According to current estimates, there are approximately 6,000 languages in existence throughout the world.  Some of them enjoy a unique status, those we define as “dominant languages” because they are used as an instrument of daily communication by a substantial number of people.  Among these languages some are used on many continents.  As a language spreads over a large geographic area local variations are created, often similar to one another, but with different vocabularies and, of course, different accents.

The word “accent” can have different meanings depending on how it’s used.  In this article, however, I’ll be referring to the following definition:

1. (Linguistics / Phonetics & Phonology) the characteristic mode of pronunciation of a person or group, esp. one that betrays social or geographical origin.

The status enjoyed by a  particular language is, of course, a result of its history: colonization, migration and immigration as well as (unfortunately) invasions, occupations and wars.  In this context the languages take on a new role.  Not only do they serve as a means of communication but they also take on political and cultural significance.  The language is a distinctive trait of a nation and a people.

This introduction serves, in part, to explain how one’s choice of an accent can sometimes bring about a confrontation with a complex reality and a certain antipathy and misunderstanding, something which could otherwise be difficult to understand.

My experience

I still recall vividly a conversation that I had in a bar in Madrid with a young Colombian.  We were talking about accents and he said “The accent of Spain is ugly.  Every time we hear Spanish tourists talk we laugh and make fun of them. “That statement kind of took me aback.  I’d thought, naively, that having a common language would have created a bond between groups of people separated by an ocean but having common cultural traits that come from having the same language.  On the one hand, it’s undeniably true that there is a “Latin Spirit/Culture”, but on the other hand, one must consider the fact that the Spanish language was imposed upon them by the Spaniards centuries ago through wars and barbarism of every kind that brought about the extinction of entire peoples, also caused by illnesses that were unknown in the new continent and to which the immune systems of the indigenous people were not prepared.  These massacres generated a resentment that was passed down from generation to generation and has never gone dormant, even after so many centuries have passed.

In the course of recent years I’ve noticed that this young Colombian is in good company.  Trying not to generalize, I’ve met many South Americans who don’t like the Spanish accent at all.  Some of them find it much harsher than the variations spoken in South America and in some cases they finish by talking about the conquistadors.  This was confirmed in You Tube when in some of my videos numerous comments appear for and against the Spanish accent and there were mutual misunderstandings (and sometimes insults).  There is even a video by an American girl  who, with great pride, stands up for her decision to opt for a Spanish accent despite the various criticisms and mocking on the part of South American residents of the United States or American citizens of South American origin.

English, French and Portuguese are other examples in which a similar thing happens, though in a different way.  In the case of English, I’m aware that in England the American accent is not well-accepted by a part of the population and I’ve heard with my own ears the statement that the American accent “sounds stupid”.  Obviously this is not a reflection of the entire English population, and I’m sure that some Americans find the English accent unpleasant.  But English is a global language; it is not limited to England and America.

Another case that stands out is that of Portuguese.  Many Brazilians asked me why in the world I would choose the accent of Portugal over that of Brazil which is more widely spoken and is obviously more popular among foreigners as well as native speakers.  Not only is it more pleasant to listen to, they would say, but it’s the language spoken in a country with strong economic expansion.  Effectively, I personally noticed a very high appreciation of the Brazilian variant as compared to the “Continental” one.

Being Italian, I’m surprised by all of this because our language is “confined” to Italy and there are only a few people in the former Italian colonies (such as Ethiopia and Eritrea) who still speak it, so for us it would be strange to hear a drastically different Italian spoken in another part of the world (in which dialects of the immigrants have been spoken since the start of the 20th century.

However, I understand, in part, these misunderstandings because we have them too, though on a regional level.  Italian has more dialects than almost any language in the world, with an extraordinary variety of accents.  In some places in Italy one need only go 10 – 15 km.  to hear a different accent.  This fragmentation of the accent comes from a fragmentation on a political level.  Until 150 years ago Italy was still divided into many city-states, very different from one another with completely different histories and developments.  There is often a mutual mistrust, antipathy not only between regions but between cities and communities within the regions, something we call “campanilismo”.

Some accents turn out to be pleasant and others, not.

How to choose an accent: my experience with five languages

One of the questions that I’m often asked on You Tube deals with which accent to adopt.

I’ll start by telling you about my experience with English, French, Spanish and German.

The first thing that jumps out at you when you watch my videos is that I speak American English, the “over the pond” variation while I speak the European versions of the other four languages.

Sometimes, at a certain age, one decides to learn a language and considers which variation to learn.  In the case of English, I didn’t have to choose; it was American English that chose me, as I explain in this video.  (LINK)  I had a private tutor who was from Chicago, 95% of the English language films that I saw were American and my friends in Rome were all American.

When I learned French I started at school and the only non-satellite station we received was a French channel.  Moreover, there was a relative dearth of materials in other versions of French (like “Quebequois”,  the French spoken in Belgium, Swiss French and the variations spoken in several nations in Africa).  The same holds true for Spanish: the first Spanish class that I took was taught exclusively in the Spanish of Spain, and for many of the other courses as well.  So it was an obligatory choice.  German was no exception either as only the “hochdeutch” is taught, at least in Italy.  If I’d gone to live in Austria and had learned the language there, I probably would have ended up learning Austrian German, but I decided to learn German at home and the materials that I used only presented the German spoken in Germany.

