Do you think I should try to sound like German native speakers? Even if it sounds a bit too forced? How did you break the barrier between speaking with an accent and speaking like them? How long did it take you?
Yes, I think you should try to sound like a German native speaker if accent is 1. important to you, 2. something you wish to improve upon, 3. a fun/challenging aspect of German you would enjoy spending your time practising, 4. something you already have a talent for (ex: doing voices, can mimic sounds closely), or any combination of those reasons. If you don’t care how you sound or know from experience that you can’t really shake off your native accent when speaking in a foreign language, don’t sweat it.
Generally speaking, there’s two areas to focus on when it comes to “sounding like a German”: rhythm and accent. (Of course properly learning to create words and use everyday slang are high up there too in regards to “sounding German”, but right now we’re only talking about sounding native in the sense that, grammar and cultural mannerisms aside, your German sounds like someone who has always spoken German).
If you get down the rhythm by listening to German music, Youtubers, and best of all audiobooks on tape/online and r e p e a t i n g t h em u n t i l y o u a r e b l u e i n t h e f a c e, you’ll sound less like an automated robot or a theatrical soandso who Over-Emphasizes EVERY Word IN a WEIrd WAY. And in the beginning it will sound forced and almost like you’re doing charicatures or standup, but that’s all right; it’ll tone down a few notches once you get used to it. The alternative is telling someone what an amazingly incredible experience you had over the weekend!!! while sounding like your dog just died.
With accent, the first thing you want to do is reduce reduce reduce the non-German sounds from other languages that pop up when you’re saying a perfectly fine German word. Then choose an accent you would like to learn specifically, preferebly one from a certain region or simply that of an individual with a lot of audio material to play nonstop. (My accent model was Bill Kaulitz, then I somewhat got into Berlinerisch/Brandenburgisch, but this accent only comes out slightly when I am in those areas of Germany.)
I think my enthusiasm for the German language was so high that it would have been impossible for any barrier to get in the way of me trying to speak with natives. From the second I began, I constantly leveled up with random German speakers I came across and was not shy to speak when I came to Germany.
For a timeline of how my German sounded, I’d recommend listening to a clip from some of videos below where I’m speaking German. I have been documenting my German learning, accent and studies on YT since 2009.
- After 1 year: 2009 (warning: this one’s audio is super loud in the beginning!)
- After 2 years: 2010
- After 3 years: 2011(while I was studying in Berlin)
- After 5 years: 2013 (while I was living in Koblenz)
- After 6 years: 2014
Have fun learning accents!