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Accent Reduction
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Parlay44 Offline
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Post: #26
RE: Accent Reduction
(02-05-2014 02:26 PM)Bad Hussar Wrote:  Why do you want to change your accent? Is it difficult for people to understand you? Or, do you feel you have an "unfashionable" accent?

He's into cornfed creamy-white Midwest girls. Breaking into their social circle is the key. The more they can relate to you the better off you are.

Your accent isn't bad Lothario. You are very well spoken. You gotta get to the point where you can flip flop between a few different accents.

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02-05-2014 09:58 PM
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Post: #27
RE: Accent Reduction
Lothario,
Want to really throw the girls a curb ball if they ask about your accent? Tell them you're from a small city in Western Asia between Oslo and Johannesburg. Wink And watch their hamster spin out of control!

I wouldn't worry about changing your accent except if it was thick Indian, in that case, by all means.

Speaking of accent, I'd love to master the British and mainly London accent. Any tips/recommendations guys?
(This post was last modified: 02-05-2014 10:39 PM by Vacancier Permanent.)
02-05-2014 10:38 PM
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Post: #28
RE: Accent Reduction
Lothario:

I teach accent reduction from time to time, so I'll give you some quick targeted observations here to get you going.

For the courses you've listed, their syllabi cover pretty standard fare when it comes to accent reduction. I can't say anything about the quality of their teaching, but the content would be more or less sound. You'll see good progress in either.

Now, here's one observation to help you set your practice priorities straight:
Your vowels and consonants can be off a bit, but it's your intonation and rhythm that will make the biggest impression on native speakers.

Of course, I don't know what the sticking points in your accent are, so I can't give information about what exact things you need to do. I can, however, guess as to what problems speakers of languages from India tend to have.

Actually, now that I think of it, I can help out a bit more. There's a decent accent reduction book called "American Accent Training" by Ann Cook. In it, there's a diagnostic test (I've seen it available online somewhere as well). If you want, I could do a quick run through of your accent based on a recording of your voice taking the diagnostic test.

I don't have the time nowadays to teach accent reduction, but I'm willing to spend the time to diagnose key areas in your accent which could use improvement.

If it's too cumbersome to find access to, PM me and I'll send you a copy of a diagnostic test.

Anyways, back on topic (excuse me if I go too heavy with the jargon; ask me questions if certain parts are unclear):

1) There are three vowels that foreigners (no specific country in particular) tend to have trouble on.

These are
/æ/, the sound in "apple"
/ʊ/, the sound in "could"
/ɪ/, the sound in "bit"
(If you're French, try guessing now what "bit" is mispronounced as tard)

The /æ/ sound tends to be mispronounced as /ɛ/, so you have "epple" instead of "apple".

The /ʊ/ sound tends to be mispronounced as /u/, so you have "cood" instead of "could"

The /ɪ/ sound tends to be mispronounced as /i/, so you have "beet" instead of "bit".

I'm pointing these out because a lot of accent reduction courses just teach you all the vowels and give the same attention to all of them, but this is stupid and inefficient. Certain vowels tend to be more mispronounced than others, so they should take priority. Thus, if you take a class, increase your focus when you encounter these specific sounds.

Doing a bit of check from my experience, I feel that Indian language speakers tend to pronounce /æ/ as /ɑ/, so you have "ahpple" instead of "apple". This might be a good thing to keep in mind for you.

2) Speakers of Indian languages when it comes to the "t".

The consonants "t/d" are actually quite interesting and have more varieties than you think. You guys actually have an "aspirated d" that doesn't exist in American English, so the consonant inventory of "t/d" is richer in Indian languages.

Anyways, the problem here is when the incorrect "t" is used.

When "t" starts a word, an American would pronounce it aspirated (breath of air is released afterwards). However, speakers of Indian languages tend to pronounce it in a plosive-like manner (examples of plosives are the /b/ and /p/ sounds). It's kind of like how Spanish speakers pronounce the "t" in "tú".

An example consequence of this is that "I have no time" might end up sounding like "I have no dime". Take special practice in letting air out when you pronounce the "t". If you have problems here, try starting by pronouncing this initial "t" as "ts" or "th".

3) Here's a big one: speakers of Indian languages tend to dip and lower their pitches when a word is stressed. However, American speakers of English do the opposite.

For exAMple, when I'm TALKing NORmally, the PITCH of my VOICE tends to RAISE at points of STRESS.

