Students often ask me how they can lose their accent when speaking English. I have two things to say on the topic.
My first point is that you don’t want to entirely lose your accent. Accents protect you. When you’re in an English-speaking environment, an accent helps people know that you are not a native of their culture. If you make any mistakes, people are more likely to forgive you.
The second point is, of course, if your accent keeps people from understanding you, then you must try and reduce it as much as possible. Keeping in mind my first point – an accent is not always a bad thing – here are TEN TIPS that will help your pronunciation improve so that your accent does not interfere with understanding.
1. Listen To English Every Day
Listening puts the rhythm and music of the language into your body. The more you listen, the more you will have a model for proper English pronunciation in your brain.
2. Watch People’s Mouths
Part of proper pronunciation involves strengthening mouth muscles you’re not used to using. One way you can learn to do this is by watching native English speakers when they speak. What do they do with their lips, cheeks, and teeth? You can watch native speakers on TV, or use the BBC’s fantastic pronunciation videos. Try and make your mouth form the same shapes.
3. Pay Attention to English Rhythm
Learning to use natural-sounding rhythm is often the hardest part for Vietnamese learners. Vietnamese speakers often speak each word with equal stress, which makes their English sound unnatural. One way you can learn English rhythm is by listening to music! Listen and sing along, and watch your sense of English rhythm improve.
4. Speak Slowly
If people are having trouble understanding you, it may be helpful for you to slow down. This may not feel natural, especially if you’ve already developed some fluency, but slowing down may give you the time you need to form your words correctly, so people can understand you.
5. Learn the Phonetic Alphabet
English spelling usually doesn’t tell you how the word is pronounced, but you can always use a dictionary and look up the phonetic spelling of a word. The phonetic spelling gives you everything you need – vowel, consonant, and word stress – to make sure you know exactly how to pronounce the word.
6. Pay Attention to Word Endings
Think of the word “house”. If you do not say the final “s”, the word comes out sounding like “how” – a completely different word! Word endings are crucial to English pronunciation.
7. Read Out Loud
Reading out loud every day will help you strengthen those mouth muscles you need for speaking English naturally. Do this for about 10-15 minutes a day for a month, and you will be amazed!
8. Record and Listen To Yourself
If you’ve never listened to yourself speak English, you may be surprised by how you sound. Record yourself reading, or find a short recording by a native speaker, and record yourself saying the same thing There is no better way to become aware of your own strengths and weaknesses.
9. Ask For Help
If you take language classes, your teacher and fellow students will naturally help you. But when you’re speaking with friends, even if they’re not native English speakers, ask them to point out your mistakes, or when they have trouble understanding you. Your friends can help you focus on what you need to improve.
10. Be Patient!
Remember that language learning takes time. The fact that you’re working on your accent already shows how much English you know! Give yourself time, and enjoy the process.
What Do You Think?
Are you concerned about your accent when you speak English? Do you have any tips to offer? Let us know in the comments area below!