Many people want to reduce their accent because they need presentable English for work. For others, it’s simply because they live in the US, and they get tired of having to repeat themselves. It also helps with developing a good professional image. With a standard or General American (Gen Am) accent, more people will relate...
Many people want to reduce their accent because they need presentable English for work. For others, it’s simply because they live in the US, and they get tired of having to repeat themselves. It also helps with developing a good professional image.
With a standard or General American (Gen Am) accent, more people will relate to you and communication becomes easier. Communication and other soft skills are what can put you at the top of the job market and boost your chances. So, how can you do it?
Accent Reduction Is a Science
In movies, like The King’s Speech with Colin Firth, sometimes you see people stuffing their mouths with marbles or endlessly repeating tongue twisters to improve their diction and their accent. But there’s no reason to choke yourself or get all tongue-tied. Accent reduction is a science. Lots of people have done it and you can learn from their experience.
What Is an Accent?
When you learn a new language, you don’t necessarily need to have a perfect accent to be understood and move on. So that’s why people get stuck with a foreign accent. Then they get frustrated later on when they’re told they have an accent, but nobody can tell them why or how. You can pronounce something clearly enough to be understood. But if your lips, tongue, and mouth move just a little bit differently from native speakers, then you have a foreign accent.
Accent Reduction Courses
Some people sign up for accent reduction courses. These are a great way to learn about all of those subtle differences in mouth posture, movement, and position, to standardize your pronunciation. Usually, you get an online evaluation or a free consultation. Then a teacher or coach who is a native English speaker tells you which sounds stand out the most so you can focus on them and work to improve your weak spots.
There are some affordable options out there for continued classes, too. That’s really what you need if you want to master more than just a few sounds. Most people who are non-native speakers have a thick accent, so they would need to adjust almost every sound.
The Learning Process
It’s easy to learn. Some changes only take a few minutes to get. For example, you will learn to move your lips more for the ‘O’ in “no”, and not to tighten or round your lips for the ‘OO’ in “good”. But, then you have to gradually replace the old pronunciations with the new ones. The process can take some time, but you get into the routine before too long. Some people can blend in living in the US within a couple of years after they learn these tricks. They can go through most of their daily life and even present technical information without people noticing they are foreigners.
Attention to detail is the key to reach your goal. You have to make tiny adjustments to your entire language set, or even overhaul it. Once it sticks though, natural speech will become automatic.
The Small Words Matter Most
One of the biggest surprises you will find is it’s usually the simple words that take the longest time and most effort to change. Those words that you learned in your first days of English classes like “this”, “these”, “most”, and “don’t” will give you a lot of trouble. But then with big words like medical terminology or other technical terms, it’s surprisingly easier. Why? Because you learned them after you already had a better command of English pronunciation.
Learned errors or fossilized errors come into play here. Once you have said a word the wrong way for so long, it’s hard to go back and change it. Your English teacher wasn’t going to be picky with you when you were learning your first few words. And, in some cases, the teachers were non-native speakers themselves. So those incorrect pronunciations didn’t get corrected early on, and they turned into habits.
Increase Your Exposure to American English
It’s also a good idea to supplement what you learn by watching movies and TV. Even though you won’t get specific input about how to move your mouth, you can watch the actors do it on the screen and try to imitate them.
Some people focus on clips of a specific actor that they like and watch them closely to copy them. You can even pause the movie and repeat their lines right after them. If your device has speed control, then you can slow it down to watch their mouth move in slow motion. Of course, that only works if their mouth is clearly visible when they are speaking. But you can watch for opportunities to compare and contrast the way your favorite actors say things.
Open Your Ears to the Sounds Around You
Once you have most of the movements and positions for each sound down, then you can rely on the audio. Audiobooks or podcasts are an excellent way to use your time when you are commuting or waiting for someone. See if you can recognize the different sounds as you hear them.
Hear The Music of the Language
This can also get you started on catching the rhythm and intonation. Even with perfect pronunciation, you want to be fluent and smooth in the way you speak. You will start to notice little things that people do, like slowing down for the important points and speeding up for function words. Native English speakers also push their words together a lot. It’s hard to tell where one word ends and the other begins sometimes, but that’s how we speak. Basically, it comes down to grouping thoughts together. You don’t want to put a pause in the middle of a thought.
General Methods For Diction Training
Generalized methods for accent reduction (like stuffing your mouth with marbles) are used to help people achieve deliberate speech. It forces them to concentrate on every sound, syllable, and word so that they can speak more clearly. But, that’s mostly helpful for native speakers who already know how to say the sound, they just need to focus on it, so they won’t mumble. Opening the mouth more is also a good general method used to make people’s speech more articulate.
Commit and Stick With It!
These are all different ideas and techniques that you can use to improve your diction or reduce your foreign accent. Throughout the journey, you have to remind yourself to stick with it. It can be hard to multitask at first. Focusing on what you are saying and how you are saying it can be tough. But if you want your listeners to get the message, focus on both content and delivery.
Whichever methods you choose to use, commit to it. If you try something for a few days or weeks, it won’t help much. You have to follow through to see results. Sign up for accent reduction training today, and see how far you can go with the right techniques and instructions.