It's a bit difficult to illustrate this point in writing as well as what strategies there are to get this down, so if this is indeed a problem, I'll give you more info in writing.

Hope this helps. If you have any more specific questions, I'll try to answer them to the best of my ability.
02-06-2014 01:56 AM
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theArbiter Offline
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Post: #29
RE: Accent Reduction
Since you also mentioned a desire for a bit of RP nuance in your speech, here are two quick observations (there's a large chance that you're at least slightly aware of the first point since it is typical for many speakers of languages in India):

1) The RP accent is non-rhotic. This means that the "r" sound is usually not pronounced after a vowel (unless the following sound is a vowel). Instead, the vowel is lengthened, so

"More birds" sounds like
/mɔː bɜːdz/ (RP)
/mɔɹ bɜɹdz/ (Standard American)
[If you aren't yet familiar with IPA notation, you can still see what's going on. The /ɹ/ is basically the "American r" and /ː/ represents lengthening]

Try it.

It's funny because the letter "r" is pronounced /ɑ:/, so there's no "r" sound in it! Crazy Brits Banana.

Once you get the basic mechanism down, start paying attention while speaking and be prepared once you encounter a word with R's in it.

It's addicting and fun to do, and really takes a huge chunk out of "getting" the RP accent.

2) Get rid of the American flap and stop T's. More simply, actually pronounce your T's.

This is most clearly illustrated by example.
An example of a stop T is "bit". Standard American entails that the "t" sound not be released; it just closes off the preceding sounds. However, this should be released in RP, though take care to make it subtle.

An example of a flap T is in the word "butter". You can think of the pronunciation as something like "budder" (so it's more like a D, but not completely). Unlike a standard t/d, this consonant doesn't completely close off the sound. It just glides to the next sound smoothly. In RP, pronounce the T with a standard aspiration (though again, make it subtle).

If you wanted to go Cockney here, instead of pronouncing the T as an aspirated t, turn it into a glottal stop. So what's a glottal stop? Again, I'd rather stick to the simplicity of example: imagine a Brit pronouncing "butter" as "buh' er". Yeah, swallow that T up.

"3") There's also two pairs of vowel distinctions that exist in RP, but not Standard American, but there really isn't a clear set rule for when it is applied, so for the sake of simplicity, this will be glossed over.

The main mistake Americans make when trying to imitate a UK accent is they go overboard to the max (notice the two times I used the word "subtle" above), which makes them sound like Australians (this is how I think of a typical Aussi accent, lol). UK accents tend to more subtle, especially the RP variety.
02-06-2014 01:58 AM
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Lothario Offline
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Post: #30
RE: Accent Reduction
(02-05-2014 09:58 PM)Parlay44 Wrote:  He's into cornfed creamy-white Midwest girls. Breaking into their social circle is the key. The more they can relate to you the better off you are.

Your accent isn't bad Lothario. You are very well spoken. You gotta get to the point where you can flip flop between a few different accents.

Right on Parlay .... By flip flopping you mean like this guy .....





@ VP : Sure will use that line ... Pretty funny

@ theArbiter : Your posts have a lot of good info in it, I am at work but will sit down later and digest it and will get back to you. Thanks for leaving all the detailed info.

"You can not fake good kids" - Mike Pence
(This post was last modified: 02-06-2014 10:00 AM by Lothario.)
02-06-2014 09:59 AM
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Post: #31
RE: Accent Reduction
(02-05-2014 10:38 PM)Vacancier Permanent Wrote:  Lothario,
Want to really throw the girls a curb ball if they ask about your accent? Tell them you're from a small city in Western Asia between Oslo and Johannesburg. Wink And watch their hamster spin out of control!

I wouldn't worry about changing your accent except if it was thick Indian, in that case, by all means.

Speaking of accent, I'd love to master the British and mainly London accent. Any tips/recommendations guys?

Watch a lot of good debates with good eloquent British speakers..I can also coach you on skype in exchange for Spanish lessons..I am a Londoner Smile. The fastest way to learn an accent is to have an unabashed admiration and desire to learn that accent and hear it on a daily basis..your brain will subsconsciously re-design how you pronounce those words.

For instance, my current lizard is an American but she is now calling pants trousers and pronouncing words like 'Half' as Haaawf (Brit style)..instead of Hahv.

