Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Ze French accent

If you're French, how many times did you hear that comment: "I love the French accent, it's so sexy / lovely / exotic / glamorous / refined / romantic..."?

As crazy as it sounds, one thing I really wanted to get rid of when I moved to Ireland was my French accent. I don't know why, but I always thought that losing my native accent would be the ultimate proof of integration. I thought that if I showed I made the effort to speak like an Irish person, I would be more accepted as one of them. The truth is, my French accent never bothered anyone. In short, people didn't care if I sounded a bit French as long as they understood me.

Yet, I've always been looking for some sort of "validation" and I'm extremely happy when someone cannot pinpoint where I'm from, or if an Irish colleague tells me I sound Irish, which happens sometimes. I shouldn't really care. After all, everybody has an accent. Only in Ireland you can hear tens of them and it's the same in France.

What I don't understand is when I hear someone who has been living in Ireland for 20 years, speaking with a very heavy French accent. I mean, if you have lived amongst Irish people all that time, worked with them, basically lived your life in English, why do you sound like you just arrived yesterday? I realise I sound mean, but I genuinely don't understand how it's possible. It's either a choice or a lack of willingness. I'm not saying those people should have a perfect  accent because that's impossible, even to me, but how is it their accent hasn't improved one bit?

One of my friend actually confessed he kept his strong French accent because it was giving him an edge, a difference, so we all have different motives I suppose.

The weird thing is when I hear a foreigner speaking French with an accent, it doesn't bother me at all. I just want to praise them for their command of the French language and it doesn't matter if they can't pronounce the "R" sound, as long as I understand them!

I actually find it quite endearing and it just made me realise I probably shouldn't care so much about how other French people speak.

I initially wanted to write this post because I really didn't get why some French people persist in speaking English with their native accent, but now that I have finished my "rant", I realise this is a non-debate. People should be able to speak the way they want (and can), as long as they  make themselves understood.

What's your opinion? Do you think the accent is important when speaking a foreign language?