If you are from a non- English speaking background, you will know how frustrating it can be to miss out on opportunities because of a strong accent in English.
A candid client of mine recently summed it up. The recruitment people in his department told him that his accent was holding him back from reaching the next level of management. This was because of his accent, not because he wasn’t educated or skilled enough.
In my many years of helping people to learn an Australian accent, I’ve found there are some key things that help super boost accent reduction in English.
1) You Have To Move Your Mouth More To Learn an Australian Accent
When you want to learn an Australian accent, you need to move your mouth more, compared to speaking other languages.
This means you open your mouth and drop your bottom jaw more. If you are saying a word with an ‘oo’ or ‘w’ sound, you really need to put your lips more forward and more rounded than you would normally do in your native language. The same goes for the ‘er’ vowel, and of course the /r/ sound isn’t pronounced when you say the Australian ‘er’ vowel.
It may feel odd, but you will speak more clearly and confidently, and of course your resonance and voice quality will sound better when you give a presentation, or when you go for interviews.
2) Make Your New Australian Accent Automatic and Fluent
Often people practise a speech element for their new Australian accent, but don’t make it automatic or fluent in their speech. Then they feel that it doesn’t make a difference to their clarity. You need to take the time to practise enough, and to make your new speech element automatic in your everyday speech. This is one of the reasons I developed the Australian Accent Reduction course, so people would have a tailor made program to practise with.
For example, if you are learning to say the ‘th’ sound correctly, you also need it to be automatic in your everyday speech as well. This takes time and repetition.
Try this Technique:
Once you know how to say the ‘th’, read aloud to yourself (use any text, magazine etc) for 5 minutes every day. As you read, concentrate on saying all the ‘th’ sounds in words correctly. Feel that your tongue is going in the right place.
Start slowly to help your mouth get organised, and after a couple of weeks speed up gradually, but keep the ‘th’ said correctly.
Put a note on your desk at work to remind you to use your new ‘th’ sound when you answer the phone.
3) Learn To Say Your Name Clearly and Slowly
Our first point of contact with people especially on the phone is often our name. This is also really important when going into a job interview.
Practise saying your name clearly and slowly. People won’t think you are being silly, they will just notice they can understand and remember your name. This immediately puts them at ease, and makes them more receptive to what you have to say. This is about taking care of the listener.
4) Just Change 1 or 2 Things at a Time
Just changing one or two things when you speak can already make a big difference. Changing piece by piece ads up, and contributes to clearer and clearer speech. Don’t get overwhelmed and try to change everything at once.
For example Chinese background language speakers could first work on saying all the end consonants in English (including the past tense ‘ed’ sound) and not omit them, and this would already make a big difference.
Indian language background speakers could work on using an Australian /r/ sound when they speak, and learning how to aspirate the consonant sounds (not stop the consonants, but say them with a puff of air).
Each piece brings you closer to speaking with an Australian accent.
5) Is Your Mouth Moving Differently?
This may seem obvious, but if your mouth doesn’t feel like it’s moving differently when you’re practising to learn an Australian accent, then you are probably just doing what you did before.
While these tips are a good place to start, if you would like to reduce your accent in English, have a look at accent reduction courses here.