Non-native speakers of the English language tend to carry the intonation, accent or pronunciation from their mother tongue into their English speech. (The language spoken by a person before their second language has reached the stage of native speaker or near-native speaker competence is known as an interlanguage.)

Grammar differences (e.g. the lack or surplus of tense, number, gender etc.) in different languages often lead to grammatical mistakes that are tell-tale signs of the origin. Sometimes non-verbal body language also gives away the origin of the speaker.

Another factor is how the English language is taught to young school children. The pronunciation students use will be affected by that used by their teachers. So there may be distinctive features of pronunciation in those from a particular country, such as India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, etc.

Foreign accents in alphabetical order:

Table of contents
1 Cantonese (Hong Kong Chinese)
2 Dutch
3 East Asia (including Vietnamese, Chinese)
4 Farsi (Persian, Iranian)
5 Finnish
6 French
7 German
8 Hebrew
9 The Indian Subcontinent
10 Irish
11 Italian
12 Japanese
13 Korean
14 Mandarin Chinese
15 Philippines
16 Polish
17 Russian
18 Serbian
19 Spanish
20 Swedish
21 External links

Cantonese (Hong Kong Chinese)


  • pronouncing voicing consonants as voiceless, especially at the end of the words. More often with Dutch speakers from the Netherlands than from Belgium.

East Asia (including Vietnamese, Chinese)

  • Due to the syllabic nature of their native languages, East Asians tend to drop or amplify the ending sound of English words, e.g. "an", "ant", & "and" sound the same.
  • When raising the tone at the end of a question "You did what?", often the last syllable is lengthened and sounds almost like it is being sung.

Farsi (Persian, Iranian)

  • It's hard to differentiate Persians since they have really no difficulty pronouncing special sounds (excluded from the English alphabet) like:
    • /x/ (like the Spanish: "Juan"),
    • /jh/ (like the French: "Jack"),
    • /ch/ (like the English "child"),
    • /z/ (like "zoo"),
    • /sh/ (like "ship).
    They have a equivalent consonant for all these phonemes in their alphabet.
  • Persians tend to have some difficulties, when learning English, to pronounce "th"; both as thing and this, which of course sounds like "ting" and "dis". Also /w/ like the word walk, can sound like "vak".
  • Persian can sound very melodic with many variations. It's quite different from the Arabic language, contrary to what one might expect at first.
  • They usually "drag" on the last vowel in fairly long words, while the first is "stressed"; the country Andorra might sound like "ahndoraaaa"
  • they can trill their R:s if they want to.
  • It can sometimes sound like as if Persians where pronouncing the first word in some names with "capital letters" (like they are written), names like "Stockholm" or "Bronx" can sound like "EStockholm" or "BEronks".


  • P and B confused (in Finnish 'p' is pronounced almost the same as 'b').
  • Due to Finnish always stressing the first syllable, English words accented on the second syllable are often misstressed. "VOcaPUlary".
  • Difficulty with 'z', pronounced as 's'.



  • 'th', pronounced as 's' or 'z'. (German lacks both [T] and [D].)
  • 's' sometimes also pronounced as 'z'.
  • 'd' , 'g' or 'b' at the end of a word may be pronounced as 't', 'ck' or 'p'.
  • German doesn't distinguish between adjectives and adverbs, so Germans often drop '-ly' from adverbs.
  • Use of [ö] for English syllabic [r].
  • Lack of distinction between [E] and [&]; thus "bed" and "bad" are pronounced the same.
  • Difficulty with the English r. (The German r is a voiced uvular sound. However, the English /r/ is an allophone of German's /R/.)


  • Hebrew uses a palatalized ("soft") /l'/, whereas English uses a non-palatalized ("hard") /l/
  • Hebrew has only 5 vowels and generally does not use diphthongs (except for foreign borrowings); Hebrew speakers may therefore mispronounce some of the English vowels.
  • Hebrew speakers may sometimes gesture or raise their voice in a way which native English speakers may find excessive, although it is considered perfectly normal in Israel.

