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Americans Are Most Worried About How They Sound Abroad, According to a New Study

Andrea Romano

Is your accent holding you back? According to new research, many Americans are anxious about how they sound when traveling abroad.

Babbel, a language-learning app, teamed up with Dr. Alex Baratta, a lecturer in language, linguistics, and communications at the University of Manchester, to conduct a study that asked participants about their perceptions based on people’s accents.

A whopping 7,500 people in the U.S, U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, and Canada were interviewed on their opinions about foreign speakers attempting their native tongue, as well as their own anxieties about speaking in a foreign language.

The results showed that Americans are most worried when it comes to how their accent is perceived abroad. Fifty-four percent said they feel anxious about their accent when speaking in a foreign language, and 34 percent expressed a desire to get rid of their accent when communicating in a foreign dialect.

Abroad, American accents are most likely to be considered “friendly,” (34 percent of non-U.S. respondents), “straight-forward” (27 percent), and “assertive” (20 percent). Canadians are most likely to find the American accent “assertive” (23 percent of Canadian respondents), and Italians are most likely to find an American accent “funny” (25 percent of Italian respondents).

French accents are rated as the “sexiest” in the U.S. (40 percent of American respondents), while Italian is the most “passionate” (40 percent). Americans also think the Caribbean accent is most “friendly” (37 percent), and British accents are most “sophisticated” (44 percent).

Overall, a Spanish accent is considered most “friendly” (39 percent of all respondents), and German is the most “straightforward” and “assertive” (29 percent and 33 percent, respectively) as well as the most “professional” (26 percent). French and Italian tied for the most “stylish” (30 percent). French accents are also perceived as the most “sophisticated,” “intriguing,” and “sexy” (30 percent, 19 percent, and 37 percent). And Swedish accents are thought to be the most “intelligent” and “trustworthy” (24 percent and 15 percent, respectively).

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On the flip side, American accents are found to be the most “uneducated” (16 percent), Russian accents are regarded as the most “unfriendly” (18 percent), and German and Russian tied for being most “harsh” (38 percent).

The study also found that female (42 percent) and younger respondents (47 percent) are more likely to have anxiety than the global average (38 percent).

On the bright side, Americans and the British are most likely to overcome anxiety about speaking in a foreign language. Babbel even has a few tips for people wanting to tackle their fears and master their chosen foreign language.

More information about learning a foreign language can be found on the Babbel website or by downloading the Babbel app.