Reactions to foreign accents in the English language

Essay, 2005
6 Pages, Grade: Class 2.1 (66%)


Reactions to foreign accents in the English language

Length: 1,617 words

The study of foreign accents and their acceptance of native English speakers has become the favourite topic for this scale study. Therefore, the purpose is to find out if there are differences between the reactions of British and American English native-speakers towards foreign accents. An accent is linguistically known as “a method of pronouncing words common to a certain region. It can also refer to the stress on a certain syllable” (, cited 11th November 2005). Consequently, a foreign accent in a different language is a method of pronouncing words common to the speaker’s mother tongue. The British and American nationalities were chosen because they both have English as their first language. Thus, ten questionnaires were prepared which contain questions regarding the age, gender and nationality, whether the participants like or dislike foreign accents in general and their reactions to special foreign accents. Altogether, five British and five Americans of similar age and of equal distribution in terms of gender were asked to complete the questionnaire. The German, French and Indian accents were chosen because all three are very different regarding their intonation, rhythm and pronouncement and can therefore easily be differentiated.

Hence, the remainder of this scale study is divided into four sections, the procedure and the reasons behind the structure of the questionnaire, the results of British and Americans respondents including a comparison and analysis of the results, a discussion of the findings in relation to former research and finally, the conclusion.

The questionnaire can be separated in four different types of questions. First, general questions which deal with demographic information such as gender, age and nationality, to categorise the respondents in different groups and possibly identify different tendencies in their reactions. Second, a specific question concerning the attitude towards the foreign accents German, French and Indian. Two answer possibilities are provided which allow the respondent to indicate whether he likes or dislike the three accents. In this question only the possibility to answer with like or dislike is given to receive clear results. Third and fourth, two sets of open-ended questions follow where the respondent is given space to formulate an answer in his own words. The third type of question asks for the reaction of the respondent towards the German, French and Indian accent. Finally, the last type of question deals with other foreign accents in the English language which the respondents like or dislike. This questionnaire is designed in such a way as to investigate whether British and Americans differ in terms of preferences and repugnance towards foreign accents in their own language. It simplifies the scale study to ask volunteers with nearly the same age and gender to clarify tendencies underlying their reactions.

After the pilot provided good results the questionnaires, which can also be found in the appendix of this scale study, were given to British and American volunteers. In Britain the questionnaire was handed to a random group of five members providing each with the time necessary to complete the questionnaire before handing it back. In addition, the questionnaire was sent to an Australian who in turn chose five Americans at random who completed the questionnaire and sent it back via mail. Finally, no follow-up interview was conducted to supplement the questionnaire.

The five British participants were 26 to 45 years old and the majority likes foreign accents in English. Mostly the French and Indian accent is liked while the German accent is disliked by more than two respondents. In most cases similar adjectives are used to describe the reaction towards these three foreign accents. The German accent is often described as precise, hard, cold, strict and aggressive. This is completely contrary to the French accent which is characterized as soft, romantic, sexy and gentle. In almost the same way British respondents describe the Indian accent as soft and rhythmic. However, one participant describes this accent as difficult to understand. For the British respondents it was very important not to categorise the people behind these accents but to base their reactions only on the accents which obviously complies with the objectives of this scale study. Generally, other soft European accents are the ones mostly liked whereas African accents are disliked. To sum up the British participants in general like foreign accents in their language, some more some less. Undoubtedly they mostly have the same opinion regarding different foreign accents independent of their age or gender.

In contrast to the British reactions the American participants, now living in Australia, were 26 to 32 years old and like foreign accents on a majority. The German accent is characterized as easy to understand but sometimes hard. However, one respondent is fascinated by the German accent and likes to hear it. Although the French accent is described as romantic, the Americans are not so fascinated by this accent as the British participants are. Furthermore, the Indian accent is not liked by the American respondents because they describe it as hard to understand and clearly recognisable in the English language. In addition, the Americans who were now living in Australia indicate that they obviously like the Australian accent but also the Spanish, Irish, Arabic and Turkish accent. Otherwise, the Scottish accent is more disliked by the American participants than by their British counterparts what can be followed from the different distances between Britain and Australia to Scotland.


Excerpt out of 6 pages


Reactions to foreign accents in the English language
University of East London
Class 2.1 (66%)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
462 KB
Reactions, English
Quote paper
Nicole Brand (Author), 2005, Reactions to foreign accents in the English language, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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