I’ve blogged before about how we learn a new language or adapt to the local language. First, we pick up the vocabulary associated with the language or the locality. Then we adopt the syntax, the word order or phrasing of the people we interact with. Finally, we pick up the accent itself, and start sound like – or something more approaching that of – the natives.

I think too that a lot depends on how much of a linguistic chameleon we are. Does the chameleon choose to adapt skin tones to the surroundings, or is it subconscious, an automatic thing it has no control over?

After 11 years straight in the same country, I’m starting to properly lose the engrained English accent and take on the accent of Irish-English speakers. For some people it might happen earlier, for some it might almost never happen. How many people have you met who’ve been living in a foreign country for twenty years and still speak with a hugely noticeable foreign accent? Some of them must not want to change, some of them must be incapable of it.

There’s a strong element of consciousness to how quickly we adapt to the language or accent of the place that is not native to us. It says a lot about us as people. Do we want to stand out as different? Do we want to fit in, empathise, be one of them, because it’s good to make an effort but also makes it easier to get things in our favour? Or do we not care either way?

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