Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Are People As Critical In Real Life?

I have a confession to make. I can't roll my r's. I also can't whistle so maybe that has something to do with why my r's will never trickle off my tongue.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, it seems to me that people online are extremely critical of Spanish accents. I understand that if you are going to speak a language, you should learn how to speak it properly. No one wants to sound like this. But sheesh, the way some people criticize online it makes you afraid to say anything.

But I don't think people are like that in real life. If you speak English with an accent no one is going to bother you as long as they can understand what you are saying. Now some people are jerks, but for the most part people don't go around critiquing people's accents when English is their second language.

Likewise, from my experience in a Spanish-speaking country; no one was rude about my obvious accent. Everyone was just so happy that I was trying to learn and communicate with them. They didn't have time to critique me on that. BUT ironically, I did get some criticisms on my English. That bothered me, and it still annoys me when I think about it.

For instance, someone pointed to something and asked me how to say it in English. I said "trash can". She said, "no, that's not how you say it." I was confused. Later on she remembered the word and told me, "that is a [something I don't remember because that's not what we call it in the US]". It was like they wouldn't say anything about my Spanish, but they surely did try to tell me how to speak English. I understand that they learn English from an early age in that country; but please...let's not get besides ourselves.

I digress...

So what's up with people being so harsh online? Do people need to be criticized on every single vowel they mispronounce and r they can't roll? Why is that a reason to make fun of someone?


  1. One of my recent Spanish teachers told me to forget about my accent. He said that if I become overly concerned about my accent then it will hinder my progress. And, that made me feel very comfortable.

    The goal of speaking a language is being able to communicate. And, if a person can be understood then that is success.

    Accents vary even in the US depending on what region you are in. So, why should any other language be different?

    I say ignore the critics, unless it is actually meant to help you.

  2. Good advice because really if you get all caught up in things like that you'll never speak! That's probably why if someone asked me if I spoke Spanish I'd say no. I am too worried about not being "perfect". The funny thing is, no one has ever criticized me on my Spanish! I'm just thinking about what people say about others.

  3. I do think that people get caught up on accents. I work in a school district and with many of my spanish speaking colleagues who have an accent, people don't necessarily say anything to their face but they talk bad about it behind their back. Unfortunately because I am white they must think that I think like them and they feel free to make these crazy comments. However, it seems to be a little different with people who speak spanish as a second language. Spanish speakers seem to be more tolerant of an english speakers accent because they tend to appreciate that someone is trying to learn to speak spanish. I think really all that matters is that the person becomes fluent. Every once in a while I hear someone speaking spanish with a very thick English accent and for one second I notice it until I also notice how fluent they are. If we get caught up on our accents, then we definitely will not become fluent!

  4. Hi there! Just found your blog (thanks to your comment on mine :) and I'm enjoying reading through your older posts.
    I can't say that I've experienced this criticism you're talking about online.
    But as for accents - I agree with what everyone is saying here. It's not at all the most important thing. And if you get caught up in it, you'll never speak! And what's the point then? I understand that if we don't learn to use the muscles in our mouth at a younger age, we'll never be able to pronounce certain sounds. I'm a German-speaker, and I can tell you Germans in general have such a hard time with the English "th". My husband is Dutch, and he also has trouble with this sound. It's not part of their language, so there's no reason for them to know how to produce it. Same thing with the Spanish "r" for English-speakers.
    Certainly, it shouldn't keep you from speaking Spanish with your son! I think the Saturday school you found will be great for him. Supplementing his Spanish input with other Spanish-speakers (any Spanish-speaking caregivers you could hire?) along with music and even TV can help your son learn to roll his r's! But either way, the point is that you're giving Bean the gift of a second language. And that's the most important thing :)