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02-06-2014 10:09 AM
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Bad Hussar Offline
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Post: #32
RE: Accent Reduction
(02-05-2014 09:08 PM)Lothario Wrote:  
Quote:Also, I wouldn't listen too much to people who claim there is no "Standard American Accent". Pretty much every country has a standard (don't necessarily mean majority users) accent used by the vast majority of Upper Middle Class and above people, especially in the capital and/or financial centre of the country. Essentially an accent of the lower ruling class. Also used by people moving up or aspiring to. In that process people lose their regional accents. No I'm not being "elitist", just pointing out something that was pointed out to me years ago, incidentally by an extremely smart guy with a lifetime's work in linguistics and languages.

I will ask you tell me a little more about this guy you talk about , He sounds like a very Interesting guy. Any more words of wisdom from him ?

Yes, definitely a very interesting guy. Let's just say he worked/works as a very high level translator dealing with very weighty issues... Has a lot of knowledge of the many languages and cultural nuances if the region he specializes in. In the conversation I was referring to I was saying that it's amazing that people, especially children, get their accents pretty much entirely from their peers rather than parents, and that this sometimes results in entire generations of children having completely different accents to their parents. This started a whole discussion about accents and how they change over time. His contention was basically what I wrote. That in the process of "moving up" people lose their regional accents and adopt the "standard accent" of the country they live in. Even in early adulthood. In fact for people not born into a family already using this accent the change would usually happen at university. And "standard" in this context doesn't have much to do with how many people use that particular accent. It is largely defined as the accent used, as I said, by the lower ruling class. Not necessarily by the majority. So the percentage of Brits, say, using RP may be quite small. But listen to BBC World presenters, any Prime Minister in the last... really forever, top Barristers, UK CEO's etc, etc, and you will have to search quite hard to find one whose accent is very far from RP. Like I say the "standard" accent of a country is the accent used by those "running" the country. Obviously there are exceptions, but you know what they say about exceptions proving the rule.

If you have Indian ethnicity you may get away with a British accent. The thing to shoot for would then be a sophisticated British "Asian" persona. Think British Indian with money/strong family who has become a senior Barrister with a big firm in the City. Such an accent/persona would probably go down better in the Mid West than a Standard American Accent, but as everyone is saying, you have to be able to pull it off...

I can definitely attest to the "American girls love British accents" idea. I have a bit of an unusual accent since I have lived all over the world, but you could say I have a pseudo British accent. A lot of Brits themselves ask whether I was sent to school in Britain (I wasn't). I don't have a lot of experience of living in the US. Most of my time in the US was/is spent in NY, where you'd think people would be jaded, and I can assure you the accent helps more than you can imagine even there.
02-06-2014 10:42 AM
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Post: #33
RE: Accent Reduction
I've always wanted to know if there are any courses for accent reduction for languages other than English, especially French (but also Spanish)?
04-09-2014 04:17 AM
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Glider Offline
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Post: #34
RE: Accent Reduction
I haven't tried it myself but you could try the Mimic method? Http://www.mimicmethod.com

Seems to have courses for Spanish, Portuguese, English, Chinese and French.

I need to actually need to learn Spanish before trying to perfect it so haven't bothered checking it out yet.
04-09-2014 06:23 AM
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Captain Gh Offline
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Post: #35
RE: Accent Reduction
I'm a French guy and a program that really helped me is The sound of your Voice by Dr. Carol Fleming. Highly Recommended!! After you reach proficiency, your natural accent will pop back in once in a while and you let them know about it, and then you can segue way and bait them to guess your background. Works well for me!
04-09-2014 08:56 AM
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The Beast1 Offline
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Post: #36
RE: Accent Reduction
OP what type of accent do you have? The only accents I find annoying are indian and asian accents which mostly stems from my inability to understand the broken english.
04-09-2014 09:59 AM
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Lothario Offline
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Post: #37
RE: Accent Reduction
(04-09-2014 09:59 AM)frenchie Wrote:  OP what type of accent do you have? The only accents I find annoying are indian and asian accents which mostly stems from my inability to understand the broken english.

Lord have mercy I have an Indian accent, though not FOB, been living in USA for the past 2 decades.

I have been working on English by the hour , Their videos are really good, I have been paying attention to Intonation, Pauses and nuances in US accent and have been doing well.

Also bought American Accent training by Ann Cook, seems like a good book, some of the same things are covered as by English by the hour, Next book on the agenda to read.

