Old habits die hard. That’s what they say. They also say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But is that true with accents? You probably know people who have lived in the U.S. for years and years, but they still have a thick accent. Then there are others who have been here for...
Old habits die hard. That’s what they say. They also say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But is that true with accents?
You probably know people who have lived in the U.S. for years and years, but they still have a thick accent.
Then there are others who have been here for only a couple of years, and they blend in just fine. Why is that? Is it possible to lose an accent?
Here are 3 challenges to accent reduction and 3 keys to making a success of it.
How can I break the force of habit?
You want to polish your pronunciation and reduce your accent. And that is possible.
It’s a battle against muscle memory. The way we pronounce things is automatic. We don’t think about every sound when we speak naturally.
What you have to do is slow down and re-program your muscle memory to use the mouth movements and tongue positions that are used for the American accent.
When you have spent most of your life speaking another language or with another accent, it can be hard to change.
But if you’re in the USA for more than a vacation, you probably want more than understandable English. You want an American accent.
What are the common misconceptions about accent reduction?
Myth #1 – Your accent runs in your bloodline
False. Your accent comes from the speech patterns of people around you. So, even if you were born and raised in another country, you can still adapt to your new environment.
Some people are better at adapting than others. But even if you have difficulty with pronunciation, you can learn the tricks and techniques that make it possible.
Myth #2 – You have to be a genius or a polyglot to lose your accent
False. It is true that individuals who have their language skills more developed have more of a natural inclination to adapt their accent to fit their surroundings. But anyone can modify their accent. All you have to do is learn how.
You may not be able to play it by ear and recreate sounds just from hearing it a couple of times. But with the right input, you can reduce your accent.
Myth #3 – You have to do it on your own
False. Sometimes English teachers or friends don’t give you much support. They just tell you your accent sounds funny and if you keep trying it will go away eventually.
But there’s a better way. You can get coaching on how to move your mouth and tongue to adjust your pronunciation for certain words.
All of those little things add up and before long you will notice an improvement in your accent holistically.
How can I get motivated and beat self-doubt?
The biggest battle is inside your mind. That may sound cheesy, but it’s true. A lot of people have reduced their accents, and you can too.
If you convince yourself you can’t change your accent or improve your pronunciation, then you won’t. So, you have to convince yourself that you can.
Build yourself up by noticing all the improvements that you make. You can be your biggest critic but you can also be your biggest fan. So cheer yourself on!
Now here are 3 keys to success:
1. Be consistent
If you only pay attention to your accent every once in a while, then you learn just enough to forget it and have to learn it again.
Set a daily and weekly schedule for learning and practice. Maybe it’s just 30 minutes here, 5 minutes there. But that’s okay. Consistency is key.
2. Be open
You don’t have to be embarrassed about your accent. If you shy away from using your English or conversing with native English speakers, then you are limiting your own potential.
Increase your exposure to natural English. Talk to people. Ask questions. Make mistakes. That’s the way you get experience.
3. Keep calm and keep learning
Don’t stress out or burn out over your accent. A calm mind is best for learning.
Every mistake you make is an opportunity for growth. If you mispronounce a word or you are misunderstood, keep calm and ask, “Why?” Look for the reason behind the issue and don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by it. Once you find the problem, then you can do something to change it.
Conclusion: Yes! It is possible to lose your accent.
There are challenges, but you can improve your accent! When you identify the challenges and devise a plan to overcome them, your confidence is lifted. You speak more clearly and when you do make a mistake, you know what to do about it! Just keep learning. Keep talking. Keep improving your speech and communication style.