Do you feel like your accent stands out because it isn't the norm for where you live or work? Do you pronounce certain words differently and struggle to stress the vowels or consonants in the correct places because you are originally from a different country?
It may not feel that way but, we would like to remind you that no accent is normal. In most multicultural UK cities, you will walk down the street and hear hundreds of different languages let alone accents, but the difference is whether these accents are holding the individuals back or not. If yours is indeed stopping you from getting where you want to be, then it might be a good time to think about trying to reduce your accent.
There are ways to do this naturally by doing exercises or simply spending time with native English speakers, but you can also pay for training courses on the subject.
Will I Lose a Bit of Me if my Accent Goes?
It's important to think carefully about undergoing speech or English pronunciation classes with a teacher because the way you talk is unique to you/your experiences and part of your personality, culture and heritage. Do you really want to risk losing a piece of you by changing your mentality towards the way you say words by going through accent reduction training?
You should never dismiss your abilities because of your accent, but if you have big aspirations and you feel that your accent is holding you back for whatever reason then you most certainly have the option to look into accent reduction classes and/or methods to make positive changes in your life that could help you to succeed and exceed.
Does A Distinctive Accent Matter?
Having a distinctive accent can, admittedly, interfere with some areas of your life. This usually applies to the workplace, with some people not having confidence in their ability to communicate and thus hitting a wall in their career progression.
But should you change who you are and adopt the Queen's English just to try to fit into your professional environment? Do others even care as much as you think they do?
And what about if you have a non native English accent, is that better or worse than simply having a different regional accent? The truth is that it is no better or worse! But if it affects how you present yourself and how you feel in yourself, then that means it's something you need to address. It's no different to advancing your career with leadership courses or additional qualifications if it can lead to you improving in confidence!
Before we move onto how you can change your accent, the question is why do you want to change your accent?
Below are some of the principal reasons for people wanting accent reduction English:
- increase social/personal opportunities
- increase professional opportunities
- improve conversation skills
- improve presentation skills
- improve telephone skills
As you can see from the list, the majority of these lean towards the professional world, so does this mean that the world of work is much less forgiving and accepting of accents than our social circle? Is this your main reason for wanting to modify your way of speaking?
Will Accent Reduction Take Away From My Knowledge Of The Language?
As a foreign speaker of English, you may have learned to speak English during school or with a language coach in your native country, have hired a tutor to help you with one on one classes or you might have taught yourself using videos, podcasts, online lessons, textbooks, radio or more. The point is that you will have taken a specific route to attack your language learning journey and thus all of the information would have been processed in a particular way.
Subconsciously, you may have learned certain aspects of language by relating them to other things and by having to re-learn how to say things this could impact on how naturally the language comes to you.
While you could look at negatively and worry that changing your accent will change you and how those around you perceive you (like friends, family or colleagues, for instance) however you could focus on the positive impact of voice training and remember that it could also have a far greater impact on your social relationships because of how much easier you can communicate in any situation thanks to increased confidence.
How to Reduce And Accent
1. Practice speaking slowly
One of the most common mistakes that learners of English make is speaking too quickly. Lots of other European languages are more lyrical than English and thus call for a fast way of speaking, however, the music of English is very different. What's more, you always want to prove to yourself that you can talk in that language comfortably (I do the same when I speak in French and try to race through sentences like a local!) but what you are thinking in your head - no matter how correct - can sometimes come out a bit jumbled.
In order to correctly pronounce each sound, you should try speaking slowly and clearly.
Practice doing this at home out loud, the slower the better, and see how much easier you find it to pronounce the words when speaking at a normal pace!
2. Listen to English radio or audio books
Try listening to an audio book or switching the radio on to a UK station that interests you and take it all in - listen to how the speaker correctly pronounces the words (bearing in mind that radio DJs and voice actors all have differing accents themselves!).
3. Watch TV or movies
Similarly, you can watch TV programmes or movies in English and actually study the actors' mouths as they speak to see how they physically pronounce words. It's best to choose something you have already seen or know about so that you don't have to focus on the story line too much!
4. Visit England and speak with native English people
If you can visit an English speaking country, then this should be high on your list when wanting to speak like natives.
If you have friends in the UK, for example, arrange to stay with them for a few days or ask them to meet up and try to spend as much time as you can engaged in conversation. Listen to how their voices rise and fall.
A great way to soften your non-native accent is to spend time visiting people in England. Photo on VisualHunt
5. Be aware of the difference between British English and American English
Lots of words, though spelled the same, are pronounced very differently in British English to American English. So depending on which accent you are aiming to learn, you'll need to learn the correct variation. Also, it doesn't harm to listen to both and recognise the differences first-hand.
Regular practice is so important if you want to see a natural, but quick, progression. So put aside at least 15 minutes a day to practice your English speaking! The same also goes for people of England wanting to soften their strong accent or take on a new way of speaking - practice makes perfect!
Accent Reduction Training
While you can find some useful resources or training tips online for free, using an expert's guidance is recommended if you want long-lasting and effective results. Here are a couple of options for you to consider:
The London School of English
The London School of English is an educational establishment offering business and professional courses. One of the classes on offer is Voice and Accent Reduction training course language, said to help you:
- Speak with greater authority and confidence
- Reduce problems caused by an accent
- Improve individual sounds to be clearer
This training is open to absolutely anyone who needs it in order to be a successful communicator and wants to eliminate the habits that are preventing them from moving forward.
The course combines breathing and relaxation exercises, with practising tongue position and mouth muscles and involves copying sounds. Trainers will be mindful of the student's accent, rhythm, stress and intonation patterns.
The course costs approximately £80 per hour by remote session.
Hire a Superprof Tutor
Alternatively, if you would like to consider other options, then why not look at hiring a private tutor from Superprof, which might be a cheaper alternative for students.
By visiting the Superprof website, you can search the directory for suitable teachers, sorting the available candidates by experience, location, years of training, level and much, much more.
Superprof includes tutors who offer face to face consultations as well as those who do lessons remotely, using skype or similar to do lessons with clients.