How to speak English fluently, when it is not your preferred language?
Every language has a specific speech sound system. As a child, your speech sound system is programmed into you. As you grow older, it becomes more difficult to shift away from this original program of speech sounds of your native accent. However,this is not to suggest that it is impossible to change your speech sound system when learning English.
Just like how you would embark on a weight loss program, the following are required. Necessary motivation, training and sufficient practice and clarity of speech sounds are essential in re-training your speech sound system.
Is there a right time to work on your accent?
Yes, accent work, or pronunciation work will be much easier if you have already acquired a basic level of grammar and vocabulary in English.
There are many factors which influence someone’s success in accent training. Here are 5 key factors which will influence your outcome.
1) Fast speech rate:
Many people speak fast as their natural speaking style, regardless of the language they are speaking. The problem is, clear, assertive speech will never be achieved at a fast rate. Whilst some have a natural fast rate, there are others, who speak quickly, so that they will not be heard. This usually stems from the fear of thinking they will say the words incorrectly, or having to deal with puzzled looks. Think about the times when you have come across a word that you were unsure of. What did you do to avoid saying that word? If you do have a fast speaking rate, and want to find some solutions, look at my video!
2) Speech difficulties :
Speech difficulty arising from a physical, neurological or psychological deficit will influence ability to achieve clear pronunciation. This could be anything from excessive nasality, stuttering, lisp. I do work with adults with speech difficulties, contact us for an non-obligatory discussion.
3)Hearing loss :
Our hearing starts deteriorating from 18 years of age. However, we are able to hear conversational speech till we are aged. If you have a significant hearing loss, or are unable to discriminate speech sounds, you should seek help from an audiologist.
Apart from a hearing loss, some people have difficulties hearing differences between sounds. As I mentioned earlier, our original speech sound system was created when we were growing up. If you were accustomed to hearing a specific word in your native accent, chances are, you won’t be paying attention to the differences in new sounds. The only way to get around this is to submerge yourself in an environment of people who speak the accent you are striving for! Auditory bombardment helps:)
People often shy away, and speak softly when they don’t want to be heard. This serves against you, as soft speech is often poorly projected, and often comes across as mumbled speech. If you have difficulties in projecting your voice, read my article here, which could help!
5)Emotional moments :
During strong emotional moments, there is a tendency to regress back to an earlier accent. And this refers to any emotional moment. Extra happiness ,sadness, fear, anger, stress etc etc. When we have a surge of strong emotions, our speech reverts back to our native accent. Interesting fact isn’t it?
The next time you are having a long day, and wondering why it’s so hard to speak with a neutral accent, you got your answer! Fret not, your new learnt accent will come back once you come back to baseline emotions!
If you are ready to work on your accent, download my free e-book here. Learn how to speak clearer, and be understood!