Having an accent is less than ideal according to some non-native speakers, and they believe that improving their pronunciation will also improve what they know about the language and thus lead to a more confident approach to speaking in English.
Are you a learner of English who can't just can't shake your mother-tongue accent and get that word to sound right? Or are you an American who wants to reduce their accent and sound more British for one reason or another? Perhaps you are British and want to make it big in Hollywood and therefore think you need to adapt your own Cockney accent into something more Americanised?
There is no right or wrong answer to if accent reduction is the best thing for you, because this is a very personal question. What we can all agree on, however, is that there are so many different accents out there ranging from foreign accents to national intonation differences. So is it time to become a student again?
In this piece, we will explore the different resources that you can use to attempt to reduce your accent and pronounce your vowels!
Reasons for Choosing Accent Reduction
Whether or not your existing accent is bothering you, you must clearly feel a need to do something about changing your accent in order to reach a personal or professional goal. Below are just a few quotes that I found on the subject, showcasing various arguments or opinions on why accent matters.
We picked the following at random from BrainyQuote.com. Do any of them sound familiar?
"I don't want to lose my accent, I just want it to become smaller." - Goran Visnjic
This user is not concerned about having an accent, rather they simply want to reduce it so that it isn't so obvious and doesn't attract unnecessary attention. Would you argue that having an accent represents part of who you are, and that losing it means losing some of your personality?
"I am trying to make my accent so it won't bother anyone, but I am not going to drive myself crazy trying to pretend I am an American girl when I from Colombia." - Shakira
Shakira, who has spent a lot of time in the limelight and who is loved by millions across the world even has her own reservations about how she sounds. That said, she is very clear on the fact that she cannot change her heritage and her upbringing - she is a Colombian girl at heart and that isn't going to change, however, she can modify her accent slightly to make her appeal bigger worldwide (particularly in America, I imagine).
"A voice and an accent are two very different things." - James Purefoy
He continues with: "The voice of a man is how he speaks from his heart, right in the middle of him... And then you stick an accent on top of that."
This is quite a heartfelt judgement on what makes a person who they are. James is saying that a person's voice is their true self and that an accent is just a layer (a bit like a physical feature, which is only what you see/hear on the outside). This opinion reflects the belief that it is what's inside that counts and so an accent, no matter how it sounds, is just something to accept as one's quality and not take any stereotypes or judgements based on that sound.
"My natural accent is American." - Jennifer Ehle
Ms Ehle went on to say: "I chose to speak with a U.K. accent when I was about to enter the final year at drama school in London. I was going to try to find a way to stay in the U.K. after I finished college and could not imagine trying to live and get work there with an American accent."
Finally, this female clearly felt forced to adopt a British accent in order to get where she wanted to be in her professional and personal life. Does this mean that people without a distinctively British accent are made to feel less worthy in the workplace or that they can't reach the heights that one could do if they were a native Brit?
Resources To Help With Accent Reduction
Now that we've discovered some client accounts and their views on accents, let's consider what resources you might be able to benefit from when trying to practice reducing your accent without a teacher.
FluentU is a language app that can be downloaded on Android and Apple smartphones and which exposes listeners to only 'the very best of audio-visual English content' making it 'an incredible resource for practicing pronunciation. You’ll find yourself surrounded by real-world English speakers.'
FluentU usesd a variety of mediums for this vowel and accent improving purpose, such as videos, talk show clips, music videos and commercials.
What's more, the app keeps track of your learning and suggests examples and videos based on the things you’ve already learned. So, 'every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re using the same video'.
LearnEnglish Sounds Right
LearnEnglish Sounds Right is a free pronunciation app offered by the British Council for learners (and teachers) of English across the world.
"Do you have difficulty with the sounds and pronunciation of the English language, or with understanding the symbols of the phonemic alphabet? With LearnEnglish Sounds Right on your phone or tablet you can practise anywhere and anytime. Just tap a sound and you will hear it. Tap the downward arrow sign and listen to three example words with that sound."
As you can see from the above, this app offers a chart set up with icons displaying sounds, which you can click on and listen to the correct pronunciation.
Elsa Speak: English Accent Coach
Elsa Speak is a virtual pronunciation coach, helping people to improve how they pronounce words in English using artificial intelligence. The state-of-the-art speech recognition technology is rated as one of the best in the world of language apps, so you can be sure that you'll end up being able to "speak English fluently, easily confidently".
With ELSA, the English Language Speech Assistant, you get 25 free lessons before you have to subscribe to access further resources.
Online Accent Reduction for Non-native English Speakers
It's an old one (sound files are 9 years old in some cases), but it's a good one!
This podcast is, as its title suggests, perfect for those non-native English speakers looking to hone in and correct their accent!
Becker Accent Reduction
"English Pronunciation Pod is hosted and created by accent reduction specialist Charles Becker. Charles Becker lives and teaches English pronunciation and accent reduction in New York city. He is also the author of Best Accent Training mp3s an English Pronunciation course in mp3 format."
Visit Charles Becker's website and you will find not just a small series of podcasts, but around 100 clips discussing all matters relating to accent reduction and pronunciation.
If you can't find what you need here, then it doesn't exist!
One To One Training With A Superprof Tutor
In London alone, you can find a range of tutors offering bespoke Accent Reduction course options for students. On a search, I found almost 250 suitable individuals working on this exact subject and looking for clients, so you are sure to find someone among this list who is the perfect match for your needs!
You'll see some tutors offer a lower hourly price whilst others may have glowing five-star reviews to back up their higher fee (you can easily check out their reviews to see how much you might learn).
What's more, the level of expertise varies so you can filter tutors according to their qualifications or specialism if you like, while also being able to sort them by location, method of teaching (face to face, skype, Facetime...).
As you can see, you don't have to trawl the Internet looking for private classes and reading long descriptions of what is covered and see if it applies to you, you can start your journey to a new accent right now by contacting a Superprof tutor and telling them what you need, enabling them to create a bespoke course in response.