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The author argues that certain types of variation in the pronunciation of English can have a significant effect on how listeners identify an accent and explores how this variation affects the development of certain attitudes towards the speaker. Specific sounds that are difficult for many learners to acquire (e.g. the initial sounds in ‘this’ or ‘June’) are examined in terms of attitudes towards speakers’ pronunciation, including an original comparison of two different kinds of non-native accents (German and Greek). The results of the study provide a basis for further research in second language acquisition and applied linguistics as well as practical information for language instructors at all levels of English education.