IWTYAL 026: How to get a good accent quickly

itunesButtonFerdaous asks: “I’m learning English, how can I develop a good American accent quickly?”

In this episode:

  • Why a good accent is important
  • The difference between phonemes and prosody
  • Why developing a good accent is the result of extensive communication in your target language

Tips for improving your accent:

  1. Tackle pronunciation immediately with a native speaker to perfect your pronunciation, before you develop any bad habits.
  2. Observe native speakers in action and their voices when they interact, especially at key social moments, such as introductions or meeting friends. If you only work with a teacher, how is their voice when they greet you? This is often the most authentic moment of the conversation. TV and movies are also a good place to focus in on this.
  3. Imitate how native speakers say common words and phrases that you’re familiar with. Try to copy their exact intonation, and say it aloud over and over. If you’re working with audio recordings, this app is incredibly useful for this.
  4. Copy body language too. Face, arm, and shoulder movements are intimately related in the persona that you’re developing in your target language.
  5. Learn and sing songs. Using songs to learn languages is an effective way to focus on the pronunciation of words and the rhythm and flow of the language.
  6. Develop mini-speeches. Writing, preparing and learning the words that you’re going to say frees you up to focus on the delivery.
  7. Use study material with native-like audio. Listen to long dialogues on repeat and pay close attention to the melody of the language.
  8. Practise whole lines of dialogues, not just single words. Try to embody the emotions of what’s being said, feel the speaker’s joy or pain, and become that person in that moment. Similarly, with spaced repetition software, work on whole sentences rather than individual words.
  9. In live situations, focus on the effect on the listener, instead of the accuracy of your pronunciation.
  10. If possible, record and listen back to yourself speaking with native speakers. This can be rough, but you might be amazed at how you hear yourself. If you find it hard to speak with native speakers, think of ways to beat your fear of speaking.

Today’s homework:

 

  1. Choose one activity from the list above
  2. Try it out for a week
  3. Leave me a comment below to let me know how it goes!

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  • Ferdaous

    Thank you for answering my question, and for all those tips 🙂

    You’ve said that becoming like a native speaker it’s having contact with native speakers, we can consider that I have that contact with them but in a virtual context I mean regular conversations (Skype, Italki). maybe this can help as well.

    I actually think that one of the great points that you mentioned was the 10th tips: recording and listening back to myself speaking with native speakers, I tried this method, it could be really annoying to hear myself because I realised that my accent it’s really different to those English native speakers, even when I heard myself in your podcast, I’m sure that helps me because now I can observe my accent and make some improvements.

    I believe that improving my accent is possible because speaking with native speakers is the best way to learn English in few months, at least now I’m able to speak English which was impossible before 10 months so improving accent can be my new challenge, by using all your important advices.

    Thanks!!

    • You’re welcome – thanks so much for your question!