Mother Tongue Influence

An American speaks English like the Americans, a Briton like the British and an Australian like the Australians. Can we term all these as different accents or mother tongue influences? In fact, accents are nothing but mother tongue influences (MTI). When it gains a widespread adoption and turns mainstream, linguists cannot ignore or isolate it. Naturally, they are recognized and labeled as accents. In the other case, it becomes ‘undesirable’ and is termed as mother tongue influence.
Each language has its own words and sounds. Some sounds which are in the speaker’s mother tongue may not be found in English. Some sounds in English may not be found in the speaker’s language as well. When one begins speaking in English he initially uses sounds from his language. When a non-native speaker speaks English, no doubt, there will be an initial influence of mother tongue.
For example: in the word ‘pleasure’, the second syllable is a sound not found in Hindi. It’s neither ‘plezar’ nor ‘pleshar’– it is the mix of sounds of ‘z’ and ‘sh’. For a native Hindi speaker with insufficient English speaking exposure, the pronunciation of words like ‘pleasure’, ‘measure’ or ‘leisure’ will be challenging. He usually pronounces them as ‘plejar’, ‘mejar’ and ‘lejar’ respectively. Other examples are ‘simbl’ or ‘simpal’ for ‘simple’, ‘konstrukson’ for ‘construction’, etc.
Time and practice will help you out from MTI. The most effective way to control this is to listen deliberately to those who have a good accent. Listen to English TV channels regularly, especially the news bulletins. Note down unfamiliar words, idioms, and phrases. Practice by speaking those in front of the mirror and correct the mistakes.
Your smartphone is another powerful tool for practicing good accent. Use it to record your speaking and listen back to see how your English sounds. Check with an online dictionary the correct pronunciation of the keywords you use in the classroom regularly. Gradually your pronunciation turns better and the confidence level becomes improved. You will be able to replace your mother tongue sounds with the original sounds of English.
The importance of correct pronunciation and accent in your classroom communication cannot be denied, especially when you deal with students from different geographical locations. It plays a major role in creating impressions about you to your students. Don’t take it for granted that all the words that you use are recognized and understood by your students. Take conscious care to control the way you speak. Don’t think that imitating native speakers for the accent will not make you a successful communicator. Practice varying your accent depending on the geography of the student in your class.

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Jitha James

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