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Fifteen techniques to reduce your accent!

by Judy Ravin | | Accent Acquisition

How can I quickly reduce my accent? You’re not alone in asking. This is one of the most frequent questions I’m asked. Our faculty have put together fifteen accent reduction tips and techniques so you can speak with greater clarity, confidence, and impact.

Accent Reduction Tip #1:
Identify the sounds you’re missing and commit to learning how to pronounce them with accuracy an ease.

Accent Reduction Tip #2:
Use the right methodology. Young children quickly acquire correct pronunciation, and they do this by listening and repeating their peers and caregivers. For adults, “listen and repeat” isn’t enough. You need a methodology that’s rooted in science and teaches the mechanics of English pronunciation. The Ravin Method®, based in cognitive linguistics, teaches what to do with your teeth, tongue, lips, and jaw for precise articulation.

Accent Reduction Tip #3:
If you’re missing “th” and tend to omit the last sound of each word, master these accent reduction techniques first. You’ll immediately notice improved clarity and experience greater impact. To get you started, work with my online collection of accent reduction training videos.

Accent Reduction Tip #4:
Practice! How much practice gets the job done? Perhaps a lot less than you’d imagine. Practice ten to fifteen minutes per day, and you’ll start hearing consistent carryover within a week. The mantra is, “consistency over duration”, and remember: Practice Makes Permanent!

Accent Reduction Tip #5:
Use appropriate practice material. Most people find reading work emails aloud is perfect accent reduction training material. This practice feeds several birds with one seed. While focusing on your ‘target sounds’, you’ll practice correct pronunciation within the context of work-specific vocabulary.

Accent Reduction Tip #6:
Speak more slowly. This is easier said than done. Unfortunately, we can’t will ourselves to speak slowly. Instead, and this goes back to Tip #6, read aloud for ten minutes every day. It’s impossible to read aloud as fast as we think, and reading aloud tunes our ear to a slower rate of speech. With a little bit of self-awareness, your ear will recognize when you’re speaking too fast, and your voice will adjust accordingly.

Accent Reduction Tip #7:
Use rising intonation for questions where you’d expect the answer “yes”, “no”, or “maybe”.
Accent Reduction Tip #8: Use falling intonation for all other questions. Try saying the following two questions, and note the difference in intonation: “Did you have breakfast?” versus “Where did you have breakfast?” The first question uses rising intonation, and the second question has falling intonation.

Accent Reduction Tip #9:
Practice “touch and release”. Each consonant is a function of one part of your speech apparatus (tongue, teeth, lips, etc.) touching another part, and then releasing. For example, when pronouncing the letter ‘v’, your upper teeth touch your lower lip and then pull away. When practicing consonants, note the “touch and release”.

Accent Reduction Tip #10:
Learn to recognize if you’re pronouncing a sound correctly, and self-correct. To do this, you’ll need to know the correct placement of your teeth, tongue, lips, and jaw when pronouncing a sound. Then ask yourself “How does it look?” and “How does it feel?” For example, can you see the tip of the tongue pushing out between your front teeth when pronouncing ‘th’? Can you feel yourself gently biting your tongue? If you can answer “yes” to both questions, you’ve got it. Remind yourself: If you can feel it, they can hear it!

Accent Reduction Tip #11:
Get in the habit of pronouncing the last sound of each word. These are called “Final Consonants”. In English, grammar is dictated by a word ending. Note the difference between “I walk”, “He walks”, and “Yesterday, we walked”. Pronouncing final consonants isn’t very important in many languages. In English, it’s critical.

Accent Reduction Tip #12:
Correctly pronounce “tens” and teens”. Have you ever had someone ask you to repeat your street address or phone number? Pronouncing numbers can be tricky. For “teens” (thirteen – nineteen), pronounce the letter ‘t’ exactly as spelled. For “tens” (thirty – ninety-nine), substitute ‘d’ for the letter ‘t’. It will sound like this: thirdy, fordy, fifdy, sixdy, sevendy, etc. To hear how this sounds, and practice along, go here.

Accent Reduction Tip #13:
Use the correct vowel for the word “can’t”. In American English, the vowel rhymes with the words “cat” and “man”. The word “can” (meaning, ability) is pronounced “Ken”. Try this out, “Ken, can you help?” The name “Ken” and the word “can” sound exactly the same. If Ken were to answer, “No I can’t”, he’d pronounce the word “can’t” much like the word “cat”. While “can” and “can’t” are both spelled with the letter “a”, the pronunciation is worlds apart.

Accent Reduction Tip #14:
Go easy on yourself! One of the biggest obstacles to speaking with an American accent is that words aren’t pronounced the way they’re spelled. (See above!) If you’re feeling frustrated, give yourself some grace. Remember: It’s Not You…It’s The Language!

Accent Reduction Tip #15:
Work with a professional. It’s almost impossible to fully master the accent of a language without receiving feedback from an expert coach. Depending on the individual’s need, this could require anything from one hour of going over a few key sounds, to a ten-hour comprehensive American accent program. If you’re serious about transforming your accent, sign up for a free consultation.

At Accent International, we would love to help you determine what’s best for you. A solid accent reduction program with a university-trained accent reduction instructor will make a world of difference.

Contact us today!

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