I suspect in Panjabi one of the hardest things I will have to be able to master is the different tones. I understand the basic concept, and can hear the difference if pointed out to me, but I am not sure I will find it easy to reconize by myself to start out with. However, I suppose I could be wrong.
Any time over the past many years that I have tried pronouncing things in a foreign language, I have found people generally told me that I have a decent accent (not too thick and horrible to listen to I guess) trying out even 1 word or 2. I imagine I currently have a pretty thick accent in Panjabi but I have been working on it privately with several people, going over difficult words for me to pronounce in person over and over again until they are semi-content with how I say a word…or until I get frustrated and say let’s come back to it later. ;-)
My personal theory is that being very musical helps with hearing the accent, the tones, etc. in any language. Music is a language of its own, which I learnt quite young, and if you have perfect pitch in music and can imitate (with your voice) the exact tone a note is on, imitating an exact tone in spoken language will surely be easier.
What is interesting, is that when I say a sentence in Panjabi aloud, I can hear that it does NOT come out as i would hope it would. I hear my OWN accent in it right now. Heck, some people who talk who were born and raised in Canada and don’t pick up quite as much as someone born in a Panjabi-speaking part of the world sound like they have an accent to me…it is actually quite interesting. When I read a book silently to myself, my “voice in my head” sounds perfectly unaccented. When I read it aloud, it sounds worse. Oh well…try and try again is what I should keep telling myself!