How do I improve my accent and speak clearly in English?

In Accent Reduction, Improve Your Speaking by Thila RajaLeave a Comment

How do I improve my accent in English? Is it possible to change my accent when I am older?

I get asked this question quite a few times, so I thought I should do a blog post about it.Let’s start with the basics, what is an accent? From past experience, I know that this word brings up many meanings and emotions amongst people. Research has actually indicated that some words have the ability to get us steamed up, raise our blood pressure and get our hearts beating faster…and you guessed it, the word “accent” is certainly one of those words!

Why is that so? The word “accent” broadly means pronunciation. Most people, when they hear, “ He has an accent”, conjure up negative comments and emotions about that person’s speech. In reality, you cannot speak in any language, without an accent! The Queen of England has an accent, in the same manner as you and I.

Each language has its own varieties, broad, general and prestige varieties.  As a general rule, the prestige varieties in English, are close to the “Queen’s English, or “Received Pronunciation”. The broad varieties fall at the other end of the spectrum, and as often regarded as socially less desirable. Broad varieties are harder for other speakers of other varieties of English to understand. On the other hand, speakers of  the prestige varieties will invariably understand each other, whether they are from : US, Uk, South Africa or Australia.

In countries where there are increasing number of migrants, especially Australia, there is often a heated debate on the question as to whether migrants should change their accent to conform to that of the mainstream.

What are your views on it?

My personal view is, if you accent is clearly understood by people, then there is no need to modify it, unless you wish to do so for aesthetic purposes. However, if your accent is difficult to understand, if you have to keep repeating yourself, or often get misunderstood, then you will most certainly face communication barriers. For me, it was a personal decision, which was influenced by my area of work. I had to be understood by people who already had communication impairment. So, I undertook the work on modifying my accent and utilising the “Received Pronunciation” when the situation called for it.

So, if you are someone who is facing communication barriers, if you are someone whose career has stalled due to your accent, or if you are someone who is tired of repeating yourself all the time, it’s time to make a change!

Here are 5 simple tips that you can use in your speech, to reduce your accent.

1)Write down words that you get misunderstood on. Listen to how people in the media ( radio, television) say that word. Look out for the intonation, their way of saying that word and try to say it out aloud slowly.

2)Get familiar with your oral cavity. Start being aware of your articulators, your tongue, teeth, jaw, lips. Get a feel of how they move when you say a basic word or phrase. For speech to happen, you need to be aware of : The position and shape of your tongue, position and shape of your lips, relative position of your jaw, length of time these positions are held for.

3)Be aware of your rate of speech. The faster you talk, the harder it is for non-native listeners to comprehend you. Think about how you can reduce your rate of speech, by pausing naturally.

4)Complete the last sounds of your words. Eg: D-o-g, is different to D-O. When you listen to speakers who are not very clear, more often than not, they do not finish the last sounds of their words. Look out for these sounds, which you can practise to mark the clear end of a word, “k,t,d,g”

5) I have written an e-book , which goes through the steps in accent reduction, and English pronunciation tips. Please download it here!

I hope you found these tips useful! I have also done a video on accent reduction. Check it out here, and subscribe and share!

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