For Portuguese the choice was a little harder.  There were basically two versions and I finally decided on the European Portuguese because I liked the sound of it even though, as I said earlier, many people like Brazilian Portuguese.


Adopting one accent instead of another is, first and foremost, a personal choice dictated by one’s tastes and the materials at his/her disposal.

If you are undecided you can decide according to the following guidelines


If you are studying on your own, having plenty of good-quality materials is absolutely essential for setting up an effective language studio.  If one version of the desired language has far fewer materials than another, I suggest that you choose the one for which there are more resources.  I’m referring to materials with a hard copy and accompanying audio.  One of my students admitted to me that he opted for the Spanish of Spain, even though he liked it less, because he couldn’t find sufficient resources to learn one of the South American varieties.

Human resources

People are a fundamental resource for learning to speak a language well.  Language is a means of communication and the interaction with other people allows the addition of the emotional, social and behavioral aspects while acquiring a foreign language.  If you have the opportunity to practice a language right away, for example if you have a friend or companion at your side, adopting the accent of the country of origin of  that person could be an essential element in the improvement and the development of not only that person but of all those around him/her.  If, for example, you have a Chilean girlfriend and you have the opportunity to travel to Chile, you’ll be more motivated to learn that variation of Spanish.

That holds true for associations in general.  If there are a lot of people in your town who come from a certain country and you often have the opportunity to meet with them and see them often, you’ll be more motivated to learn that language.  To give you a specific example, it’s much easier to practice American English in Rome than the other forms of English, thanks to the massive presence of Americans in the Italian capital.


Even without necessarily having any personal relationships with people from other countries there is still the possibility of traveling.  If you often have to travel to a certain location, whether for business or pleasure, it could be an additional motive for learning a specific language.


Even your employment could play a big part in the selection of a language.  If, for example you often conduct business with Brazilians or travel to Brazil as part of your job, learning Brazilian Portuguese rather than that spoken in Europe could greatly ease negotiations or simply business relations.


“De gustibus disputandum non est” , the ancient Romans used to say.  Personal tastes are not up for discussion.  As far as language learning, the best students are those who understand right away what it is they enjoy doing and this is naturally true when it comes to accents as well.  Choosing a language you like listening to encourages you to listen more and to spend time with the language.


The choice of an accent is a personal one and is directed by personal relationships, work, preferences, availability of materials, travel opportunities and the people one knows.  Often misunderstandings come about because of historical events, aesthetics and phonetics at a continental, national and regional level.

Still, languages remain a means of communication.  If a person is pleasant and speaks with propriety, the accent with which he speaks plays a very minor role and his interlocutor will concentrate more on content than on form.

It’s really not important which accent you use; what’s important is speaking well and establishing an emotional connection, empathizing with the other person.  A pleasant interlocutor is pleasant, regardless of the accent with which s/he speaks.

Here is a video (in English, Spanish and Portuguese) in which my “polyglot buddies” and I talk about our own personal choices as far as accents are concerned.  I hope you all enjoy it!

Audio file of this article at the end of this post





Secondo le stime attuali, esistono attualmente circa 6000 lingue (o idiomi) sulla terra. Alcune di queste godono di uno status particolare, che si potrebbe definire di lingue “dominanti”, perché usate come strumento di comunicazione quotidiano da un numero consistente di persone. Fra queste lingue, alcune sono parlate in più continenti. La diffusione di una lingua in una vasta zona geografica porta alla nascita di varianti locali spesso simili tra loro, ma con un vocabolario differente e, naturalmente, un accento diverso.

La parola “accento” ha diverse accezioni a seconda del campo e del contesto considerato, ma in questo articolo mi riferisco alla seguente definizione:

“Il modo caratteristico di pronunciare da parte di una persona o gruppo, e che indica la sua origine sociale o geografica”.

1. (Linguistics / Phonetics & Phonology) the characteristic mode of pronunciation of a person or group, esp one that betrays social or geographical origin

Lo status di cui godono alcune lingue è naturalmente dovuto alla storia: colonizzazione, migrazioni ed immigrazioni, e purtroppo, anche alle invasioni, le occupazioni e le guerre.  In questo contesto le lingue non assumono solo lo status di semplici mezzi di comunicazione, ma assumono una connotazione politica e culturale, sono un tratto distintivo di un una nazione e di un popolo.

Questa introduzione serve, in parte, a spiegare il motivo per cui la scelta di un accento può portare, a volte, a scontrarsi con una realtà complessa, e a certe antipatie e fraintendimenti che altrimenti sarebbero difficilmente comprensibili.

