The Ultimate Guide to Get the Perfect Accent
Do you have a thick accent that makes it hard for Native English speakers to understand you quickly?
The best way to get a perfect accent is conversational practice with Native English Speakers.
The more you practice English speaking, the better your accent will get.
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Why Accents matter when Speaking English
English is an international language and there is no one correct way of speaking English.
So having an accent is not something to be ashamed or embarrassed of.
However, if your accent makes you hard to understand, it could make it challenging for you to communicate effectively with native English speakers.
For example, let’s say you are an international student studying in the US looking for an internship opportunity or a job.
Your prospective employer will give you a phone interview first and only bring you in for an in-person interview if you get through the phone interview.
Chances are that if you have a thick accent in this situation , the recruiter might find it hard to understand you over the phone, without any body language cues.
This becomes even more challenging if the interview involves technical questions and the recruiter comes from a non technical background.
Having a clear accent is specially important in situations like phone interviews where the two parties involved are not in the same room.
So how can you get rid of a think accent and speak more clearly? Do you want to get rid of those awkward “R” sounds? There are a five things you can do to make you accent sound more native:
You don’t need an Accent Reduction Specialist to get rid of your thick accent
A lot of accent reduction courses talk about fancy concepts such as identifying where in your mouth English vowels are pronounced, fossilization, phonetic spellings, homophones etc etc.
While it is cool to have an understanding of these concepts, most of these are of zero value for student trying to get rid of a thick accent.
No body really knows how to control the parts of your mouth where vowels or consonants are pronounced!
Rather than wasting time mastering accent reduction concepts, start practicing English speaking with a native teacher 2-3 times a week.
This will help you adjust and improve your pronunciation through real conversations.
Improving Accent through Conversational Practice
Sounds that are most challenging for non native English speakers
“TH” can be very difficult for non-native English speakers to learn how to pronounce correctly as the pronunciation can vary.
Th in words like this, that, they and then when the sound is more of a vibrating sound
Th in words like thought, theater and three when the sound is not a vibrating sound.
The difference between the ‘sh’ sounds (for example share, sharp, ship) is a different sound to ‘ch’ sounds (for example church, chapel, charge).
Note – The difference in these sounds relates to how we move our mouths as we pronounce each of these sounds.
Making words plural by adding ‘s’ on the ends of words.
A common mistake made by non native English speakers do when learning English is that when they make plurals of nouns and these plurals end in the letters ‘es’ (for examples churches, or houses or lunches) the foreigner makes the ‘es’ sound more like ‘is’ rather than ‘es’.
‘Ed’ at the end of words can be difficult as there are different ways to pronounce ‘ed’ when at the end of verbs in the past tense.
For example, when a verb ends with the letter ‘d’ or ‘t’ when ‘ed’ is added to form the past tense it sounds more like an ‘id’ sound than an ‘ed’ sound in some words for example divided or wanted or fainted or rated.
Verbs that end with ‘f’, ‘p’, ‘s’, ‘ch’ or ‘sh’ when ‘ed’ is added to form the past tense it sounds more like a ‘t’ sound for example, laughed, watched, stopped, washed or mashed.
The sounds ‘v’ and ‘w’ can be mixed up by English learners as some languages do not have the ‘w’ sound. Examples of difficult words are wow, west, vest and very.
These sounds are made by how we move our mouth with the ‘v’ sound being made by our top teeth touching our lower lips compared to the ‘w’ sound being made with our lips not touching the teeth.
The ‘e’ at ends of words is silent in the following words:
Date, late, rate, mate where the ‘a’ sounds more like ‘ay’, the ‘t’ is a hard sound and the ‘e’ sound is silent.
‘b’ in words: climb, thumb, lamb, debt and subtle
‘c’ in words: descend, conscious, scene and scissors
‘g’ in words: foreign, reign and sign
‘k’ in words: knowledge, knife, knee, knowledge, knock and knot
‘n’ in words: Autumn and column
‘t’ in words: listen, hasten, fasten and Christmas
‘w’ in words: write, wrote, written, wrist and wrong
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Learn the rhythm of speaking English
Every language has a rhythm or a sound unique to it; The DNA of speech.
