Embrace your unique accent

My journey on how to say what you mean in your second language and forget about sounding like everyone.

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The story began when I wasn’t speaking English at all. I was an adventurous boy in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, and was thinking about other countries as something that happens in fairytales. As I grew up a little, I came across the VHS tape, “English for kids.” Online streaming wasn’t around yet, not even DVDs. The tape was like magic to me. That’s how I introduced myself to English for the first time.

I’ve been on and off my language courses up until 7th grade. I didn’t need it for my life, but that was the year when I went on an exchange trip to Europe for the first time. I’ve experienced a cultural shock, which triggered me to make English my second language. I was studying English almost every day immersing myself in it. I’ve been taking extra courses, attended conversation clubs where the host was usually from the UK or the US. I was mostly focusing on a British accent because it was popular in Europe. My teachers, family, and peers were expecting me to speak British accent. I wasn’t focusing on my pronunciation at that time, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

After a few years, I’ve been lucky to get an opportunity to study abroad. I’ve decided to go to the UK because it was an obvious choice. However, all my plans went into a pipe when I was refused a visa. I was so angry that I decided I would never go there unless I receive an invitation from Her Majesty herself when one door closes the other opens. I started considering going to America, and it all suddenly made sense. I focused my energy on learning a standard American accent. Tongue twister practice, reading aloud, and conversing with Americans became the necessity. I was determined to master the pronunciation.

When I reached a comfortable English-speaking level, I’ve managed to receive a scholarship to study filmmaking on the East Coast of the United States. After a while, however, I realized that my American accent is not American at all. I was frustrated, and I started taking free American accent classes provided by my school. It was a roller-coaster ride. Each time before I came to class, I felt like my American accent was flawless, but when I left the school building, I wasn’t sure whether I’m able to speak English. I realized that accent change wouldn’t happen overnight, but I also didn’t want to feel inferior all the time.

Then I started to notice unexpected things happening to me. Americans were complimenting on my English. I started hearing random podcasts episodes where successful people were emphasizing the importance of preserving your original accent and embracing it as your key advantage. On top of that, my friends were encouraging me to try doing voiceovers. I followed the advice and recorded a series of short audio episodes. The feedback was positive, which inspired me to turn the audio recordings into a short motivational book, which I’m going to narrate myself.

I’ve entirely let go of my fear of never reaching a decent American accent. As long as every word I’m saying is nice and clear I’m doing a great job. It doesn’t matter whether you sound like an American. What matters is how you use the language to convey information that is valuable to others, and that the words that are coming out of your mouth mean what you intend to say. I’d encourage everyone to embrace their accent. Make it your signature and let the world know what you’ve got to say.

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