La mia esperienza

Ricordo ancora vividamente una conversazione che ebbi in un bar di Madrid con un ragazzo colombiano. Si parlava di accenti, e mi disse “questo accento spagnolo di Spagna è proprio brutto, ogni volta che sentiamo parlare turisti spagnoli ci mettiamo a ridere e li prendiamo in giro”. La frase mi lasciò un po’ interdetto. Pensavo infatti – ingenuamente – che avere una lingua comune cementasse il rapporto fra popoli separati da un Oceano ma, appunto, con tratti culturali comuni che facevano riferimento ad una stessa lingua. Se da una parte questo è innegabilmente vero – la cosiddetta “cultura o spirito latino”, dall’altra occorre considerare il fatto che lo spagnolo è una lingua che è stata imposta dagli Spagnoli secoli fa attraverso guerre e barbarie di ogni tipo, che ha portato all’estinzione di popoli interi, anche a causa di malattie che erano sconosciute nel nuovo Continente e a cui il sistema immunitario degli autococtoni non era preparato. Questi massacri hanno generato un risentimento che è stato tramandato di generazione in generazione e non si è mai veramente assopito, sebbene siano passati tanti secoli.

Nel corso degli ultimi anni ho notato che quel ragazzo colombiano era in buona compagnia. Senza voler generalizzare, ho incontrato molti sudamericani a cui l’accento spagnolo di Spagna non piaceva proprio. Una parte di loro lo trovano molto più duro rispetto a tutte le varianti parlate in Sudamerica, e – in alcuni casi – si è finito per parlare di storia e di Conquistadores. La conferma è arrivata da YouTube, in alcuni dei miei video appaiono numerosi commenti pro e contro lo spagnolo di Spagna, e incomprensioni (e talvolta insulti) reciproci. C’è addirittura un video di una ragazza americana (LINK) che con grande orgoglio rivendica la sua scelta di optare per un accento spagnolo nonostante le varie critiche e prese in giro da parte di Sudamericani residenti negli Stati Uniti o cittadini americani di origine sudamericana.

L’inglese, il francese e il portoghese sono altri esempi in cui succede una cosa simile, anche se con modalità differenti. Nel caso dell’Inglese, mi sono accorto che in Inghilterra l’accento americano non è molto gradito da una parte della popolazione, e ho sentito con le mie orecchie dire che l’accento americano “sounds stupid”. Ovviamente questo non riguarda l’intera popolazione inglese, e sono sicuro che alcuni Americani trovino l’accento inglese sgradevole. Ma l’inglese è una lingua mondiale, non si riduce solo all’Inghilterra e all’America.

Un altro caso eclatante è quello del portoghese. Tantissimi Brasiliani mi hanno domandato perché mai abbia scelto l’accento portoghese di Portogallo, invece di adottare la variante molto più parlata – e obiettivamente più popolare anche presso stranieri e madrelingua – del Brasile. Non solo è più gradevole da sentire – mi sono sentito dire – ma è la lingua parlata da un paese in forte espansione economica.  Effettivamente ho riscontrato personalmente un gradimento altissimo della variante brasiliana rispetto a quella “continentale” .

Da Italiano tutto questo mi sorprende, perché la nostra lingua è “confinata” in Italia, e sono rimaste poche persone che la parlano nelle ex colonie dell’Italia fascista (Etiopia ed Eritrea per esempio), quindi per noi sarebbe strano sentire un italiano molto diverso in un’altra parte del mondo (in cui si parlano spesso dialetti degli immigrati dell’inizio del 20esimo secolo).

Capisco però in parte queste incomprensioni perché ce l’abbiamo anche noi, anche se a livello regionale. L’italiano è una delle lingue più dialettalizzate del mondo, con una straordinaria varietà di accenti. In alcuni luoghi d’Italia basta spostarsi di 10-15 km per sentire un accento diverso. Questa frammentazione a livello di accenti deriva da una frammentazione a livello politico. L’Italia, fino a 152 anni fa era ancora divisa in tanti Stati molto diversi fra loro e con una storia e uno sviluppo completamente diversi. Spesso c’è una diffidenza reciproca, a un’antipatia non solo fra regioni, ma fra città e comuni all’interno delle regioni stesse (il cosiddetto “campalinismo”)

Alcuni accenti mi risultano piacevoli, altri no

Come si fa a scegliere un accento: la mia esperienza con 5 lingue

Una delle domande che mi viene rivolta spesso su YouTube riguarda proprio l’accento da adottare.

Comincerei raccontandovi la mia esperienza con l’inglese, francese, spagnolo, e tedesco.

La prima cosa che salta all’occhio è il fatto che io parli inglese americano, e cioè la variante “d’oltreoceano” mentre per tutte le altre 4 lingue parlo la versione europea.

Talvolta si sceglie ad una certa età di imparare una lingua, e si valuta quale variante imparare. Nel caso dell’inglese, non ho dovuto fare scelte: è l’inglese americano che ha scelto me, come spiego in questo video (LINK). Ho avuto una professoressa privata di Chigaco, il 95% dei film in lingua inglese che ho visto sono americani, e i miei amici a Roma erano tutti americani.

