“Your accent is so cute!” People love it. Your cultural background can be a great conversation starter. But do you want people to label you by your accent? Probably not. Maybe that’s not the first and only thing you want to talk about. It should be your choice. Here are 8 steps to reduce your...
“Your accent is so cute!” People love it. Your cultural background can be a great conversation starter. But do you want people to label you by your accent? Probably not. Maybe that’s not the first and only thing you want to talk about. It should be your choice. Here are 8 steps to reduce your accent in English:
1-Ask for feedback on your pronunciation
You can’t get there on your own. Open up your potential by getting other people involved. Maybe people only speak up and tell you that your pronunciation sounds foreign when they didn’t understand you. Ask them to help you by telling you which words don’t come out with the correct pronunciation. That way, you get more native speakers on your team. Also, make sure they know that you won’t be offended or annoyed if they correct you.
2-Embrace your mistakes and other people’s corrections
Nobody says things exactly right the first time. Nobody. So, don’t get down and discouraged when you find out you’ve been saying something with a non-standard pronunciation. The only way to know how to improve is to see what needs to change. It can be tiresome to be on alert 24/7 about your speech and accent. But the reward of improving your American English is worth the effort.
Once a native speaker sets you off in the right direction with your pronunciation, you can take over. If you supplement the corrections you receive with realizations you come to on your own, you will cover more ground. People can help you here and there, but you need to put in the brunt of the work.
When you learn a new sound, it’s like you get the key that unlocks the proper pronunciation of hundreds, maybe even thousands of words that use that same sound. It’s like a treasure hunt. See how many words you can find that use the new sound you learned. Step out of your comfort zone and find those new words!
4-Mix pronunciation practice with real life
Don’t just practice and move on. Seriously, how many times do you say “See spot run” in real life? What about “Jack and Jill went up the hill” or “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers?” Not often, if ever. These sentences and tongue twisters are excellent for becoming comfortable making a sound. But they may not be useful at work or in your daily conversations.
Stop and think though, how many times do you use the individual sounds that appear in those phrases? A lot! So, if you can, make a file on your phone where you can jot down all the words you hear that have the sound you are working on. That’s one of many ways to bridge the gap between practice and real life.
5-Seek out learning opportunities
Of course, you still have to live your life. You have to focus on your job. Sometimes, you need to worry more about the content than the pronunciation. You’re thinking more about what to say than how to say it. So, your word list may need to be set to the side momentarily. That’s understandable.
But take a moment to think about your daily routine. How many of your daily conversations are so crucial that you need every bit of mental effort to focus on the topic? Surely there are several times each day that you chat with a colleague, friend, or family member in a more relaxed setting.
Maybe it’s, “How was your weekend?” or, “What do you think about our new printer?” These are all opportunities for you to take a mental note of how people pronounce common words and how you pronounce them yourself. Every day, you can find many learning opportunities to achieve your accent reduction goals.
6-Break it down
Take it sound by sound. It’s too much load on your brain to examine, pronounce, and listen for every sound in the English language all at once. But if you tackle it piece by piece, you can manage it. When you focus on one sound, go all in. Learn the lip placement, the tongue movement, the tonal patterns. Later, when you are out and about with your word list, stay zeroed in on that one sound.
After you learn several sounds, create a schedule. For example, you may say, “Today, I’m going to focus on Long E”. Once you have a feel for which sounds you have the most issues with, give them a weekly spot. Something like Mondays for Long A, and Tuesdays for R. Then, throughout the day, you will have a little bell go off in your head every time you hear or say the sound of the day: “Ding! Ding! Ding!”
7-Get advanced coaching
Sign up for accent coaching. This way you can learn all those details about tongue placement and mouth movement. You can also get confirmation and personalized feedback on your specific issues. That level of detail is over the head of most native English teachers, even if they have the accent you want. So, why not get professional help? Hire an accent coach who can give you more specific information about why a sound comes out the way it does. The average ESL teacher can only tell you if you said it right or not. Look for someone who can tell you how to say it right.
8-Shadow people who have the accent you want
Not everything you learn has to come from those experienced professionals, though. Surely, there are people around you who speak the way you want to speak. You can use them as language models even without them realizing it. Maybe your boss or manager has clear diction. So, in a conversation with them, pay close attention to the way they say certain words. Then, once they leave, repeat those words to yourself.
You can do the same thing with actors on TV. Pause the program for a moment to repeat the line you just heard. If you like how Tom Hanks sounds, pay special attention to his pronunciation patterns. If you like Julia Roberts, then use her as one of your language models.
Follow these eight steps to immerse yourself in the American accent and reach out for your dreams of presenting your best professional image. Put your best foot forward and sign up for accent classes today!