Your accent challenge: Overcome it by focusing on 4 key ideals


By Emma Serlin
September 14, 2019

 

Accents can be a challenge. Even if you are a fluent English speaker, you may find an accent to be a bump in the road towards being the best communicator you can be. An accent can create a missed-beat in the rhythm of our speech, or make some words sound the same when they are meant to be different. This can lead to confusion and misunderstandings which is frustrating for both speaker and listener.

If you are a non-native speaker, it may be that you are very fond of your accent, and yet not so fond of the misunderstandings or blank looks that come as a result of a mispronounced word. Taking control of this situation is probably a high priority for you. This is not to suggest you lose your accent completely, accents are beautiful and diverse fabrics that are woven into our identity. But having some tricks and tools to address the associated issues, can only be a good thing.

So, how do we avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Here are some of our key ideas.

1. Find the vowels that are leading to confusion — ones that need to be distinct but you are pronouncing the same. For example ‘fill’ or ‘feel’, ‘hut’ or ‘hat’, very distinct sounds which are often muddled into one. These confused sounds may be hidden amongst your idiolect: to iron them out, read out the word pairs below, if any pairs sound similar, those vowels need to be worked on!

  • cat — cut
  • ship — sheep
  • raid — red
  • heart — hurt
  • look — loop
  • cot — caught
  • tin — ten
  • bet — bat

2. Decide which the important words are in your speech — we have some helpful techniques to help get you there. Once you know these, lean into them, giving them proper energy. This will automatically lengthen the vowels and probably increase your volume to, meaning that the important words get heard.

3. Use your eyes and gestures to add further articulation to your key points — Make eye contact and even widen your eyes around key words or phrases and, again, they will get into your listener’s head with much more ease.

4. Speak in shorter units of thought: so that people can keep up and process as you speak — This means between two and seven words followed by just a little pause. This will give you more time to consider as you go along, rather getting tangled up in difficult words or ideas.

And that’s it. All of the above have specific techniques and exercises that can help them bed in, and we would be more than happy to help with this process in a session with us. But if you simply want to get started, you can go a real distance just with these ideas on your own. Good luck!

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