I met Giovonny about 18 months ago and he mentioned one Imrovement that I can do is in accent and we met again last week and he said my accent had a dramatic reduction and he couldn't tell where I was from if I was speaking on the phone.

Big shout out to Arbiter for all the help.

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(This post was last modified: 04-09-2014 04:45 PM by Lothario.)
04-09-2014 04:43 PM
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Fitzgerald Offline
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Post: #38
RE: Accent Reduction
Learning and speaking in different accents is a skill that comes pretty naturally for me, so I'm not sure how well this could work for you.

While all the technical speaking manuals are a great help, I find that studying great speakers is better. My method:

I want to sound like X when I speak. (Let's say X=cultured English. Though, you could choose surfer bro, Mafia don, Bush bogan, whatever.)

What's more, I want to be able to speak like that extemporaneously.

I realize what follows seems complicated and long-winded, but it's not. It's really easy, non-formal, and doesn't take more then a few total hours of practice, though consistency is important. It's like learning the correct pronunciation in any language.

1. Choose several prolific speakers (usually actors) that sound like you want to sound like. I chose Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, and Kiera Knightley (she sounds pretty fancy to me). Also, some way to record and playback your voice is necessary through the whole process.

Then, listen to and mimic those actors. Repeat along with their lines when you watch their movies, or whatever. Break down all the parts of speech (common syllables, consonants, vowel sounds, diphthongs, triphthongs, etc) and get those all down solid individually. You should be able to speak every individual vowel sound as perfectly as you can. For example, Americans tend to pronounce "O" in "frosty" with a slight nasality, whereas Brits pronounce it with a fuller, more chest resonating sound. Get those basic sounds down. Rec and playback.

You're essentially learning to do impressions of these people, and you should attempt to learn them well enough to do an exaggerated sketch-comedy version of that person, as this helps to really identify the parts of their speech that make them unique. (This is all really much easier to do than you may think). This strengthens your ability to speak in the realistic, true-to-life version.

2. Then, take what you've learned so far, and start reciting poems or monologue the person you're mimicking has not done. Maybe do Ron Burgundy's lines in Professor Snapes' voice. Or, Poe or something, whatever.

At this stage, you're aiming to be able to say everything possible in that particular voice.

Then, move on to the next person, and repeat the process.

3. From formlessness to form to formlessness. Now, forget trying to sound like Hans Gruber (or Elizabeth Swann), and just try to sound like a fancy pants Brit when you talk. Piece of cake.

Also, if you sing, many voice teachers will give you a template like this for learning music styles.

"Make a little music everyday 'til you die"

Voice teacher here. If you ever need help with singing, speech and diction, accent improvement/reduction, I'm your man.
(This post was last modified: 04-09-2014 08:41 PM by Fitzgerald.)
04-09-2014 08:34 PM
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The Beast1 Offline
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Post: #39
RE: Accent Reduction
(04-09-2014 04:43 PM)Lothario Wrote:  
(04-09-2014 09:59 AM)frenchie Wrote:  OP what type of accent do you have? The only accents I find annoying are indian and asian accents which mostly stems from my inability to understand the broken english.

Lord have mercy I have an Indian accent, though not FOB, been living in USA for the past 2 decades.

I have been working on English by the hour , Their videos are really good, I have been paying attention to Intonation, Pauses and nuances in US accent and have been doing well.

Also bought American Accent training by Ann Cook, seems like a good book, some of the same things are covered as by English by the hour, Next book on the agenda to read.

I met Giovonny about 18 months ago and he mentioned one Imrovement that I can do is in accent and we met again last week and he said my accent had a dramatic reduction and he couldn't tell where I was from if I was speaking on the phone.

Big shout out to Arbiter for all the help.

Oh wow! Ok, didn't realize that my friend.

You know, it takes time. I've lived in NYC and parts of Jersey. Sometimes I start saying bag-all and catchup!
Good luck brother, this clip should help:



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04-10-2014 08:27 AM
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Dusty Offline
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Post: #40
RE: Accent Reduction
It's amazing how some British actors make themselves sound American.

Doctor House is played by a Brit.

Sgt Brody on Homeland is played by a Brit.
04-10-2014 11:10 AM
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Post: #41
RE: Accent Reduction
Lothario, I'm curious to know about your progress. How is accent reduction going, and has it improved your success rate with the ladies?

I'm also contemplating accent reduction but since it's a big investment of time I want to make sure it really helps...

