So you want to change your accent.
It might sound impossible.
But you can do it.
I've put together some tips to consider when you want to start modifying your accent or learn the General American Accent.
Tip 1: Record Yourself
Record yourself and listen back to the recording. It is difficult to correct yourself if you aren't aware of your own starting point. I recommend recording yourself at the start of the week and then at the end of the week/particular end goal date (e.g. at the end of quarter) to see if you can tell the difference when you are practicing a particular monologue or topic depending on your goal. For example, if you are preparing for your slide presentation, record yourself the first time you practice saying it aloud. Before your presentation, record yourself again to listen to how much you have improved and need to continue to work on. This helps build self-awareness.
Tip 2: Immerse in the Language and People
If you aren't already doing so, immerse yourself in the language. This is especially important if you aren't in an area where the language is widely spoken.
Watch your favorite TV show and listen specifically for the target sound or pattern you are wanting to change. Find friends who speak the language. They can be great models of American English pronunciation. Keep in mind there are regional dialects. Find native English-speaking friends, who are patient and be willing to correct your speech, possibly through a meetup or language exchange.
Tip 3: Pick A Person to Emulate
There is the General American Accent, the specific accent that I teach. There are also regional accents in North America. Think of a person that you would like to emulate or who you consider to be a great speech model.
Is it Steve Jobs? or former President Obama or Bush? Keeping that in mind will help lead the way to how you would like to progress in your journey to a modifying your accent.
Tip 4: Practice Each Day
If you are working on a particular sound/pattern, it takes practice. You need to build that muscle memory of correctly producing a particular sound (e.g., /ae/) and help build stronger self-awareness. It is particularly important to practice up to natural conversation or based on your goal. I recommend just a few minutes of deliberate practice that can range from 5-15 minutes.
Tip 5: Find an Accent Instructor or Speech Coach
Sometimes we need that extra push or expertise of a person who specializes in accent training. Know there are people out there more than willing to help you succeed. Areas can include: pronunciation, rhythm, intonation, vocabulary, and more!
Tip 6: Patience
You are learning something totally new. Big changes are not going to happen overnight. Have the patience to see it through.
Tip 7: Positive mindset
Believe that it is possible that you can change your accent. If you don't believe it is possible, it can be difficult to keep going.
Let me know in the comments how it went. Can you think of any tips that have helped you?
The word "the".
How many times can you think of that you used that word?
Quite a bit, right?
There are two ways to pronounce it.
"The" /THEE/ in "The end".
"The" /THUH/ in the sentence : The girl is going to school.
When exactly do you use these two?
/THEE/ pronunciation is made before vowel SOUND (not letter).
/THEE/ can also be used to provided emphasis when you are speaking.
/THUH/ pronunciation is made before a consonant sound.
Example phrases and words:
1. The end.
2. The actor just moved to California.
3. They ate all the apples yesterday.
1. The children are going to school.
2. The movie starts soon.
3. She left after she ran the race.
How many times do you think you used the "th" sound in conversation?
The "Th" sound is a pretty important sound.
I think you would agree after reading why.
Importance in a Nutshell:
1) It is the most commonly occurring consonant sound in English. Think about it...the word "the". It is an article, and we use them quite a bit. /Th/ is also found in pronouns. How often do we use pronouns? Again- A lot!
2) If it isn't produced correctly, it can become a different word. This can make things get confusing and/or uncomfortable for not only you as the speaker but the listener. Have you ever stood there wondering what the other person said and didn't want to ask the umpteenth time? Better yet, what about when you spoke to your OWN family and discovered you weren't used to their accent anymore. You can't believe you don't understand your own parents because you have been away too long. What?!! Yes, that has happened.
3. The sound is not in many other languages.
When that happens, you might substitute it for another sound.
How to Produce /TH/
Watch the video for word and sentence practice:
in and stick the tip of your tongue between your teeth
"Why can't I make this sound right?"
“Why does it sound different from how she is saying it?”
Or possibly frustrated that you don’t know how to change a consonant sound to be closer to what a native speaker says it.
It is because consonants are produced differently in American English or the General American accent.
Some consonant sounds don't even exist in other languages.
One way to look and analyze how to correctly make a consonant sound is by analyzing the place, manner, and voicing of a consonant. This is what professionals, such as me, utilize to analyze the difference of how a consonant is produced vs how a speaker is producing the sound.
Place: This pertains to where the sound is produced.