This is what makes language learning so beautiful. There is an fascinating study done on the pace at which different languages (English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish and Vietnamese) are spoken done by the Université de Lyon. Here’s a link to the Times article on this study.
So if your native language is Spanish or Tamil or Urdu, you might speak English too fast.
If you are a native French or Chinese speaker, you might English too slow.
The speed in which you speak English has a direct impact on how your accent is heard.
In most cases, if you speak English too fast, your accent sounds more thick or heavy.
The only way to understand the rhythm of English is by immersing yourself in English.
Your Spoken English is a reflection of the English you interact with. If you want to get rid of your thick accent and improve your pronunciation to a native level proficiency, spend more time practicing with native English speakers.
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Sometimes speaking a little slower makes your accent sound a lot more clearer. Rushing through sentences makes you sound nervous and uncomfortable. Also, speaking too fast makes your accent sound more thick that it is.
So if you want to get rid of your thick accent one of the first thinks you should do is pay attention to the pace you speak.
A good way to do this is to record yourself speaking English and compare that to a native English speaker.
Please remember that speaking slower does not mean speaking really slow. There is balance that you need to achieve. If you talk very slow, native English speakers will find that hard to understand too.
Find a Conversation Partner who is a native English speaker
If you want a perfect accent and pronounce word like a native speaker, you have to start practicing with a native English speaker. Studies show that people imitate the speech patterns of those around them. This is why children absorb accents so fast and so accurately when they move to an English speaking country and start interacting with native English speaking children.
A non native English teacher can help you with grammar and vocabulary but if you want to get rid of a thick accent, the best option is to practice with a native.
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Listen to audio books read by native English speakers
A great way to improve your pronunciation and enunciation is by listening to native English speakers. A great resource you can use for this is audio-books read by native English speakers.
Unlike movies where you get a visual cue, audio-books are harder to follow and will train your brain to listen more carefully. This process will help your brain memorize pronunciation patterns, highs and lows in speech and various sounds that are harder to pronounce.
Looking for a good audio book to use to get rid of your thick accent? Start with this
Some strategies you use to Practice Pronunciation and Improve Accent
Here are some examples of tongue twisters which help English speaking learners improve certain letters and sounds.
She sells seashells by the seashore (good for practicing sh sounds)
Annie ate eight Arctic apples (good for practicing the ‘a’ vowel sounds)
I thought a thought of thinking of thanking you (good for th sounds)
He threw three free throws (good for th sounds)
Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches? (good for practicing silent w words)
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
(good for practicing -ed words and ‘p’ sounds)
Odd one out
This activity helps ESL students to learn and practice new vocabulary and this helps them with their speaking by saying the word aloud.
Four, five or six words can be included in each group of words and then I ask which is the odd one out. For example:
Cat Dog Rabbit Car Donkey (all are animals except for car)
Banana Apple Peach Strawberry Carrot (all are fruit except carrot)
London Paris New York Tokyo Australia (towns except Australia)
Train Plane Car Bike Lorry (bike as it does not have an engine)
Finger Thumb Knee ankle Heel Smell (smell which is a sense)
Reading out loud and talking in general conversation
Reading out loud and talking with a native English tutor enables the tutor to help the person whether child or adult with their accent, their pronunciation, the correct word order and the tenses.
I encourage discussion on many different topics (often with the learners choosing the topic) to help build their confidence.
FACT – The more an English learner talks with native English speakers the faster they learn English
Improve Accent – Speak Fluent English
Teacher’s role in helping student get perfect Accent
The teacher should find you ways to practice outside of class.
For example, they can suggest listening to radio, YouTube clips and songs for example and mixing with as many native speakers as regularly as possible to help improve their accent and to help with pronunciation.
Within the Skype English class, the teacher should use the chat box in Skype to phonetically spell the words so that the learners can see how each new word sounds and then ask students to repeat all new words until they can pronounce each new words perfectly.
I try to get English speaking learners to immerse themselves in talking English on each week to help them pronounce each word correctly.