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Starodetskii Blog

Your accent is your advantage

Konstantin Starodetskii

The story began when I wasn't speaking English at all. I was an adventurous boy in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, and was thinking about other countries as something that happens in fairytales. As I grew a little older, I came across the VHS tape, "English for kids." There was something magical about that tape. It was my first introduction to English.

I've been on and off my language courses up until 7th grade. I didn't need it for my life, but that was the year when I went on an exchange trip to Europe for the first time. I've experienced a cultural shock, which triggered me to make English my second language. I was studying English almost every day immersing myself in it. I've been taking extra courses and signed up for a conversational club. The club hosts were usually from the UK or the US. I was mostly focusing on a British accent because it is popular in Europe. My teachers, family, and peers were expecting me to speak like an English dandy. It didn't bother me that much, because I was focusing on grammar.

After a few years, I've been lucky to get an opportunity to study abroad. I've decided to go to the UK because it was an obvious choice. However, all my plans went into a pipe when I was refused a visa to the UK. I was so angry that I decided I would never go there unless I receive an invitation from Her Majesty herself. When one door closes the other opens, and for the first time, I started considering going to America, and it all suddenly made sense. I focused my energy on learning a standard American accent. Tongue twister practice, reading aloud, and conversing with Americans became the necessity. I was determined to master the right pronunciation.

When I reached a comfortable English-speaking level, I've managed to receive a scholarship to study filmmaking on the East Coast of the United States. After a while, however, I realized that my American accent is not American at all. I was frustrated, and I enrolled in free American accent classes provided by my school. It was a roller-coaster ride. Before each class, I felt like my American accent is flawless, but after, I wasn't sure whether I'm able to speak English at all. I realized that accent change wouldn't happen overnight, but I didn't want to feel inferior all the time.

Then I started to notice unexpected things happening to me. Americans were complementing on my accent; I started hearing random podcasts episodes where successful people were emphasizing the importance of preserving your original voice. My friends were encouraging me to try doing voiceovers. I followed the advice and recorded a series of short audio episodes. The feedback was positive, which inspired me to use the audio files as a draft for a motivational audiobook.

I've entirely let go of my fear of never reaching a decent American accent. As long as every word I'm saying is nice and clear I'm doing a great job. It doesn't matter whether you sound like an American. What matters is that the words you say convey what you mean. That person who listens to you sees the same picture as you imagine it in your head. I'd encourage everyone to embrace their accent. Make it your signature and let the world know what you've got to say.