Is it produced using both your lips? Is the sound produced by placing your tongue behind your teeth, which is called the alveolar ridge (e.g., /t/). There are eight different categories.
Manner: This pertains to how the sound is produced.
Are you stopping the sound and then have a burst (e.g., /t, d, k, g)? There are six areas on how a sound is produced.
Voicing: This pertains to whether your voice is "on" or "off". This refers to whether you are using vocal folds or not to produce the sound. With voice sounds, your vocal folds are vibrating. Consonants are voiceless or voiced consonants. You know you are using your voice when you place your hand on your throat and feel if it is vibrating. Voiced consonant sounds include some of the following: /b, d, g, v, ð, z/.
Would I say it is necessary to know ALL details for all three areas to produce consonants correctly?
I would say no, because it might get confusing and more information that you don’t necessarily need to know to learn a sound.
It is important to know place and manner (and voicing depending on the sound) of the sound you are focusing on. You can find out on your own, of course, but also can seek out the expertise of a professional or someone knowledgeable to only focus on information that is necessary to know and leave out anything that is unnecessary.
If you have already started accent training sessions, this way of analyzing sounds can be helpful troubleshooting between sessions as well. If you just learned the sound and find that it still doesn’t sound close to the American English pronunciation, you can think where exactly the breakdown is and it discuss it with your accent instructor or coach. For example, are you cutting off the sound too quickly making a "th" sound more like a /t,d/? Do you have your voice off instead of on?
If you would like a more in-depth description and nitty gritty of each area, let me know in the comments.
Have you ever heard of the place-manner-voicing analysis?
One of the first things that people like to discuss when first meeting others is what they enjoy doing during their free time. It is a great way to determine any common interests. There are lots of hobbies that a person can have. The list will include common hobbies, including outdoor activities that are popular here in the Pacific Northwest. If you would like another short lesson on hobbies, I can create more. The hobbies that are included in the audio are the following:
6. Watching movies
7. Playing board games
9. Watching sports
10. Listening to music
1. Listen carefully and repeat after each word and phrases.
2. Imitate the sounds, rhythm, and stress patterns that you hear.
3. Practice this list at least once a day for up to 7 days and note your progress.
What are your hobbies?
Have you found yourself after years of learning English but still having difficulty saying particular words?
In the coming months, I hope to include different videos and blog posts that you find useful. If interested, you could complete the survey and type at least 3 to 5 words that you find difficult to pronounce or would like to know how to pronounce. I will then gather all the words and make a video on some of the words. You can also comment below.
Any words you find the most difficult to pronounce in American English?
Accent training sessions...
So you are considering taking some sessions to take your speaking skills to the next level.
You want to finally feel like you can order at a coffee shop without someone asking you to repeat yourself for the 5th time.
You feel empowered to find someone who can truly help you reach your goals.
Once you have decided to make that next step, below are some tips that can help you get the most out of your accent training sessions.
Know Your Why
Why did you choose to seek out assistance and expertise from an accent/speech coach or instructor? Knowing your why will not only help your coach to personalize your sessions but also help you to keep showing up. It enables your coach to truly personalize and help you achieve your personal goals. If you know why you are there, your coach can change session content that was originally planned. If you know that you want to be able to speak more clearly and professionally during team meetings at work, bring your presentation slides to your session. If you have a script you need to use for an upcoming audition, bring it with you. That is what personalized sessions are all about.
Be an active participant
When you are in session, be present throughout the session. Know what you are learning and why you are learning it that day.
Listen...Listen to the different aspects of your coach's overall words, pronunciation, and rhythm. Listen to what your instructor keeps asking you to correct.
Make a commitment to put in the practice each and every day. Every little bit helps. Your daily habits to commit to complete weekly practice provided by your coach/instructor is the foundation to seeing the change overtime. Commit to signing up for sessions and showing up each week. It takes time to see change, luckily, there is a time after 10-12 weeks of private sessions that you can see considerable change and progress with consistency.
Can you think of anything else that you have found that has helped you make the most of your sessions?
Idioms are expressions that go beyond the literal meaning. Understanding idioms is helpful in everyday conversation and conversing in a work environment. It can cause confusion in conversation if a listener does not understand what a speaker is saying. There are so many different idioms that you can come across in a given day.
I have included some below that you can practice and learn to use. You can try to create sentences with the new idioms.
1. Hang in there
Now that we are starting to be able to travel again, I have included a short video lesson on how to pronounce some common terms that you may have to use while traveling. This is only Part 1. I will be including a Part 2 in a future lesson.