I've read many articles about this topic and I'm quite frustrated.

I'm confused, how is accent used to judge a person's proficiency in Englisht? Many people like to say foreigners have terrible English just because they can't catch what they say. Isn't this biased? I'm an Asian and I've been learning English for many years and watching hundreds of English movies. I've difficulties trying to listen what the Britishs talk about in British movies because Britishs have an extremely strong accent. I can't catch many of the words, but that does not mean they have terrible English, right?

Some people say foreigners have terrible English just because their accent is weird and difficult to listen. Isn't this biased?

I think many people are confused about accent and proficiency in English and they tend to think they're the same. I think as long as your interlocutor can hear what you speak and you're able to deliver your messages, accent really doesn't matter much.

What do you guys think? Thanks for your comments.
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One's accent has no bearing on proficency. Quite frankly, an accent can be a most advantageous attribute. From bars to boardrooms, a charming accent can open many doors - provided you speak the language accurately.
Danny2312Some people say foreigners have terrible English just because their accent is weird and difficult to listen. Isn't this biased?
I don't see how this can be considered biased. If a person can't be understood and has to be asked to repeat again and again, native speakers tend to lose patience, no matter what the language. Native speakers' judgments of "weird" and "difficult to listen to" are just as much defects in the mastery of any language as "ungrammatical" and "logically incoherent". In fact, perfectly pronounced but ungrammatical language is often easier to understand than grammatical but horribly pronounced language. The ordinary person in the street does not take into account your scores on English grammar tests or your proficiency at understanding English movies. Only a very small percentage of people find accents charming, and then only when the person with the accent is charming. Nobody has much of a chance of being seen as charming if they are so difficult to listen to that they can't be understood. Emotion: sad

CJ
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Dear Danny

I speak with a South London accent; maybe slightly upper working class

I can remember, when I was young, a group of people commented (kindly) on my accent. I thought - that's strange - I'm talking in an ordinary way and they're the ones talking with an accent!

Of course, everyone has their own accent; and we, from their point of view, will have an accent

I can't agree with Jim on this one. I would rather speak to someone with accent and perhaps some words and grammar of their own - than speak to someone who, for the sake of it, has English that is perfectly pronounced

Best regards, Dave
Just out of curiosity Dave, how often do you encounter people in daily life who have very strong (nearly unintelligible) foreign accents? People on the phone, for example, who work with big-company help desks, clerks and cashiers in shops, waiters in restaurants, that sort of thing. (Don't count anyone in any ESL classes you may be teaching! Or anyone who simply speaks a different variety of English, like Americans and Australians or people from a different part of your own country.)

CJ
Unbiased = free from prejudice, favoritism, etc. You aint gonna millions of native speakers. You favor your kids, when you bequeath your investments to your kids. You aint gonna gimme a penny, aren't you biased?

You are not gonna change native speakers favoring fellow native speakers, any more than I change your favoring your kids in your trusts, wills.

When you listen to any foreign language, you need to train your ears what to listen for. If you were a kid, who hasn't mastered any language, yes, it is easy to listen whatever language is spoken around. If you are adult, your hearing abilities of any foreign language is degraded; yes, you observe differences between how you speak English and how a native BrE speaker speaks his liingo.However, you need to go more than this gross difference: dig in deep as to how different is your accent from a native accent, and account for (explain) those difference, and achieve the accent.

Sure, the accent doesn't matter to you as long as "your interlocutor can hear what you speak and you're able to deliver your messages". From this, one can't derive the cosequence that the accent doesn't matter to OTHERS. To each, his own.
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Dear Jim

I find it hard to believe that South-east London is a more or less diverse place than California. Until one of us can afford the airfare, neither of us can be sure

But the question asked was whether we agree that..

- ".. as long as your interlocutor can hear what you speak and you're able to deliver your messages, accent really doesn't matter much"

I have to say I still agree with that

Best regards, Dave
dave_anonI find it hard to believe that South-east London is a more or less diverse place than California.
I take that to mean that you think we both encounter the same amount of unintelligible English. That may well be, but if so, then you are a much more patient man than I. Hats off to you! Emotion: smile

dave_anonthe question asked was whether we agree that ..
Actually, I took "What do you think?" as an invitation to comment on anything or everything in the post - not just this particular issue. Emotion: smile

CJ
That's the problem: many people tend to think one's accent and proficiency are similar, and if they can't hear what the person is saying, they say one has bad English. This is just wrong, right?
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