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03-06-2016 08:24 AM
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Post: #42
RE: Accent Reduction
(02-05-2014 07:18 PM)SpecialEd Wrote:  
(02-05-2014 05:00 PM)Saga Wrote:  
(02-05-2014 04:43 PM)MaleDefined Wrote:  I agree with Ali. A British accent would do you VERY well.

Unless you have it down solid, be careful there aren't any Brits around...people from the UK are very good at sensing when an accent's faked.

That's because most Americans have the erroneous notion that Brits speak the Queen's English and so when they try to put on the accent it sounds fake posh. Maybe 1-2% of brits have an RP accent, the rest speak a mix of regional and estuary. It's very difficult to imitate if you didn't grow up there, you wouldn't know the slang.

I would second that, very few Brits speak like they are perceived to on the TV. In fact speaking like that would get you lynched in most parts of the UK outside of a very select part of West London.

Having said that, I have always had good results in the US with a UK accent, although I don't understand the obsession! Not knocking it though.
03-06-2016 03:17 PM
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Post: #43
RE: Accent Reduction
I wonder how studying this would give people the ability to mimic accents.

I met a German guy who spoke English with a thick Irish accent. And then switched to a British accent only to pop into a perfect neutral American accent. Guy was a linguist who was doing voice recognition research for Siri but I was floored by the dudes command over his own tongue.

That's not even considering the other foreign languages he knew.
03-07-2016 08:21 PM
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Post: #44
RE: Accent Reduction
Wouldn't it be dialect, not an accent? Accent is what remains from your native language when you speak a second one. A dialect is a regional variation of the native language.

I have ze German accent.
It was never an issue so far but I was never in the US, in the UK I was in just as a teen for language training. I did reduce my German accent a little but actual I like that people can spot that I'm from Germany. Quite interesting that even inside Germany, its easy to spot not only not native speakers but also if someone is from a different region. I had the experience that some people could locate quite well where I'm from. They have some strange NSA Spy skills. mrgreen

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03-08-2016 05:02 AM
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ElFlaco Away
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Post: #45
RE: Accent Reduction
(03-08-2016 05:02 AM)Parzival Wrote:  Wouldn't it be dialect, not an accent? Accent is what remains from your native language when you speak a second one. A dialect is a regional variation of the native language.

A relatively standard definition is that "dialect" refers to regional differences of pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. "Accent", on the other hand, refers only to pronunciation differences. Everyone has an accent, including in their native language. "You don't have an accent" means "you have the same accent that I do". Foreign-sounding accents result from applying the sounds and pronunciation rules of the native language onto the new one.
03-08-2016 09:56 AM
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Post: #46
RE: Accent Reduction
Lothario, do you have problems pronouncing specific words/sounds?

Check out this site: http://facweb.furman.edu/~wrogers/phonem.../index.htm It helps to see what your body physically does, the manner and point of articulation (ie via friction, air through nose, etc and placement of tongue in relation to teeth, lips, etc) to teach you how to better produce a certain sound. At the bottom on the green circles you can specify whether it's with consonants or vowels depending on where your issues lie. Feel free to PM me.
03-08-2016 01:46 PM
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Post: #47
RE: Accent Reduction
DATA SHEET: ACCENT REDUCTION

Since this old thread got bumped recently, I'd like to contribute a data sheet sharing my expertise in the area of accent reduction. I've been lurking here regularly for years but haven't contributed much to date, so this seems like a good place to start.

WHAT IS ACCENT REDUCTION? Think of Accent Reduction as the practice of deliberate improving your pronunciation in English or any other language you speak non-natively. Native speakers whose native dialect is stigmatized in professional or personal environments are also candidates. Since Accent Reduction is more about changing the way you do something rather than taking something away, the terms 'accent modification' or simply 'pronunciation coaching' are often preferred. You don't lose your accent per se. You just add new features that you can use when appropriate.

BENEFITS OF IMPROVING YOUR ACCENT. Beyond the obvious benefit of being better understood, you can close the social distance between you and your listener if you sound like them. There's a parallel here with techniques of mirroring body language to build rapport. All of this happens below the conscious level. Also, fairly or not, many people will judge your education and intelligence according to how you speak, and pronunciation is the most immediately visible feature of your speech. In addition, the better your pronunciation, the better your listening comprehension. As you discover the ways that words may be pronounced, you'll more easily understand them when you encounter them in natural speech. There's also a joy that many of us take in the mere act of doing something well, of mastering something challenging, and developing a good pronunciation in a second language certainly falls in that category. I've experienced this last benefit myself.

