Speakers of a foreign language who identify with the native speakers' culture will have less of an accent in that tongue, according to a new study by researchers from Haifa University. The study, published in the International Journal of Bilingualism, suggests that fluency in the second language is related to how the speaker wishes to be viewed by the majority group.
Three groups of 20 people with identical socioeconomic characteristics participated in the study. One group was comprised of native Hebrew speakers, the second of Arab Israelis who learned Hebrew in grade school, and the third of immigrants from Russia, who learned Hebrew in junior high or later.
All were recorded while reading a Hebrew-language text. They also filled out a questionnaire that measured their empathy with Israeli culture via 29 statements. A group of native Hebrew speakers then rated each participant's accent.
While the immigrants and the Arab Israelis were found to have similarly heavy accents on the whole, Russian immigrants displayed an inverse ratio between heaviness of accent and level of empathy with Israeli culture. No such link could be seen in the Arabic speakers.
The researchers believe this demonstrates that Arab speakers consider their accent as something that distinguishes them from the majority.