinner how this receptionist was really rude because my French was bad. She replied, "Oh it wasn't the old one was it? Because the young girl is really nice, but the older one is just a grump. She's rude to me as well, and I'm French!"

So like you say, sometimes in life you'll meet people who act terribly towards you. If it's happening all the time to you, maybe you're the problem. If it happens once in awhile, maybe they're the problem.
 
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