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I'm an American who lives in Germany and hear many kinds of English spoken by many nationalities.

Just as "one can either write organization or organisation but the main point is to be consistent" I have also generally applied this rule to my speech.

Especially when I was teaching English I would make it a point to not say phrases such as:

Spot on!

even though I thought it was cool. And instead of saying:

Shall we go?

I would say:

Do you want to go?

I can imagine if you are teaching English or if you are representing a company from London or New York or Sydney you have a certain obligation to speak as if you come from that place.

In what contexts is it important to maintain your accent or dialect?

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+1 interesting question. I retagged "accents" as "accent" because other posts have used "accent". I left "dialects" as other posts have used that. –  Vincent McNabb Aug 16 '10 at 10:19
    
Great question. Perhaps it should have the pronunciation tag? –  Neil Fein Aug 17 '10 at 2:53
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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If you don't come from London then I don't think you should try to speak like you come from London. If you are representing a company then I think your primary obligation is to be understood, which may involve easing up on the idioms.

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Sometimes I meet non-native English speakers who have learned English in so many places that they have a unique dialect all their own, like a German with a Scottish base accent but who speaks with lots of Hispanic slang he picked up in L.A. Wonderful. But I think in your native language you are a bit more obligated to maintain whatever dialect you grew up with. –  Edward Tanguay Aug 13 '10 at 14:29
    
I personally find it cute when Americans and British try to mimic the New Zealand accent. I often encourage them as well. I think that having a mixed accent can make a person sound more interesting, which could be an advantage for them. –  Vincent McNabb Aug 16 '10 at 10:28
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From a non-native English speaker point of view:

I guess my accent will always be Brazilian. I'm not sure if I could or should try to change that.

It's clear to me that accent and pronunciation are two different things, even though I'm not sure where exactly the line that separates them is. (Maybe this would be an interesting separate topic here.)

Anyway, given that pronunciation is not really accent, I'd say that the way that I pronouce the words, as well as the words that I choose should match the ones of the place where I am in, because I will be better understood this way.

Now, if I went to Portugal, I wouldn't try to speak Portuguese like a Portuguese. I would still speak Portuguese like a Brazilian, since in this case I would be speaking my native language. I would however avoid phrases that are spoken in Brazil only to make sure that I could be understood.

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Yes, I also don't try to mimic others pronunciation –  stacker Aug 18 '10 at 22:11
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I leave some British in my accent as a sanity preservation device:-) What really bugs me is when people keep telling me I'm saying it 'wrong' even though the meaning is completely clear, so I get my own back my continuing to say "shh-edule" instead of "sked-ule" for schedule.

I do, however, try and use American words when I know them just to avoid confusion.

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Interesting, when speaking to British friends I say "spot on" and call French Fries "chips" but I can't bring myself to say "shh-edule", it's such an oddity, what don't you also say "I go to shhhool and will shhhi down the mountain". I wonder what the etomology is. –  Edward Tanguay Oct 29 '10 at 8:27
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It might cause a schemozzle if you displayed schadenfreude if your schmaltzy-about-Schubert geologist colleague dropped the schist or schorl he was schlepping, into his schnappes, schav or schnitzel. –  Edwin Ashworth Dec 5 '12 at 8:05
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I don't think that it is 'important' to keep it, but it can enhance your conversations (business and social).

As someone who has lived in many countries, I find that you do best by approximating the pronunciation of the local language in their tongue. (You still will naturally use phrases that native speakers wouldn't, thereby keeping a certain 'flavour' to your speech).

This even works amongst English speakers. I am a decent mimic and can easily 'sound' like a local wherever I go which makes it easier to be understood, but by keeping my full vocabulary available brings a unique touch to the conversation. I never try to sound "Oirish", that'd be insulting.

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