I do not like people who criticise other people for their foreign language accent difficulties. Of course, you need to be intelligible. Equally obviously, a good accent would be an asset. But…

Most people in England don’t speak English with the “proper” accent and that includes me. I am from the home-counties so I am considered to have a relatively accent-less English compared to a Geordie. Nevertheless, my point is that close enough is good enough. Yet in a French class you may find yourself with one of “those” teachers who wants you to speak perfect French with a perfect accent – which can make learning a language depressing, annoying, frustrating and miserable.

Stephen Fry is absolutely brilliant at accents. But then he is a highly paid and highly trained voice artist among his other skills. Most people can’t do what he can do, which is one reason for his fame. So if it isn’t reasonable to expect you to be able to quickly and easily acquire a fantastic Birmingham accent then why it is expected you can pick up a perfect Spanish accent. It makes no sense.

More weird yet, I once heard a German with an unusually strong German accent giving English people a hard time in a classroom for not being able to speak German without an English accent.

Do you know the song in the sound of music that starts with “doh a deer a female deer, ray a drop of golden sun“? Well, assuming you can sing tolerably well, try to split a note. Sing the note between “doh” and “ray”. Most western people can’t. It’s not as easy as trying is it? The next time someone gives you a hard-time about your accent ask them to sing a half-note, because they are asking you to generate a half-vowel.

Be happy – a non-excessive foreign accent just makes a language sound a bit more interesting. And if you do want to improve your accent, you might start by trying to work out the difference between how you talk and someone from Birmingham or Liverpool talks. It’s actually a better place to begin than trying to pick up a foreign accent straight away.