Nel caso del francese, l’ho cominciato a scuola, e l’unico canale non satellitare a disposizione era un canale francese. In più, c’è una relativa penuria di materiale in altre versioni del francese (vengono in mente il “Quebequois” , il francese che si parla in Belgio, Svizzera e numerose Nazioni africane. Lo stesso vale per lo spagnolo: il primo corso che comprai era esclusivamente in spagnolo di Spagna, e così per tanti altri corsi. Era, insomma, quasi una scelta obbligata. Non fa eccezione neanche il tedesco, dove viene impartito – almeno in Italia – quasi esclusivamente l“l’hochdeutsch” . Se fossi andato a vivere in Austria e avessi dovuto imparare la lingua in loco, probabilmente avrei finito per imparare il tedesco austriaco, ma ho deciso di imparare il tedesco a casa, e appunti il materiale che ho usato prevedeva solo la presenza del tedesco che si parla in Germania.

Per il portoghese la scelta si è fatta un po’ più dura. Effettivamente esitavo fra le due versioni, ma ho finito per scegliere quella del portoghese continentale perché mi piaceva di più dal punto di vista fonetico. Anche se, come dicevo prima, a molti piace più il portoghese brasiliano


L’adozione di un accento rispetto ad un altro è innanzitutto una scelta personale, dettata dalle contingenze  dai gusti e dal materiale a disposizione.

Se siete indecisi potreste decidere secondo le seguenti linee guida


Se siete autodidatti, disporre di materiale abbondante e di buona qualità è una conditio sine qua non per avviare uno studio efficace di una lingua. Se una versione di una lingua ha molto meno materiale rispetto ad un’altra, vi consiglio di scegliere per la quale esistono maggiori risorse. Mi riferisco a materiale cartaceo con supporto audio. Un mio studente mi ha confessato di aver optato per lo spagnolo di Spagna – nonostante gli piacesse di meno –perché non trovava sufficienti risorse per imparare una delle varianti sudamericane.

Risorse umane

Le persone sono una risorsa fondamentale per imparare a parlare bene una lingua. La lingua è un mezzo di comunicazione, e l’interazione con le altre persone permette di aggiungere il fattore emotivo, sociale e comportamentale nell’acquisizione di una lingua straniera. Se avete la possibilità di praticare una lingua quasi da subito – se per esempio avete un compagno o un amico a vostro fianco – adottare l’accento del paese di origine di quella persona può essere un fattore essenziale nel miglioramento e lo sviluppo non solo di quella persona, ma di tutte quelle che la circondano. Se per esempio avete una ragazza cilena e avete la possibilità di viaggiare in Cile, sarete più motivati a imparare quella variante dello spagnolo.

Questo vale per le frequentazioni in generale. Se nella vostra città ci sono numerose persone proveniente da una certa nazione invece che un’altra, e avete occasione di frequentarle e vederle spesso, sarete più motivati ad imparare quella lingua. Per fare un esempio concentro, è molto più facile praticare inglese americano a Roma rispetto ad altre varianti dell’inglese grazie alla massiccia presenza di americani nella capitale italiana.


Anche senza avere necessariamente un rapporto sentimentale, esiste sempre l’occasione di viaggiare. Se per motivi di lavoro o piacere frequentate spesso alcuni luoghi invece di altri, questo può essere un ulteriore stimolo per imparare quella lingua.


Anche la vostra attività lavorativa potrebbe svolgere un ruolo rilevante nella scelta di una lingua. Se per esempio dovete fare affari o viaggi di lavoro in Brasile, imparare il portoghese brasiliano rispetto a quello continentale potrebbe agevolare di molto trattative o semplicemente rapporti di lavoro.


“De gustibus disputandum non est – dicevano gli antichi Romani. I gusti non si discutono. Nell’apprendimento delle lingue i migliori studenti sono quelli che capiscono in fretta cosa piace fare loro, e questo vale naturalmente anche per gli accenti. Scegliere una lingua che vi piace ascoltare vi invoglierà ad ascoltare di più e a passare tempo con la lingua


La scelta di un accento è una scelta personale, ed è dettata da contingenze, rapporti sentimentali, lavoro, gusti, disponibilità di materiale e possibilità viaggiare e conoscere persone. Spesso si sono create delle incomprensioni per motivi storici, estetici e fonetici, a livello continentale, nazionale e regionale.

Tuttavia, le lingue rimangono un mezzo di comunicazione. Se una persona è gradevole e parla con proprietà di linguaggio, l’accento con cui parla svolge un ruolo decisamente minore, e l’interlocutore si concentrerà più sul contenuto che sulla forma.

Non importa veramente con quale accento parlate, l’importante è parlare bene e stabilire un contatto emotivo, un’empatia con il vostro interlocutore. Un interlocutore gradevole è gradevole a prescindere dall’accento con cui parla/che ha adottato

Qui c’è un video (in inglese,spagnolo e portoghese) in cui io e i miei “compagni poliglotti” discutiamo delle nostre scelte personali riguardo gli accenti. Spero sarà di vostro gradimento!

