When are you too old to change your accent?
The simple answer is you are never too old and you can ‘soften’ an accent at any age. An 85-year-old may have no more difficulty than a 20-year-old. People differ depending on their underlying ability to learn new things and their level of motivation. Regardless of age, the desire to change is critical.
Worried about those round shoulders? How many times have you told yourself to sit up straight? If you’re like me, hundreds. But don’t ask me the result as I bet you can guess. Sitting up straight is not difficult to do but remembering to do it comes down to motivation and consistent practice. Forget listening to short pronunciation videos. You’ll soon discover you are wasting your time. Changing accent as an adult calls for a major ‘re-programming’ of your mouth-brain connection.
Okay, so let’s say you’re all fired up and your brain cells are ticking over at a satisfactory speed. Will your age make a difference to changing your accent? Yes it will, but I’m not sure this will give you much comfort.
Research shows that accent becomes ‘fixed’ between 9 and 11 years of age. If a typical child migrates before this age, their English will likely show no influence of their original accent. They will learn to speak with the English accent spoken by the kids and teachers around them. Kids work hard to fit in. Right? That’s where the motivation idea comes in again.
Sadly, if you migrate after the magic age, you are likely to retain some flavour of your first accent, even if only a tiny bit. But is that so bad? Most speakers are content to keep that little bit of their identity. The key is they don’t wish to sound as though they’ve just arrived off the latest plane when they’ve been a local for 10 years.
At the end of the day, if the 11-year-old you is long gone, the only way to test out those brain cells is to give accent change a try. Now the big question is, have you got the motivation?