A while back, when I was talking to one friend of mine (we are both English language learners), he "mispronounced" a word so I pointed it out. He responses with something like "Well, I think that's my accent. People from China just talk like that."

That kind of makes sense, because people from different ethnic groups (California v.s.Florida v.s. India) must have a lot of differences in their pronunciation, but that's definitely not mispronunciation. This makes me wonder at which point mispronunciation becomes your accent. I appreciate thoughts from both those who use English as a first and as a second language. (<-- I'm certain I skewed up the grammer of the previous sentense; could someone fix it for me?)

I need to know this because certain vocals in English are really hard to make for me. If that's just part of my accent then I might as well just keep it.


I see the difference between accent and mispronunciation like this. If you have a particular way of pronouncing a particular sound - such as "r", or such as the /eɪ/ in "late" - that's part of your accent. But if you are pronouncing sounds that are always silent in standard English (such as the "k" in "knee"), or omitting sounds that are always pronounced in standard English, or substituting in the wrong sounds (such as a short i in "find" or a long i in "myth"), those are mispronunciations.

There is nothing wrong with speaking with a foreign accent (as long as you don't mind people knowing that you are foreign - but sometimes that can be advantageous, since if they know you're not a native speaker they might speak a bit more clearly and might be less likely to expect you to abide by social conventions you're unfamiliar with).

However, if your accent is particularly strong then it may make it harder for people to understand you. It might also cause people to think you are less fluent in the language than you actually are. So it is advisable to make an effort.


You are confusing a number of different issues.

A dialect is a version of a language spoken by a significant proportion of native speakers in a particular region. It has its own peculiarities of pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. It is to be distinguished from the accent peculiar to native speakers of something other than English. My father-in-law immigrated to the US when he was 11; he had an accent, but the dialect of English that he spoke with respect to vocabulary and grammar was Midwestern American.

Indian English admittedly challenges that clear-cut a division. Almost none of the native Indians who speak English learned it as a native language; they learned it as a second language. Yet it is the second language, the lingua franca of the well educated in a particular region, namely sub-Himalaya. It is much like Latin in early modern Europe. Despite its not strictly fitting my definition, it seems to me to fit better by classifying it as a dialect of English rather than a mere accent: it's the way a majority of people speak English in a region where English is commonly spoken.

  • 2
    Native speakers from different regions also have accents, though; for example, many people from Liverpool pronounce hair and hare like her. – Kate Bunting Oct 18 '20 at 8:13
  • @KateBunting I said the same thing when mentioning "pronunciation" and "with respect to vocabulary and grammar." I did not mean to imply that dialects do not include accents. If you tell me what about my answer seemed to imply that exclusion, I will be happy to edit appropriately. – Jeff Morrow Oct 19 '20 at 4:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.