Audio file of this Italian translation (read by Luca Lampariello) at the end of this post




Selon les estimations actuelles, il y a approximativement 6000 langues vivantes à travers le monde. Certaines d’entre elles jouissent d’un statut unique, celui de « langues dominantes » car elles sont utilisées comme instruments de communication quotidienne par un nombre conséquent de personnes. Parmi ces langues, certaines sont utilisées sur plusieurs continents.

Lorsqu’une langue s’étend sur une importante surface géographique, des variations locales apparaissent, assez similaires entre elles mais avec un vocabulaire différent et, bien sûr, des accents différents.

Le mot « accent » peut avoir différentes significations selon son utilisation. Dans cet article, cependant, je me référerai à la définition suivante:

1- (Linguistique/ Phonétique) le mode de prononciation caractéristique d’une personne ou d’un groupe, révélant son origine sociale ou géographique.

Le statut d’une langue en particulier est, bien sûr, un résultat de son histoire : la colonisation, la migration et l’immigration ainsi que (malheureusement)  les invasions, les occupations et les guerres. Dans ce contexte, la langue prend une autre dimension. Non seulement, elle sert à communiquer mais elle a aussi une signification culturelle et politique. L’accent est un trait inhérent à un pays et à un peuple.

Cette introduction sert, en partie, à expliquer à quel point le choix d’un accent peut provoquer une confrontation avec une réalité complexe, voire une certaine antipathie et de l’incompréhension, ce qui peut autrement être difficile à appréhender.

Mon expérience

Je me souviens vivement d’une conversation que j’ai eue dans un bar à Madrid avec un jeune colombien. Nous parlions des accents et il a déclaré : « L’accent en Espagne est affreux. A chaque fois que nous écoutons des touristes espagnols discuter, on rigole et on se moque d’eux ». Cette déclaration m’avait quelque peu abasourdi. Je croyais, naïvement, que posséder une langue commune aurait créé un lien entre des peuples séparés par l’océan mais qui partageaient des traits culturels communs grâce à la même langue. D’un côté, il est indéniable qu’il existe un « esprit latin » mais de l’autre, il faut savoir que la langue espagnole a été imposée à ces peuples par les Espagnols il y a plusieurs siècles par le biais de la guerre et de la barbarie.

Ces dernières ont détruit des peuples entiers, extinction causée également par des maladies qui étaient jusqu’à alors inconnues sur le nouveau monde. Le système immunitaire des peuples indigènes n’était pas habitué à ce type de maladies. Ces massacres générèrent un ressentiment qui s’est transmis de génération en génération et qui ne s’est jamais éteint, malgré les siècles passés.

Au cours de ces dernières années, j’ai remarqué que ce jeune colombien était loin d’être le seul dans son cas. Sans vouloir généraliser, j’ai rencontré beaucoup de sud-américains qui n’aimaient pas du tout l’accent espagnol. Certains le trouvent plus dur que les variations parlées en Amérique du Sud et parfois, cela finit par une allusion aux conquistadores.

Dans certains commentaires de mes vidéos Youtube, plusieurs commentaires apparaissaient  pour défendre ou non l’accent espagnol et il y a eu des malentendus mutuels (et parfois des insultes).

Une fille américaine avait même publié une vidéo où, fièrement, elle déclarait qu’elle optait pour l’accent espagnol malgré les diverses critiques et moqueries de la part de résidents sud-américains aux Etats-Unis ou de citoyens américains d’origine sud-américaine.

L’anglais, le français et le portugais sont d’autres exemples connaissant le même phénomène, bien que de manière différente. Dans le cas de l’anglais, j’ai conscience que l’accent américain n’est pas très bien accepté en Angleterre par une partie de la population, et j’ai entendu de mes propres oreilles l’affirmation que « l’ accent américain était idiot ». Évidemment, ce n’est pas l’avis de toute la population anglaise, et je suis sûr que des américains trouvent l’accent anglais désagréable. Mais l’anglais est une langue globale, qui n’est pas limitée à l’Angleterre et à l’Amérique.

Un autre cas probant est celui du portugais. Beaucoup de brésiliens m’ont demandé pourquoi diable je choisirai l’accent portugais à celui du Brésil qui est davantage parlé et bien plus populaire auprès des étrangers que des lusophones d’origine. D’après eux, non seulement l’accent brésilien est plus agréable à écouter, mais c’est aussi celui d’un pays avec une forte expansion économique. Effectivement, j’ai remarqué une plus forte appréciation de l’accent brésilien que de l’accent du « vieux continent ». En tant qu’italien, je suis surpris par tout cela car notre langue est confinée à l’Italie et il reste peu de personnes dans nos anciennes colonies (comme l’Ethiopie ou l’Erythrée) qui le parlent encore. Alors pour nous, c’est étrange d’entendre un italien drastiquement différent dans une autre partie du monde (là où les dialectes des immigrants ont été utilisés depuis le début du 20ème siècle).

