If you are thinking about changing your accent with classes, you may be wondering what the process of modifying the way you speak is. How long does it take? How does it work? Will it work? Is it worth the stress? These are just some questions that we have often heard from sceptical students considering this type of teaching.
Here, we will take a look at the actual process, step by step, of changing your accent to help give you the confidence to go through with your mission of changing your speech.
Is it Possible to Change your Accent?
Firstly, we need to ask why you would want to change your accent because some reasons and goals are likely to have better results than others. For instance, if you just decide one day that you don't like your London accent and decide that you want to talk like someone from Liverpool, just because it sounds interesting, then that's not really a meaningful reason for wanting to make the change.
If however, you feel that changing your accent because it will have a big impact on certain aspects of your life, like for example if you have an overseas accent and want to learn to speak in a native British accent, then you are far more likely to succeed because you will be more invested in your mission.
The Methods Used by Professionals for Accent Modification
Following on from the above, it's wise to think very carefully before you approach an accent reduction specialist or go to tutor classes because the first thing your accent reduction coach will do is to try to find out your reason(s) for wanting to go through with this.
What's more, they will need to identify what creates your accent - i.e. which English sounds you have difficulty pronouncing, which speech patterns you struggle with and other factors that might be preventing you from sounding like a native English speaker.
You see, being self-conscious about your accent as a non-native speaker is very common because a lot of languages don't actually have vowels or diphthongs like the English Language, meaning that they are totally new to you.
Also, the length of vowels and how this changes throughout a sentence can cause some confusion. What's more, learning where to take a pause (because intonation is often lost in translation due to there being no exact translation word for word), can make it obvious that you aren't a fluent English speaker.
Once the issues with your speech have been identified, the professional will help you to first learn the RP, or received pronunciation (also referred to as the Queen's English). This will require lots and lots of practice and physical exercises including keeping in check how you put your tongue, lips and jaw in the correct position for each sound. Even a slight alteration can change the sound entirely.
Revision and repetition
You may do exercises with your teacher, repeating sounds and imitating what you hear. Further practice will be advised using apps and books to improve your pronunciation, with the option of recording yourself to hear it back and listen out for errors, correcting them and noticing signs of improvement.
Crispen up those consonants
Not only do you need to work on mastering your long and short vowels, but you also need to keep on top of your consonants and ensuring they are crisp and clear.
Find the flow
Experts suggest that you learn the patterns of English and the techniques that native speakers use so that you can learn to confidently speak in full phrases rather than in single words, one after the after. How you link words together is a tell-tale sign of your fluency in the language, so it will be essential for you to listen to the language being spoken regularly.
Go slow, not speedy
Finally, professionals will be quick to pick up on you speaking too fast. Although it may feel like speaking at speed makes you seem more natural and fluent, it can also give away your accent as you tend to go into autopilot rather than thinking about your speech. Of course, speed will come with practice but it's important to focus on your learned sounds before rushing to speak like a native.
It takes time to perfect the English accent!
How Long Does it Take to Change an Accent?
Clearly, there is much to learn and relearn when changing your accent, not to mention the amount of time needed to practice.
It is one of those very difficult questions to answer - "how long does it take to change my accent?" - because at what stage can you really say that you've mastered it? What we mean is, how long do you need to have been speaking English with not one slip back into your old accent before you can declare that you have changed your accent fully?
It could take someone a lifetime to lose their old habits for good!
Thankfully, we are confident that, with help, you can certainly make huge progress with modifying your accent in a much shorter frame of time! Some experts claim that someone can significantly change their accent in the space of just three months, with noticeable improvements in their manner of speech.
But while an accent can begin to transform within weeks, it can take 6 months or a year for a vast improvement.
With a well-trained professional, you can expect to see this shift in your accent during those initial few months and you will also continue to notice improvements all the while you use their methodologies and keep working on the tips and suggestions and exercises they offer you as part of your teaching course.
Accent reduction really is a commitment and not something that you can just pay for and expect to achieve as a given during your time on the course. You have to be invested in making a change for yourself and the speed at which you manage to modify your accent will often depend on how much work and practise you put in, yet it can take heavier accents a while longer to eliminate.
How Do Celebrities Cope With Changing Accents?
It comes as no surprise that actors must go through rigorous screening and auditions for any part, but sometimes if a director wants a particular actor (like, for example, if the movie or play was written for that person in their eyes), then they want them. As such, many actors are forced to take on new regional accents and sometimes even adapt their accent to sound like they are from across the pond.
Whether actors have to turn their US accent into a UK one, or vice-versa, there are many who appear to do it seamlessly. But do they really? Remember that filming a scene can take several hours or days with the shots being cut and re-run so it is is likely that these professionals do make mistakes but are able to go back and delete their accent slip and record a corrected version for the camera.
And on the subject of celebrities, here are a couple of celebs who you may not have known have very different natural accents to the one they portray on screen!
Sex and The City star Kim is well-known for her role as Samantha Jones in the hit US show, but did you know that she is originally from Liverpool, England? With this area of the UK being so well known for its deep, scouse twang, it is no surprise that when Kim is interviewed by British radio DJs or newsreaders she slips back into her Liverpudlian roots! We would never have known whilst watching her and Carrie roam around the streets of New York!
Known back in the day for his football skills and his timid Cockney accent, David Beckham has, over the years, lost his distinguishable London accent and seems to have a much more refined, standard British accent. Whether this was done purposely or is just a result of living overseas and mixing with players with numerous different nationalities, we do not know for sure, but his lifestyle and all of the brands that he represents are most likely a reason for wanting to sound more mainstream and less individual. Come on, David is unique enough with his exceptional ball skills he doesn't need to stand out anyway!
We hope this article has been useful and has shed some light on how you might expect a professional to help you change your accent. As you can see, it definitely is possible, but it's up to you how long it takes for you to modify your accent fully.
Find out how much accent reduction costs, here.