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5 ways to lose your foreign accent

By Dr Norman

Strong ‘foreign’ sounding accents or pronunciation differences in English can make it hard for people to understand what you are saying, even when your grammar and vocabulary are correct. These problems in understanding can occur for all sorts of reasons. It may be due to the different ways in which individual sounds and words are produced. It may be due to the different way you emphasise sounds, syllables and words. It may even be the in the timing and ‘melody’ of your sentences.

However, you can lose your foreign accent. Let’s look at 5 useful ways you to reduce your foreign accent and be better understood.

1. Decide what general type of accent you want to have.

There are a lot of different types of accents in English, so it is important to be clear about what type of accent you want to develop. Do you want to sound like an American, a Canadian, a British person, a New Zealander or an Australian? Remember, even within a certain ‘type’ of accent there can be lots of variation. For instance, American accents can vary quite a bit from one American state to the next. Similarly, British accents can vary significantly from one region to the next. Whichever general accent you want to achieve, aim for the most neutral or ‘standard’ accent you can find, so that you can be understood wherever you go.

2. Develop your ear for the accent you want to achieve.

Once you have identified how you want to sound, find a person who speaks clearly and has an accent you would like to copy. You might find that person on the radio, on YouTube or in a podcast.

Listen to your chosen speaker carefully. Listen to how this person produces individual sounds. Can you hear each sound at the beginning, middle and end of each word? How long are vowels held? How does the mouth move? What rhythm do you hear?

Listen over and over again and try to work out the special features of that accent. To lose your foreign accent you first need to understand the accent that you want to achieve.

3. Understand your own accent

Once you understand the accent that you are aiming for, make sure that you understand your own accent. Record yourself so that you can hear yourself the way that others hear you.

Listen carefully to your recording. Listen to the way that you produce sounds, words and sentences.

Then work out where your accent is similar and where it is different from the accent you would like to achieve. This is where you may find that you need to learn how to pronounce certain sounds. See my blog article "How to improve your Pronunciation" to find out more about sound production.

4. Lose your foreign accent by imitating.

Now you are ready to start imitating! Try and say words and sentences the way that your chosen speaker does. Record yourself and compare how your chosen speaker sounds with how you sound. Are you getting all the sounds and syllables in each word? Are you holding them for the same amount of time? Are you emphasising the same syllables? Are you getting the same melody and pace?

5. Try it out!

The final step is to try it out. Remember, if you are trying to achieve a distinctive accent such as a distinctive British or American accent then be British or American.  Getting into the ‘role’ will help you to lose your foreign accent and get the accent you want.

With these 5 useful ways to reduce your accent, you will improve your pronunciation and start to sound like native speaker!

21st November 2016

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