DOES ACCENT REDUCTION WORK? A forum member asked this question above. A useful parallel would be the question: Does going to the gym produce results? Many people work out without seeing much improvement. They usually lack consistency, effort or motivation. The same is true of improving your accent. With Accent Reduction, you let go of old habits and build new ones. You have to be open at a psychological level to changing the way you've always done something. And you have to be willing to devote some attention to your pronunciation while simultaneously holding a conversation in a second language. These are maybe the biggest obstacles to success with Accent Reduction. There's an analogy here with game, where at the surface level you're having a generic interaction but underneath you're deliberately applying things you've studied and learned to produce a certain outcome until your reactions become automatic. It takes some time and practice.

CAN YOUR ACCENT BE TOO GOOD? Elsewhere on the forum I've seen the idea floated that girls could be more into if you have a noticeable accent. But even with successful Accent Reduction, there's little chance of being mistaken for a native speaker. The analogy here is with girls who avoid the gym because they don't want to get musclebound. So you'll still have a noticeable accent. It will just be less pronounced and you'll be easier to understand.

WHICH ACCENT SHOULD YOU TARGET? In the case of English, most people should target one of the two international standards, General American or General British. (These accents go by various other names and are only broadly defined.) Obviously if you're planning to relocate permanently to Australia or Scotland or some other English-speaking country, you'll probably want to pick that variety as your target. English is increasingly used as a lingua franca between non-native speakers, but even if that's your main interest, I still recommend targeting a native standard but with some modifications that will make your English easier for non-native speakers to understand.

HOW MUCH CAN YOU IMPROVE YOUR ACCENT? It is not realistic to attain a native-like accent as an adult. That should not be a goal. However, everyone can improve from whatever their starting point may be. The stronger your accent, the more room for improvement there is. If your accent is a 4 out of a possible 10, with training you can expect to boost your score 1 or 2 points. That's a big difference, comparatively speaking. If your accent is already excellent but still noticeably non-native, your results will be more modest, for example, from 9 to 9.5.

The quality of your accent in a foreign/second language depends on four factors. The most important factor is how closely related the sounds of your native language (say, Polish) are to those of the target language (say, English). A second factor is your natural talent. Some people are natural mimics; others, not so much. This is not related to your intelligence or language-learning skills in general. Another factor is your motivation. Some speakers have a sub-optimal accent but ultimately don't care. A final factor is the pronunciation-specific training and feedback you receive, including the effort you put in. I would add one additional factor that I already touched on above: your openness to change. At some level you may feel like an imposter, trying to take on a native-like accent and identity that isn't yours. This is a psychological barrier. You have to get out of your comfort zone.

HOW DOES ACCENT REDUCTION WORK? There are basically two ways to improve your accent and you should do both of them. The first involves words that you mispronounce even though you are capable of making the target sounds and may even do so in other words. For example, pronouncing 'does' so that it rhymes with 'goes', when in fact the vowels you produce should be quite different. Typically this happens because you are producing a 'spelling pronunciation', attempting to pronounce a word as it's spelled. This is especially common among educated learners whose primary or intial contact with English has been through the written word. This problem also occurs when you reflexively transfer the nearest sound of your native language to words of your second language. Additionally, stressing the wrong syllable can confuse the listener. For this kind of problem, it's helpful to have someone point out your specific errors. However, if you're being understood despite your mispronunciation, the person you are speaking with probably won't feel comfortable drawing attention to your mistake, or they may be unable to identify exactly where the problem lies. This is where a teacher or a pronunciation coach can be helpful.

Let's call this approach MIMIC + RECEIVE FEEDBACK. The big payoff here is for words that you commonly use when speaking your second language in real situations such as for business or social life. On the other hand, learning how to pronounce words you never or rarely use should be a lower priority.

The mimicry-feedback approach is useful but only takes you so far. For sounds and that you aren't able reliably recognize or to produce on demand, a first step is learning to distinguish between them when you hear them in isolation. Next, learn how they are produced. Vowels come in two varieties, monophthongs and diphthongs, and vary according to how open the mouth is, how rounded the lips are, and other factors. Consonants may be described according to three concrete factors: voicing (presence or absence of vibration of the vocal folds), place of articulation (for example, both lips) and manner of articulation (for example, a complete closure of the airstream). For example, the Ps of 'pet shop' have no vibration, involve both lips and are produced via a complete, momentary closure. Learning to produce new consonants can be done by learning to control these three variables independently. The second challenge is to produce them according to the rules of your target language rather than your native one. For example, for completely predictable reasons, in English the last sound of the plural 'cats' is different than the last sound of the plural 'dogs', even though they are both spelled with 's'.

