People usually try their best to blend in socially and professionally. It’s OK to be different. But too many differences can cause issues when connecting with colleagues and clients. If you have a thick accent, you may be tired of those minor inconveniences you have to deal with daily. Americanization of Your Accent How can...
People usually try their best to blend in socially and professionally. It’s OK to be different. But too many differences can cause issues when connecting with colleagues and clients. If you have a thick accent, you may be tired of those minor inconveniences you have to deal with daily.
Americanization of Your Accent
How can you grease the wheels of your daily conversations and ‘Americanize’ your accent? First, you need to identify the three most common areas of difficulty: pronunciation, word choice, and intonation.
1- American Pronunciation
Pronunciation seems so basic, but it can be an enduring challenge. From the day you start learning English to the day you have that high-stakes job interview, your pronunciation should be a matter of careful interest.
It’s not only a question of whether you say the word correctly. It’s about how easily your listener can understand you. How hard do they have to concentrate for your message to come through clearly?
Find the sounds that give you the most trouble, and drill them until you feel more comfortable with them. Is it a vowel or a consonant? Is there a particular tongue or lip position that is making the sound hard to pronounce? Train the muscle memory in your mouth to form the sounds the same way natives do.
You will probably need help with this, and you may not have a nerdy friend who has all the answers. So try signing up for American accent training and get a professional to lend you a hand. An accent coach can tell you everything you need to know about mouth positions and proper pronunciation. But, some of your communication issues may be caused by the second area of difficulty.
2- American Word Choice
There are many phrases and expressions that simply don’t add up if you translate them word-for-word. That’s true across all languages. But American English has a particular affinity for phrasal verbs and idioms. For example, the phrases “messed up,” “messy,” and “mess it up” are all built around the word “mess,” but they have slightly different meanings. Look at these sentences and notice how the meaning changes:
I hope they don’t mess up. (make a mistake)
I hope they don’t mess it up. (ruin the object)
I hope they don’t make a mess. (make the area dirty)
I hope they don’t make it messy. (make the object dirty)
It can be tricky to sort out the subtle differences. The best way to catch the patterns is to pay close attention to native speakers and use them as language models. Singing along with pop songs can be a big help. You can also ask a friend or your accent coach to give you feedback on the best way to phrase what you want to say.
3- American Intonation
Most foreigners sound ‘flat’ when they speak English. And most of them are aware of it. They hear all the ups and downs when Americans talk, but they can’t quite figure out what the pattern is. Intonation is elusive in part because people use it as a kind of an umbrella term. But, really, there are several factors that go into intonation. Word linking, pace, syllable stress, sense stress, volume, rhythm, voice placement, and of course, changing your tones all play a part.
For instance, sense stress (also known as sentence stress) involves emphasizing one word more than the rest in a sentence. There is a lot of hidden meaning or subtext that can come from the way native English speakers stress different words. Notice how the implied meaning can change in the following examples:
I want to go. (whether someone else does or not)
I want to go. (but I can’t)
I want to go. (I’m tired of being here)
Each of those stressed words might be highlighted with a change in tone, a slower pace, or a higher volume. These tricks can help you sound more natural and more expressive. But, keep in mind that no two people use these factors in precisely the same way. It makes learning a little more complicated, but this variety can add individuality to your speech style. Reading or speaking in front of a professional accent coach can help you master the skills. They will give you personalized feedback on which factors to work on, so your intonation will be smooth and effective.
Ask an American
Sign up for American accent training today. You will have your personal accent coach give you the feedback and input you need to master American pronunciation, word choice, and intonation.