Néanmoins, je comprends, en partie, ces malentendus car nous les avons également, bien que ce soit à l’échelle régionale. L’italien a plus de dialectes que n’importe quelle autre langue dans le monde, avec une variété incroyable d’accents. Dans certains endroits en Italie, il suffit de faire 10-15 km pour entendre un autre accent. Cette fragmentation de l’accent vient d’une fragmentation politique. Avant 1860, l’Italie était toujours divisé en cités-états, très différentes les unes des autres avec des histoires et des développements complètements différents. Il y a souvent une hostilité mutuelle, une antipathie non seulement entre régions mais aussi entre villes et communautés au sein des régions. Nous appelons ce phénomène « campanilismo ».

Certains accents sonnent bien aux oreilles, d’autres non.

Comment choisir un accent : mon expérience avec cinq accents

Une des questions que l’on me pose le plus souvent sur Youtube concerne l’accent à adopter.

Je vais commencer par vous parler de mon expérience avec l’anglais, le français, l’espagnol et l’allemand.

La première chose qui vous saute aux yeux quand vous regardez mes vidéos est le fait que je parle avec l’accent américain, la version « transatlantique » alors que je parle avec l’accent européen des quatre autres langues.

Parfois, arrivé à un certain âge, quelqu’un peut décider d’apprendre une langue avec tel accent. Dans le cas de l’anglais, je n’avais pas à choisir, c’était l’anglais américain qui m’a choisi, comme je l’explique dans la vidéo. J’avais un tuteur privé venant de Chicago, 95% des films en langue anglaise que je visionnais étaient américains et mes amis à Rome étaient tous américains.

Quand j’ai appris le français, j’ai commencé à l’école et la seule chaîne non satellitaire que nous captions était une chaîne française. De plus, il y avait une relative pénurie de ressources dans d’autres variantes du français (comme le québécois, le français parlé en Belgique, en Suisse et dans plusieurs pays d’Afrique). Même chose pour l’espagnol : le premier cours d’espagnol que j’ai pris était enseigné exclusivement  en espagnol d’Espagne, et pour la plupart des autres cours également. C’était obligatoire.

L’allemand ne faisait pas exception non plus étant donné que seul le « Hochdeutsch » est enseigné, du moins en Italie. Si j’étais parti vivre en Autriche, apprenant la langue là-bas, j’aurais fini par apprendre l’allemand autrichien, mais j’ai décidé d’apprendre l’allemand à la maison, et les ressources que j’utilisais concernaient uniquement l’allemand d’Allemagne.

Pour le portugais, le choix était un peu plus difficile. Il y a à la base deux versions et j’ai finalement décidé d’apprendre le portugais du Portugal car j’aimais sa sonorité, bien que, comme je l’ai écrit plus haut, beaucoup de gens aimait le portugais brésilien.


Adopter un accent plutôt qu’un autre est tout d’abord (et surtout) un choix personnel dicté par ses goûts et le matériel dont on dispose.
Si vous êtes encore indécis, vous pouvez choisir l’accent selon les conseils suivants.

Ressources matérielles

Si vous étudiez en autodidacte, avoir bon nombre de ressources de bonne qualité est absolument essentiel. Si une variante de la langue désirée a bien moins de ressources que l’autre, je vous conseille de choisir celle qui a le plus de ressources. Je parle de ressources contenant une version imprimée et un CD d’accompagnement. Un de mes étudiants m’a avoué qu’il avait choisi l’espagnol d’Espagne, même s’il l’aimait moins, car il ne pouvait pas trouver de ressources suffisantes pour apprendre une des variétés en Amérique du Sud.

Ressources humaines

Les gens sont une ressource fondamentale pour bien apprendre une langue. La langue est un moyen de communication et l’interaction avec d’autres personnes permet d’additionner les aspects émotionnel, social et comportemental tout en acquérant une langue étrangère. Si vous avez l’opportunité de pratiquer une langue tout de suite, par exemple si vous avez un ami ou un/une compagnon/compagne à vos côtés, adopter l’accent du pays d’origine de cette personne peut être un élément essentiel dans l’amélioration et le développement non seulement de cette personne mais aussi des personnes autour d’elle. Si, par exemple, vous avez une petite amie chilienne et que vous avez l’occasion de voyager au Chili, vous serez davantage motivé pour apprendre cette variante de l’espagnol.
Cela vaut pour les associations en général. Si vous avez beaucoup de personnes dans votre ville venant d’un même pays et que vous avez l’occasion de les rencontrer et de les voir souvent, vous serez plus motivé pour apprendre leur version de cette langue. Pour vous donner un exemple spécifique, il est plus facile de pratiquer l’anglais américain à Rome que les autres variantes de l’anglais, grâce à la présence massive d’américains dans la capitale italienne.


Même sans avoir nécessairement une relation personnelle avec des gens d’autres pays, il est toujours possible de voyager. Si vous allez fréquemment dans un lieu précis, que ce soit pour le voyage ou le plaisir, cela peut être une motivation supplémentaire pour apprendre telle langue.


