Perseverance is all you need!

I did not speak a word of english until I turned 10 years old.That too, I started with basic english sentences such as: "This is a boy, This is an apple, I love apples, This is a cat, This is a dog, A dog has a tail.” These were very basic english sentences. English was not my primary language but when I came to America, I was an adult. By this time I had learnt to communicate in basic english language, but any time I had to express something complicated, I would fumble or become silent. People are very forgiving in the U.S. They always helped, tried their best to not let me feel embarrassed. I concluded that there is no short-cut to solve this problem. I learnt that writing will help me improve my english language learning. I started writing more . Very soon I started to love writing. I was able to express myself and my thoughts in my writing. Writing turned out to pay off a lot. When I wrote, I had enough time to process my thoughts and express them on the paper. I still had a very thick accent. Accents tell you which country you are born in. Beyond country and region, accent also tells us a lot about which social class a person grew up in, their level of education.This can represent a strong bond. I consciously started working on improving my accent.It was my conscious choice to shift my accent towards American english. I wanted to be in the position, where I travel from one end of America to another end, and pass the accent test with as little sniffs as possible. Along the journey of correcting my American accent, I used to listen to the radio a lot. When I am cooking, cleaning, exercising, the radio is always on. Over a few months, I realized that I have improved a lot. I was passively grasping a lot of understanding in dialogue delivery. I can now communicate in a more colloquial way. The more I listened to the podcast, the more I would find flaws in my english speaking skills. I figured, what I was doing was not enough. In the meantime, every now and then I would get that disapproving look because of my accent. I still did not have the neutral American accent, and it caused unhappiness inside my heart. I wanted to sound obvious, so people could recognize me without an effort. I was lagging, but I was still not disheartened. My next strategy was to repeat after the radio hosts. Word by word; sentence by sentence. It was very tiring. I wanted to be the same way as I was. I wanted to just chill and relax without worrying , “what will people think?” Every night in the dark it felt so gloomy and depressing, but thankfully every morning, I would have my confidence back. After 10 months of continuous repetition and practice, it started to show the result. I felt more confident speaking to people.The fear and thought that someone is judging me became less everyday. Now I don't have trouble ordering food in restaurants. I can order exactly what I want. Every now and then I would have the classic set-backs. Accents are a point of connection, and connecting to people was very important to me. Not only me, but all of us are constantly influenced by the people we are surrounded with and that extends to accents too -- any Indian who has moved to America will hear from their own people that they have gone very stylish in their accent, even though they would themselves do the same thing. Even though it happens subconsciously when you intend to change your accent, I have not found anything this difficult to change on purpose. Some Days I have good learning experiences and some days are very bad. I still remember a story where I went to order a salad plate, and I wanted to add Ranch dressing, but I was not clear enough because of my accent. The waiter was too hesitant to ask me again and I realized that I am not saying it right.I finally got the dressing which I did not want, because the waiter had to guess and add something else. When I was in public talking to my friends, I would not hesitate accepting my thick accent flaw, and I would humbly ask them to correct me with the right pronunciation. Most of the time, someone would take super interest in correcting me, but at times I would also get that “look”. However I never mind constructive criticism but for sure these set-backs take you 2 steps backward, I had to remind myself, “I am learning, Mistake is a part of learning.” Now I am at the point, where people rarely guess what I just said. I never gave up. The fact that I was able to master something this hard, makes me proud of myself. I always remind myself, “if I can conquer this challenge, I can win any challenge in life.” I know, mentally it is more taxing to listen to someone with a foreign accent. People had to listen to me more closely to catch the underlying change in tones and stress. I still listen to podcasts and radio channels to constantly improve myself. Un-learning the accent or language you grew up with, is plain "hard", but now I believe you can do it.

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Krister Axel

Music Blogger and Memoirist at

Ogdensburg, United States