How to improve your accent and spoken English. A question I get asked often by students.
While improving your accent may seem unattainable and overwhelming at first,
the five steps I share with you in this episode are going to break it down in a simple and clear way, for when you are ready to take your English to the next level.
Watch: 5 Steps to Improve Your Accent and spoken English
Hey, it’s Hadar and this is the Accent’s Way.
Today I’m going to tell you what are the things that you have to do if you’re looking to improve your accent and clarity in English.
Now, a lot of people think that improving your accent is dealing with ‘luxury problems’, and that you have to start working on your accent and pronunciation when your English is good enough.
Now, I don’t believe this is true. I think an accent is one of the core elements of spoken English, and it should be taught from day one.
An accent is, as one of my smart students defined once, the performance of English. It’s basically how you take everything you know about English, and your knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, and the intuition that you’ve developed along the years, and you turn it into spoken English. How you execute everything.
And it’s important to work on your accent because this is actually how you hear yourself and how you perceive yourself as a speaker of English.
So the first thing you need to work on is your perception, or your listening skill. You need to start identifying the differences between the sounds that exist in your native tongue and the sounds of English.
And also, you need to start hearing the difference between the different sounds in English even if the differences are very very subtle. Because if you can’t hear it, you can’t make it.
So first, you have to recognize it. Our brain filters out so much information, and a lot of the information that it filters out is not necessary because it doesn’t exist in your native tongue. But it’s essential in English because sometimes that’s the difference between one word and another.
So let’s put it to test. Can you hear the difference between ‘thanks’ and ‘tanks’? ‘thanks’ –‘tanks’. ‘thanks’ – TH, TH. ‘tanks’ – T, T.
What about ‘reach’ and ‘rich’? ‘reach’-‘rich’. So the first one is the tense E, and the second one is the relaxed I.
So maybe you can hear it but. So maybe you can hear it now, when I do it slowly in isolation, but do you notice the difference between those vowels when you listen to people speaking English?
And yes, maybe it’s clear now, when I put these two sounds in isolation, but maybe these are things that you don’t notice usually when you hear people speak English.
And you have to start noticing it because again, when you hear it – you can make it.
What about ‘cake’ /keik/ versus ‘cake’ /kheik/? It’s a little more challenging, right?
So the first K sound was a regular k, ‘keɪk’. The second one was aspirated as you should pronounce it in English – ‘kheɪk’.
So it feels like there is a little H right after the K sound. Listen again: /keik/ – /kheik/. Everything else was the same.
Now, you may have not noticed it the first time I said it, but now if you listen closely you can totally hear it, right? ‘keɪk’ – ‘kheɪk’.
And I bet you’ll start hearing it all the time around you when you hear people speak.
These are just a few examples of the differences that you need to start paying attention to when you listen to English. And you shouldn’t just listen to words as they come at you as just words, right. As they represented in the dictionary.
No. Words are comprised of consonants and vowels. And these consonants or vowels may be different than how you think they should be pronounced. And some syllables are longer and stressed, and some are reduced and short, okay.
So you need to think of it as if you’re listening to a new language that you’ve never heard before, and you’re trying to recognize those all of these new sounds that you are not familiar with.
The next thing is your pronunciation. You need to know how to pronounce the sounds that don’t exist in your native tongue. These are the sounds that are going to be a little more challenging for you to pronounce because you’re not used to them. And maybe you’re not sure how you’re supposed to pronounce them.
Sounds are consonants, sounds that are stopped or partially stopped like ‘p’, ‘ch’, ‘r’. Or vowel sounds that are not interrupted, like ‘ei’, ‘aa’, ‘ee’ and ‘uw’.
Now, when it comes to pronunciation, there is pretty much one way you should pronounce the sound and that’s about it. So, it’s very specific, very technical. Your tongue needs to be here, your lips need to do that, and your jaw needs to be this open. And that’s it.
And when you get it right, you get it right. Of course, it has to do with tension and trying not to let old habits interfere which is the pronunciation habits that you have from your native tongue.
So, we need to take all of that into consideration, of course. But the good news is that you always have a clear answer when it comes to what you need to do with your mouth when pronouncing a certain sound.
So, improving your pronunciation is an important step when improving your accent.
The third thing is improving your intonation. While pronunciation is the building blocks of the language – intonation is how you put it all together. What you stress what you don’t stress, the melody of the language the attitude that is conveyed.
