I’m going to tell you something: I’m not a native English speaker. I’m Bulgarian and have spent the past 7 years in France. I have an accent, a foreign one, in both English and French.
Despite all of that, I’m a web copywriter & content writer – and I write in English most of the time.
How do I reconcile those conflicting identities and roles?
Does my foreign accent harm my business?
Does it have an impact on my professional relationships?
Let’s discuss that in detail.
For a long time, my accent was a source of anxiety for me.
My accent is not very heavy – but it’s there. It will probably always be there, in one form or another. In both English and French, it’s noticeable.
I’ve always felt anxious about my accent. It was instantly giving me away, exposing me, making me vulnerable. To me, having an accent meant that I wasn’t quite there yet. That I needed to get better. And especially when doing business. I’m a writer, after all, I need to be perfect.
In the past 7 years, I’ve been living in France. Hearing “You have a slight accent, where are you from?” was very discouraging – especially in a professional setting. I wanted to be from here. I didn’t want to be the awkward outsider who doesn’t get all the jokes.
And yet, all of those things were painfully obvious. I was trying to hide them – and never really managed to. For me, my accent was a burning proof that I didn’t belong.
On top of that, I also have a foreign name. Alexandrova? Come on. I’m not fooling anyone with that name.
Until recently, I was uncomfortable with those things. I was disappointed with myself for still having an accent, after all those years of living in France, and of working in English. I was uncomfortable giving my name to people, and then needing to spell it out.
…Until I decided to own it.
I decided to own my accent, my name, and especially my origin. Identity is a complex matter, so I’ll oversimplify things by saying that I identify mostly as Bulgarian with a dash of French. And yet, I write in English.
I decided that I was going to write in English despite my accent and despite the fact that I’m not a native speaker.
Or maybe it was because of them?
As a non-native speaker, I cannot afford to make mistakes. I need to try harder. I need to be better.
So now instead of trying to sweep my accent under the rug, I’ve fully accepted it. Yes, it makes me feel vulnerable sometimes. Yes, impostor syndrome is a bitch.
But I’m grateful for the things that make me different.
In a professional environment, the best you can do is to own your accent
If you also have a non-native accent and are uncomfortable with it, here’s my advice:
It’s obvious anyway.
The thing is, most people don’t care. (Unless you’re doing a voice-over, I assume?)
The more anxious about it you are, the more of an obstacle it will be. Let me explain: your accent doesn’t make it more difficult to achieve your goals. Your anxiety does. And the more you’re trying to hide something, the more you see it, and the more obvious it becomes.
Your accent makes you unique. Make it a part of your personal brand. Do not hide, do not try to be the same as everyone else, and do not try to make yourself small. People don’t want more of the same. The same is boring. Someone who can offer them a different perspective isn’t.
Your accent will make your clients better remember your voice – and your words.
So what if you made a small grammar mistake? Everybody does.
If you can do the job, and if you can do it better than your competitors, nobody will care about your accent. Even if you’re a writer. Show your clients that you can write well and that you can help them achieve their goals – and they’ll trust you.
Is your foreign accent affecting your business?
Ok, let’s be real: it might be. To be fair, it probably is. Both positively and negatively.
Someone might not like you because of your accent. Or because of your prices. Or because of your style. Or because of the color of your shoes. And so what?
Here’s the thing: the world is diverse. The business world, too. Most of my clients are native English speakers – and yet, I bet that many of their clients aren’t.
Of course, as a writer, I need to be fluent. I need to show that I’m capable of writing content that is 100% error-free and well-written. I also need to not let my services be seen as cheaper or less valuable.
Unless you’re a writer, too – and even then! – the occasional mistake will definitely be forgiven. Your accent? I bet there are people who love it.
So, don’t let your accent slow you down. Let it help you build your brand. Let it make you unmistakable.