The Indian Subcontinent


  • Words are pronounced in a rhotic fashion - that is, the 'r' sound is almost always pronounced, even where an English speaker with a Received Pronunciation accent would silence the letter, e.g. car, father.
  • The 'th' sound as in 'theme' is commonly rendered as the 't' sound in 'team'. As can be seen, this may lead to ambiguity.
  • In Reported Speech, the reported clause is often preserved in its direct form, e.g. 'John asked me to buy a loaf of bread' becomes 'John asked me would you buy a loaf of bread'.
  • Some older people pronounce the 'v' sound in 'video' as 'w' in 'witch.' This is because neither letter is native to the Irish language, and 'v' was first accepted as a translation for both in loan words. The English 'w' sound (as in washing) is associated with the vocative lenition 'h' in Irish. That is, where h follows some letters like b, the sound changes: bh sounds like 'v'. Speakers subconsiously try and remove this h, causing the difference.


  • Tendency to add soft vowel sounds to English words that end in consonants, e.g. "I liker the houser" or "I eater chocolate". This arises from the fact that most Italian words end in vowels.
  • Tendency to say "dee" instead of "the".
  • Tendency to lengthen the short "ate" sound in words like "chocolate" (i.e. pronounced chocolut by native speakers) to the "ate" sound in "late".
  • The 'r' sound is almost always pronounced, since in Italian the 'r' sound is very strong.



Mandarin Chinese


  • Tagalog and many other native languages do not have a number of phonemes present in English and so there is a tendency to substitute these phonemes especially if the speaker in not fluent in English: /f/ as /p/ and /v/ as /b/. In addition, the following sounds are often interchanged: /dZ/ [j] as /dj/ [diy] or [dy], /S/ [sh] as /sj/ [siy] or [sy], and /tS/ [ch] as /tj/ [tiy] or [ty].
  • Tagalog also has only five vowels so the many vowel sounds in English are usually mapped to the nearest-sounding existing vowel.
  • tendency to add the 'i' sound before words that start with s+consonant (e.g., sport becomes is-ports)
  • often use "he" for females due to lack of gender in personal pronouns in the Filipino language.



  • often a palatalized dental /r'/ is used before vowels, which is absent in English.
  • lack of differentiation between /x/ (as in "Jose") and /h/ (as in "hot")


  • often a palatalized dental /r'/ is used before vowels, which is absent in English.
  • lack of differentiation between /x/ (as in "Jose") and /h/ (as in "hot")
  • often pronounce 'w' as 'v'
  • sound 'th' is often pronounced as 't' or even 'd'
  • no diphthongs
  • sometimes "he" or "she" could be used where "it" should; on the other hand, ships could end with "it"
  • articles may lack
  • in writing, adjectives (english music, serbian language) and multi-word proper names (Spanish empire, United states of America) may not be capitalised


  • Trouble with /Z/ and /dZ/, which don't exist in Spanish.
  • Pronunciation of /v/ as /b/, as the letter "v" is pronounced /b/ in many Spanish dialects.
  • If a word begins with /s/ + consonant, adding an /E/ to it: Espanish. #/s/+consonant does not exist in Spanish.


  • Sing-songy intonation. Swedes often speak English with a melodic intonation, ending sentences on an up-note, much parodied (The Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show is a well known example and a Usenet institution.)
  • 'th' is often pronounced as 'd' or 't'
  • as Swedish lacks a [z], it is often pronounced [s]
  • /ch/ as in child, is often pronounced as /sh/ or "shaield"
  • [dZ] as in jump is sometimes pronounced as [Z] (pleasure) or even [j] (yes)
  • Frequently use the wrong person of verbs (e.g. "they is"). Swedish verbs do not inflect for person.
  • Trouble with the ending -ed, as the following sentence (from the parody sitcom Soap): "Do you think I'm finished?" (pronounced "Finnish"). Answer: "No, Swedish!"
  • Difficulty with the Rs (southern parts of Sweden), sounds more like "gh".

External links