Now, when we speak English as a second language we usually use the intonational patterns from our native tongue. That means that either the language can be reduced to a very monotone melody, or it can be very pitchy going up and down because this is how it is in your native tongue, if you speak a tonal language, for example.
So, again, we need to be aware of that, we need to be aware of the differences between how you play the music in your language and how you play the music in English. Because your message can be compromised if you’re stressing too many words, or if you’re stressing the wrong words because that’s how you do it in your native tongue.
Intonation is also the rhythm of the language, the internal feel. The long versus short, the times where you go fast and when you slow down. So all of these things are really important when you’re speaking, and help you to convey strong message.
Now, if you’re looking to improve your intonation even more I will put the links to the videos where I teach intonation right below in the description.
The next thing is effective practice. It’s one thing to learn it and to understand it, and be able to pronounce it clearly, or to get the right melody.
It’s another thing to make it your own, to turn it into a habit, to overcome the old pronounciation habits or old intonational habits, and actually start using it in real life without thinking about it. Because when you’re practicing you want to develop muscle memory.
And one more thing, when you practice you train the muscles – your muscles need to be in good shape, just like when you workout or when you play an instrument. You’ve got to practice every single day to get the right muscle tone.
To be able to round your lips really tight for the U-sound or for the R. And to be able to shift from the S to the TH, this tricky transition, really quickly. So your tongue needs to be fast, and quick, and in control.
The only way to do it is with effective practice, drilling the words in a certain way and then applying it in words phrases and sentences.
Now look, this is not hard work. It’s not something that you have to do every day for 5 hours a day. No! You can invest only 15 or 20 minutes a day, but it has to be effective, and you have to see results.
So, if you’ve been practicing for a while and you’re still not happy with the result, then maybe your practice was not effective enough. Maybe you were practicing wrong, maybe you were repeating the same mistakes, and ultimately just wasting time.
So this is why accurate practice, an effective practice, is another key component in improving your accent and clarity.
The last thing you want to take into consideration when improving your accent is whatever your practicing is not going to show up immediately in conversation, okay. And that’s totally natural.
The idea is that you develop the muscle memory until your tongue remembers the right placement and you start working on the intonation, until your body feels it and you start using it without thinking about it. Right.
So there is a lot of room for Intuition, and there’s a lot of room for just the work to show up as you speak. So, but that takes time.
But what you could do in order to integrate everything that you’re learning into your day-to-day speech is to start having those conscious conversations. Conversations that are not too demanding. So, it shouldn’t be a job interview, or an important meeting, but a conversation where you can start thinking or being very aware of the sounds that you’re currently practicing.
So, for example, if you’re practicing your sheep-ship vowel pair, okay, and you’re trying to make that distinction, and you’ve been drilling the sounds, and you’ve been reading a lot of sentences, analyzing texts and doing all of the work.
So, you might want to start using it more consciously when you speak. Now, ultimately, if you do the work and if you practice it will show up, it will, believe me! I’ve done it, and did the work, I practiced, and now I don’t think about the sounds when I speak.
Okay, so I’m telling you from my own experience. But if you want to expedite the process, then start using these sounds consciously when you speak. And that way, first, you create a lot of awareness, and second, you really start using it on a day-to-day basis.
And when you hear yourself using it and you become confident about it, then it gives you also the confidence to keep on doing it and to improve.
And that’s what we’re looking for! Progress, not perfection!
So, these were the 5 things that you need to start doing in order to improve your clarity and your accent. And, If you haven’t started thinking about it, about improving your accent, maybe you should.
Because you will be surprised that it opens doors. It opens your English door. It opens the channel of free communication and fluency.
Now if you like this video I have more to share with you. I have a brand new master class coming up in just a few days that I think you won’t want to miss.
The name of this master class is “The 5 secrets to speaking English like a natural.” And I’m going to take everything that I talked about here and dive even deeper, and we’re even gonna have time for a live Q&A at the end.
So if you want to join me and I really hope you do, go to my website theaccentsway.com/webinar/ and register.
So again, it’s “theaccentsway” – don’t forget the S – theaccentsway.com/webinar/
Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.
After watching the video, here are three things you can do to get you started:
1. As you listen to English this week, try to detect sounds that you haven’t paid attention to before.
2. Choose one sound that you struggle with and practice it in words, phrases, and sentences.
3. Record yourself speaking freely while using intentionally the sound you’ve practiced.
Want to learn more? Here are more tips and tricks on making your English better.
Leave me a comment if you have any other questions about improving your accent!