Même votre emploi peut jouer un grand rôle dans le choix d’une langue. Si, par exemple, vous faites souvent du business avec des brésiliens ou voyagez au Brésil pour votre travail, apprendre le portugais brésilien plutôt que de parler anglais peut grandement faciliter les négociations ou les relations commerciales.


“De gustibus disputandum non est” comme disaient les anciens Romains. Les goûts personnels ne se discutent pas. Concernant l’apprentissage d’une langue, les meilleurs étudiants sont ceux qui comprennent vite ce qui leur plait dans ce qu’ils font, et cela vaut évidemment pour les accents. Choisir une langue que vous aimez écouter vous encourage à écouter davantage cette langue et à investir plus de temps dans son étude.


Le choix d’un accent est personnel et est dicté par l’entourage, le travail, les préférences, la disponibilité du matériel et les opportunités de voyage. Souvent, des malentendus surgissent à cause d’évènements historiques, d’aspects esthétique et phonétique à un niveau continental, national et régional.

Mais les langues restent un moyen de communication. Si une personne est sympathique et parle avec décence, l’accent avec lequel elle parle joue un rôle très mineur et l’interlocuteur se concentrera davantage sur le contenu que sur la forme.

L’accent utilisé n’est pas vraiment important ; ce qui est important est de bien parler et d’établir une communication empathique, en harmonie avec l’autre. Un interlocuteur agréable est agréable, peu importe son accent.

Dans cette vidéo (en anglais, espagnol et portugais), mes amis polyglottes et moi-même discutons de nos propres choix en matière d’accents. J’espère que vous allez l’adorer!.


Traduit à partir de l’anglais par Alexandre Avignon et lu par Solal.

Audio file at the end of this post.

Alexandre Avignon (traducteur) est un français qui  possède un DUT Métiers du Livre et une LP en iconographie obtenus à l’IUT Charlemagne (Nancy).

En plus du français, il possède un bon niveau d’anglais, allemand et’italien et apprend en auto-didacte l’espagnol et le néerlandais. Ses rêves sont devenir écrivain, maitriser au moins quatre langues étrangères et voyager. Il vit actuellement à Limoges en quête d’un travail et de nouvelles expériences.

Solal Cohen-SteinerSolal Cohen-Steiner est un français qui vit à Berlin. Il se passionne depuis plusieurs années pour les langues étrangères. Après l’anglais et l’allemand il apprend l’espagnol et le japonais. Il tient un blog sur le sujet, AstucesLangues et aide également ses compatriotes à apprendre l’anglais sur son site









































“De gustibus disputandum non est”と古代ローマ人が言っていたように、蓼食う虫も好き好きです。言語学習において優れた学習者とは、何をするのが楽しいのかがすぐわかる人です。そしてこれは当然のことながらアクセントにも言えます。聞きたいアクセントを選ぶと、もっと聞いていたいと思いますし、時間を忘れてしまうものです。







saeko-featuredTranslated by: Saeko Hosokawa who is Japanese and lives in London, enjoys learning languages such as English, Italian, Spanish, Chinese. She is also a qualified japanese language teacher, gives private lessons. She hopes to learn French, Swedish too.

Audio file at the end of this post.




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Transcript of the video

Richard: You speak Brazilian Portuguese

Susanna: It’s a mix. My accent is a mixture of the Portuguese accent from Brazil and that of Portugal.

Richard: How is that possible? How is it possible to speak a mixture of Brazilian and continental Portuguese?

Susanna: It’s because I live in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. No, I’m just kidding. Where I live in San José, California, there’s a large population of Portuguese immigrants from the Azores islands. They have their own radio station. When I was driving to work, I would listen to their radio station. So I started with Portuguese from Portugal. At home, I had a Portuguese language book, Com liçença, Brazilian Portuguese for Spanish speakers. Then I started with Brazilian music. Now I have Brazilian friends and I go to a weekly Brazilian hiking group on Saturdays. We walk and we speak in Portuguese. But when I don’t want to speak in Portuguese, I speak in English and they speak to me in Portuguese. So I hear a lot of Brazilian Portuguese. But I think my vowels are more Portuguese, they are more closed.

But I want to work in Brazil because in Brazil, there’s a big market for English and Spanish language learning.  They are getting ready for the Olympic Games and the World Cup. So I think I need to improve my Brazilian pronunciation to work in Brazil.

Richard: And sing as well?

Susanna: Oh yes and sing “Nossa. nossa. ai você me mata…”

Richard: My daughter is always singing this song. It’s really popular in Macedonia now. My daughter wants to sing this song. I thought it was really odd that she could pronounce all of those words. I didn’t know she could sing all of the words. It’s weird to me.

Susanna: Your daughter can sing the whole song? Wow! She is a very intelligent 5 year old girl.

Luca: She’s Richard’s daughter.

Susanna: Yes, of course, she’s Richard’s daughter. Luca, how did you learn Portuguese?

