Everyone who speaks has an accent. What is an accent? It is the way a person or a community speaks. We are born with the capability of making sounds. We learn the language that is spoken around us. Hence, our accent is similar to the people of our community. It’s not just people who have different accents. Animals like goats too make sounds different from goats of other areas. When someone speaks in a different accent, we can immediately recognize that they are different from us.
Earlier, people used to get their accent from the people around them in their family, neighborhood and school. Nowadays people make their kids watch international TV shows, thus opening the door for external influences. Even then, our mother tongue plays a big role as our brain masters the motor skills and cognitive patterns of the first language we learn. This affects the way we learn and speak other foreign languages. The patterns internalized while learning the first language is carried over to the pronunciation of the second learnt language. Thus, we speak the second language with an accent of the first learnt language.
While some people grow up speaking only one language, there are communities where children are taught more than one language. It has been observed that these people speak the third language they learn with an accent of the second language.
Can people get rid of their native accent to speak other languages without an accent? Some can. This depends on genetics and life experiences. People pick up the accent of the new areas they move to. People claim that it is pretentious to do that but it actually helps in communicating with people there.
Sometimes, people imitate what they see or hear in the sitcoms they watch or songs they hear. Mostly, people fail terribly and sound stupid. They are laughed at. It’s not just about imitating someone, accents also depend on how people hold their mouth and tongue in a position while talking. One cannot just learn that by watching their favorite actor talk.
We have this habit of considering the West to be superior and hence have immense respect for the British and American accent. That does not harm anyone till we start criticizing our own accent. It is only natural for Indians to have an Indian accent and not speak like foreigners do.