Tips to Improve Your Accent
Whenever I talk about getting a “native” accent, I always want to give a disclaimer (advice or a warning before I talk about it). Rather than thinking about the dichotomy (which means 2 sides) between native and non-native accents, accents are more unique and individual. Everyone has their own accent and there is not really such thing as “one native accent”.
Rather than asking “How to sound like a native speaker”, it’s better to word it like “How can I sound more natural and improve my pronunciation?”
However, if you really enjoy learning accents and it makes you happy, I certainly won’t say you shouldn’t do it. My advice would just be to focus on your accent more and try to avoid comparing your accent to others in a negative way.
1. Master the key skills first
You first need a foundation on which to build your practice in the future. It might be useful to learn the basics of the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). This is the alphabet that shows the pronunciation of sounds with the weird lines and symbols. Really get comfortable with the sounds of English.
Once you have the basic sounds down, you need to put them into practice. Find someone to practice with who can also give you feedback on how you sound. A good teacher might even help you practice pronunciation through reading a text that contains many examples of this sound.
3. Listening and shadowing
I’d suggest doing this activiyt 15 minutes a day. Find some good listening material (it could even be this podcast!) and pay really close attention to the way the words are pronounced. Focus on one sentence at a time and try to shadow them – this means: try to copy the sentences out loud in exactly the same way. It might also help to record yourself and listen back!
4. Focus on speed and stress
Pronunciation is not just about how you say the words, but also about the stress and speed. Pay really close attention to how native speakers will stress/emphasise sentences. Often we will go down at the end of a sentence, and up if it’s a question or if there is some uncertainty.
Also, have the aim to speed at a comfortable pace – not rushing but also not slow and with hesitation. This will take time and practice.
5. Surround yourself with the right people
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
You become similar to the people around you, and the same goes for accents. It doesn’t have to be real friends – it can even be people on TV or podcasts too. The more immersion you have with that accent, the more likely you are to adopt it over time. This is even true for me! My accent sounds much more similar to my friends than it does to my parents.
Understand that it’s a slow process. Accent and pronunciation will not change overnight, so learn to enjoy the journey of studying and not focus on the end goal. Focusing on the end goal will only lead to frustration. So learn to enjoy the journey.