Luca: I wanted to learn continental Portuguese. There’s always this issue with accents. People wonder why an Italian would speak American English. Or French. Or Spanish, I didn’t know that there were so many misunderstandings between people from Spain and Mexico or from other parts of Latin America, they don’t like the Spanish accent. People ask me why I speak with a Spanish accent. But in Italy it’s normal to learn European Spanish or European Portuguese. When I meet people from Brazil, the first question they ask me is, “Why do you speak with such an annoying accent?”

Normally, Brazilians, well you know, it’s like in American English, the vowels are more open. The French, the Spanish, foreigners in general, think that Brazilian Portuguese sounds nicer than European Portuguese. But there are also political and historical issues. It’s Brazil, it’s important to speak Brazilian Portuguese. But if you speak continental Portuguese, people understand what you are saying, but they don’t like how it sounds. So if you want to work in Brazil, it’s better to speak with a Brazilian accent. Many people say that Portuguese is Portuguese. But the accent is part of the country’s identity. If you speak with a Brazilian accent, it’s different, people will treat you differently.

I’m Italian and I don’t know if I will go to work in Brazil. Maybe I will have to speak slower so people can understand everything I am saying. Normally, the issue is that Brazilians don’t like my accent so they prefer to speak in English. This isn’t the case with everyone. But there are some people who like the Portuguese accent and Portugal. But many Brazilians and other foreigners (non-Portuguese people) don’t like the Portuguese accent. They say it’s ugly.

I think you have to learn a language to say if it’s nice or not. For example, with Dutch or Portuguese, people say they don’t like those languages. But after learning them, it’s a different story. It’s the same with Catalan. When I was in Barcelona, in Catalunya, I didn’t like the sound of Catalan at the beginning but now I like it a lot. The first thing to do is to speak the language. With Brazilians … with Spanish, I get the question about my accent and why I speak European Spanish. At first, I didn’t understand why people asked me this.  I am speaking Spanish. There are many similarities between the different versions of Spanish, the one in Latin America and the one in Spain. But behind the accent,  there are other things that foreigners don’t understand at first but later on they learn when they speak with people.

Susanna: I think we should talk about accents. Sometimes people ask me, “Do you think I should start with Mexican, Peruvian or European Spanish?”

I think you should listen to all of the accents at the beginning. I started with European Portuguese and I don’t have any problems understand Portuguese people when they speak. And I understand almost everything that Brazilians say. But some people tell me, “I started with Brazilian Portuguese and I can’t understand people from Portugal. And I say, “How can that be? I have no problems understanding them.” The same goes for Spanish because my first Spanish teacher was from Spain and I can understand European Spanish and Latin American Spanish because I hear it, I’ve traveled in Latin America.

My parents, in the USSR, only learned British English. So when they came to the US, it was a big shock to hear American English. What do you two do when you are learning a language with various accents? Do you listen to all of the versions of the language?

Luca: At the very beginning I always use a language series like ASSIMIL. This language series generally offers the European version of languages like French or Spanish. I believe that the way one learns a language plays an important role. Learning with a book and listening to the standard European version of the language is different from, say, going to Quebec and being exposed to Quebequois. As for Portuguese, I actually had the choice between ASSIMIL bresilien and ASSIMIL Portuguese from Portugual, and I opted for the Portuguese version so it was a deliberate choice I made. I think it is important to go for one version of the language since the very beginning especially if you want to sound like a native and not mix up accents. You can always absorb other accents later

I think it is important to do that if you want to acquire a well-defined linguistic identity. As said, I the case of French and Spanish it was easy for me. In Italy the only choice you get is Spanish from Spain and French from France, there are no such courses as “argentinian Spanish” or other versions from South America. As for German, ..Germany had a couple of colonies but it is not a language spoken everywhere. One normally learns “hochdeutsch” – German from Germany. Unless you go to Austria or Switzerland and get exposed to other regional variations of the language, one normally learns German from Germany both in schools and in language series like ASSIMIL. English is a special case because American English is wide spread thanks to movies for example. My adive is to choose one accent. You always have time to explore other accents if you want to. Now, this is only my humble opinion and I guess that the King of languages will offer a different perspective

In my case, I first started learning Spanish in Madrid, with a Spanish teacher. I later moved to France and I was exposed to a southern accent, andalusian Spanish, by living with people from Malaga. I then moved to other countries and lived with South Americans, namely from Peru, Ecuador Venezuela, and I picked up a “middle atlantic” accent. Nevertheless, I always go back to castlian Spanish, especially andalusian. I can speak standard Spanish but I got used to andalusian and when I speak the standard version I have to focus on how to articulate every word, and it is more difficult if you have to speak to people for a long period of time. As for German, I lived in a region near Holland, where “low-german” is spoken, so I used to say “dat, wat” instead of “dass, was”. I also had friends from Switzerland, so I like playing with numbers and use th “swiss version” of those. I think that being able to speak with different accents is enriching and gives you the possibility of understanding the people of those countries better, because it makes you aware of differences within the same world. I think that absorbing new accents is a valuable thing to do.



 Audio files of this post – English, Italian, French and Japanese:

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