Choosing the right accent for your child

We all know that having your child learn another language is important to maximizing his or her development. But in the rush to pick the right language–the practical Spanish? the erudite French? the business-minded Mandarin?–and the right program–immersion? submersion? adversion?–we need to remember to be just as uptight and overbearing about which accent our child acquires. After all, what good is it that Moliny speaks fluent German if she’s going to sound like a hick from upper Saxony?

At first it may seem to take no thought at all, simply pick the prestige dialect of the chosen language and leave it at that. But more often than not an attempt at a prestige dialect will be perceived as a sorry ploy to put on airs, like that time you spent a semester in London and it took you six years to stop spelling behavior with a ‘u.’ With a prestige dialect your child will be seen as a nancyboy or a stuck up American girl. Your only hope for sheltering your child from animus overseas is to outfit them with an accent that is both easy to understand but with enough outsider cache to claim the hipster high ground over the listener.

Below we listed the drawbacks of the prestige dialect to some popular languages along with our suggestions for which accent to choose. If you have suggestions for others, we’d love to hear them!

French

Prestige dialect: Parisian
Drawbacks: sounds snobby outside those 20 arrondissments
Better accent: Algerian
Why: Slightly mysterious, when in France your child will experience prejudice of an oppressed minority, your child will sound like a bad-ass (in the dubbed French version of Scarface Tony Montana’s accent was Algerian)

Spanish

Prestige dialect: Castellano
Drawbacks: effete, condescending, detrimental if you’ve spent thousands on speech therapy curing a lisp.
Better accent: Mexico City
Why: Intelligible Spanish, adept at using Mexico City slang, accent will give your child street cred out the wazoo.

Mandarin

Prestige dialect: Beijing
Drawbacks: may breed contempt in speakers from other areas, those awful hard R’s!
Better accent: Shanghai
Why: The young crowd in Shanghai doesn’t have a strong regional accent, the hard R’s of Beijing aren’t present, people from Shanghai are seen as more international

German

Prestige dialect: Hannoverian
Drawbacks: Pretty sure they never got over the “personal union” with England, boring
Better accent: East Berlin
Why: East Berlin is what the Lower East Side was in the 1990′s, slight uncoothness will never be mistaken for snobby, your child will easily be able to navigate the art scene and rent gallery space

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