A customer recently emailed me to ask what he was doing wrong.
He said he was a Doctor, and that he’d been listening to BBC radio programs for a few years to help him with his accent reduction. He was quite frustrated because even though he had been listening for years, he felt his English pronunciation hadn’t improved.
The problem was that he had only been doing half of his accent reduction training!
He had been listening which is vitally important, but he hadn’t been repeating and mimicking. His story prompted me to write about 3 great tips to help you speed up your accent reduction.
Super Charge your Accent Reduction Tip 1
Listen through headphones
Why? When you listen through headphones you are vibrating the auditory nerve directly. This is the nerve that goes from your ear to the speech and language centres in the brain. Because you are vibrating the nerve directly through headphones, your accent reduction speeds up, and you make the neurological pathways stronger for your clear English speech.
The audio recording that you make in your head of your new English accent becomes stronger. Then, when you want to remember how a word should sound, you can recall it and you will pronounce it more clearly. As the famous Ear , Nose and Throat doctor, Alfred Tomatis , said ‘what the ear can hear, the voice can reproduce.” This immensely improves your ear’s ability to ‘hear’ the finer differences in pronunciation for your accent reduction.
Super Charge Your Accent Reduction Tip 2
Mimic and Speak Aloud
You do need to listen over and over to the new accent you want, but you also need to mimic and repeat aloud.
It was great that the Doctor listened to the BBC, but he didn’t mimic or repeat. He didn’t give his mouth muscles and his tongue any practise in moving in the new way for his new accent. It’s like trying to be a top tennis player by only listening to your coach and not actually doing any physical practise!
Your mouth needs to get used to moving differently to make the sounds and words in English that are different from your native language. You have to give your mouth a chance to build new muscle memory pathways so your clear English pronunciation can become automatic.
There is merit in listening and visualising your mouth moving in the new way in your mind ( let’s say if you are on public transport and can’t speak aloud), but it isn’t enough. To reduce your accent properly you also need to practise mimicking aloud.
Because mimicking aloud is so important, we have left a space for you to repeat aloud after the native English speaking trainer in my accent reduction programs. Have a listen to an audio sample on these pages: British, American, Australian accents.
Super Charge your Accent Reduction Tip 3
Record and Compare
I recently met a woman who speaks four languages fluently, including English. Her first language is Russian, but despite all of the languages she speaks , she only had a very slight accent in English. She spoke clearly and confidently.
When I asked her what she had done to reduce her accent in English- of course I would ask her that!-she told me her secret.
She had recorded herself speaking and then listened back to herself.
It was simple, but she had also persevered and repeated the same action over and over till her accent was clearer.
She had listened to what she needed to change, and then practised that, and then recorded herself again. She repeated this process over and over again. Once you have distinguished what you need to change, you can listen to native English speakers in our program or around you, to help you practise, and then record yourself again and see if you are getting closer, just as the woman I met did.
So if you want to supercharge your accent reduction don’t forget to listen through headphones, mimic and repeat and record and compare.