How to reduce or eliminate your accent in a foreign language
Why do I know something about accent reduction? I am an American language native speaker from Boston and live in Krakow, Poland. I have taught English for many years in Poland. I have also learned Polish. However, I still have an accent. In fact I have a horrible accent. I have little time to work on it, but also maybe I am a bit lazy.
If you want to get rid of your accent it will take patience. There is nothing on the web you can read or course that will help you. I have many books on the subject and years of experience, but it comes down to this, patience.
Are some people gifted and have an ear for languages? Maybe they are or maybe they are not. You can think in such ways, just focus on your mission, I have seen people eliminate their accents.
There are two main ways to eliminate or reduce your accent in a foreign language.
Reduce your accent working with someone
Working with someone will help, as long as you focus just on accent not grammar, accent etc all at once. I actually went to a speech therapist when I was young to correct pronunciation problems. This took years. But the result is I speak perfect TV English. English with no regional accent, no New England accent. However, it is nothing special, to get better pronunciation you simply work with someone who will drill you, drill you on each letter and sound day in and day out. You the learner must repeat words over and over and then sleep on it and do it again. You need to train your brain to coordinate with your vocal cords and tongue.
Reduce your accent on your own
This is easy to do if you are patient. The technique is simple:
- Listening to an mp3 of a native speaker, perhaps from an audio book and imitate this over and over again.
- Recoding your own voice and playing it back.
- Do it for an hour a day every day for accent reduction.
Some people compare their voice to a native speaker from Youtube for example or a song, this is even better.
Using music for accent reduction is fun and helps. When I sing I have less of an accent in Polish and the rhythm of the music helps me pronounce the words.
Programs that have voice recognition and comparison software do not work well for accent reduction. They are more like toys or selling points. I have tested these with native speakers and they often give poor results and with foreigners sometimes better results.
The truth about accent reduction
There are not tricks or magic that will work on dialects reduction or accents reduction for you. The reality is if you want to reduce an accent you must listen to yourself and your brain will be able to tell you if your accent is good or not. The sit and repeat. Repeat a native speaker recoding and check this by listening to your own accent. But the most important thing is do this everyday for an hour. In about a year or two you will have reduced your foreign language accent. If you are a lazy person you will not make much progress with accent reduction.
5 thoughts on “Accent reduction”
I dislike the fact that I can’t meet accents better. I really like what you have said and will incorporate it in my life. I write about about language learning in general.
I totally agree with your method and it is pretty much how I work. I made a program (My Language Notebook) to help me do this.
Have a look at this Polish lesson made with MLN:
Double-click on a sentence to hear it.
I just keep on playing each sentence and repeating it until I get closer and closer to the pronunciation of the native speaker.
All the best,
I am a native English speaker and have always noticed that when foreigners sing English their accent is very much reduced. I think this is because music eliminates the native accent to a large extent. Accent has a lot to do with the rhythm of the sentence and when we sing we are forced to follow the music’s rhythm rather than your natural accent. This is why it’s very rare to hear regional British accents in songs. So unfortunately I don’t think music is a good way to meet and accent.
This is interesting: I have foreign friends who can say single words on their own very well (i.e. without a detectable accent), but when they try to join words into a sentence all of a sudden there is an accent – so accent is about flow and how long you spend on each word and each part of a word etc.
That’s very true, I’m Italian and I’ve lived in the UK for more than 2 years. I’m a perfectionist so if I am to speak in English I want to do it properly. I try in every possible way to reduce my accent and to reproduce English sounds correctly. I take courses and read books. I’m pretty succeeding in pronouncing single words without a detectable accent, but sadly it’s a different story when it comes to pronouncing sentences. I’m really aware of my wrong “musicality” when I speak in English but I haven’t understood yet how I can train myself for that, but I don’t give up, I will fix it eventually.
I’m Chinese,and I teach myself English in my spare time.What you said is really a good method.Thank you very much.