We can call this general approach THEORY + PRACTICE, since it involves learning how sounds are produced and breaking them down into their components. Once you understand the theory, you can apply it to the pronunciation of other languages.

THE MOST COMMON ENGLISH PRONUNCIATION MISTAKES. Even if you're an experienced speaker of English as a second langugage, you may be unaware of all the different vowel sounds of English (there are fifteen in American English) and of the twenty-four consonant sounds. This is especially true if your native language has fewer vowel and consonant sounds than English. Developing this awareness can help you identify and remember the sounds of both old and new words as you encounter them.

Here are three common VOWEL PROBLEMS for non-native speakers. 1. Failing to distinguish between the vowels of the words like 'cop', 'cap' and 'cup'; between the vowels of 'look' and 'Luke' (a name); and between the first vowels of 'leaving' and 'living'. These are all distinct vowel sounds. 2. Not making a convincing diphthong in words like 'focus' (first syllable). You want to avoid sounding like you're saying 'fuck us'. 3. In American English, pronouncing the wrong vowel in common words like 'her', 'heard', 'bird' and 'word'. All of these words have the same vowel. None of them rhymes with 'hair' or 'beer'. This vowel sound exists in only a few languages, but unfortunately English is one of them.

Here are four common CONSONANT PROBLEMS for non-native speakers. 1. Not producing the target sound at the end of words like 'age', 'large' and 'language'. This sound is not the same as the one at the end of words like 'watch' or 'wish'; or in the middle of the word 'pleasure'. 2. Not producing the correct endings for regular past tense verbs. 'Kissed' ends in a 't' sound but 'hugged' ends in a 'd' sound. For '' and extra syllable is added. 3. In words like 'pet', 'ten' and 'kick', a small puff of air should be produced immediately after the first consonant in both American and British English. 4. In many languages, consonants like 't' and 'd' are dental, being produced by contact of the tongue with the back of the upper teeth. In English these consonants are usually produced farther back in the mouth, without any contact between the tongue and the back of the upper teeth. These last two points are subtle differences but they are worth focusing on for anyone who is trying to perfect their accent. More specific consonant problems depend heavily on your native language background.

Here is a common WORD STRESS PROBLEM for non-native speakers. When pronouncing compound nouns that are formed from two nouns, the first element, not the second, should receive the primary stress. Say 'aLARM clock', not 'alarm CLOCK'. This error is one of the main reasons that Sofia Vergara's character on Modern Family has such a strong accent. She makes this 'mistake' regularly.

CAN YOU IMPROVE YOUR ACCENT ON YOUR OWN? You'd be surprised at how many mistakes you can identify in your own pronunciation just by recording yourself. Also, try listening to speakers of your native language and see if you can identify which aspects of their pronunciation in English are off. Just yesterday on the Trump thread, Roosh posted a video of a Nicaraguan woman praising Trump at one of his rallies: https://www.rooshvforum.com/thread-48360...pid1248374. She fails to observe the voiced plural endings rule in English, so she actually ends up saying that she wants a 'country of loss', not of 'laws' and that she loves Trump's 'blue ice', not his blue eyes. With some practice, you can learn to notice that kind of thing and check it in your own speech.

In my opinion, taking the time to get educated about phonetics and phonology in general is worth it if you are serious about making progress. A short, introductory book like Patricia Ashby's 'Speech Sounds' could be a good place to start for English phonetics or phonetics in general. And getting quality feedback on where you're at right now can start you off in the right direction if you make the effort to integrate that feedback into the way you use English or whatever your target language is.

FINAL COMMENTS. Whatever your goals may be with English or some other language, I don't think it makes sense to get too hung on pronunciation, if doing so ends up making you sound disconnected or unconfident when you speak. The main point is to communicate well, and pronunciation is only one factor among several. Good luck and hit me up via PM if you have any specific questions. I not only do this professionally but I'm a language geek and enjoy observing language and seeing how learners advance and perfect their skills.
03-14-2016 10:08 PM
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