HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO CHANGE MY ACCENT?
By Georgie Harding – Founder & Head Speech Pathologist
How Long Will It Take To Change My Accent?
You’re thinking of working on your English pronunciation to speak more clearly. Maybe through an accent reduction or accent modification course right?
You’re wondering how long it takes for accent change to actually happen?
This article addresses these questions and explains some other factors you need to be aware of when working on your English accent. The information comes from my experience as a Speech Pathologist teaching English pronunciation since 2004 to English second language speakers.
So how long does it take to change an accent and improve English Pronunciation? With accent reduction training most people see improvement within 2 – 4 weeks. People usually achieve noticeable change in their accent, clarity and English speaking confidence within 3 months. A quality course will give you the skills to achieve ongoing improvement.
In life we need to make so many decisions about how to spend our time. ‘What am I cooking for dinner tonight’ or ‘Should I could learn to surf’ or ‘How do I become the world’s best arm wrestler’……or ‘Should I take a course to improve my English pronunciation’.
The point is, your time is valuable and if you’re going to put in the effort to work on your English pronunciation you want to know what’s realistic and achievable – the opposite to what some of the magic solutions on the internet tell you.
Did you know that one of the biggest problems is that students want to move too fast. They want to move onto new areas before they’ve made improvements with the area they were working on. So, keep that in mind.
It’s important to make noticeable improvement and feel confident that you have improved a sound before moving on to another. If you don’t you’ll end up trying to work on too many areas at the same time and this is ineffective.
How Long It Takes To Change Accents And Determining Factors
Let’s assume you have enrolled in an awesome English pronunciation / accent reduction course (like ours!) and in this course you have everything you need in an easy to follow format to start improving. With the support of excellent teaching and training resources there are three main factors that affect how long the process of accent change will take:
What Skills You Start With:
Some people will see improvement and changes within a week. This tends to be the people with fairly general areas that they need to improve, like general mouth position and speed of speaking.
For example, someone who speaks English very fast will see benefits of controlling their rate within a few days because people will understand them more easily.
Most people will be changing more subtle areas such as specific sounds and word stress patterns.
This often take a longer as the general process is:
1. identify the sounds and speech patterns that are highest priority
2. learn to hear the problem
3. learn to correct it
4. practise to monitor and control the new sound / speech pattern
5. practise to master the new sound / speech pattern in real speaking
A person with good awareness of sounds, good listening skills and control their mouth movements will move through the stages above more quickly than someone who doesn’t. These are all skills that can be learnt – some people pick up these skills very quickly and for some people it takes longer.
It also depends on what sound you are working on. Some sounds are easier than others!
How Much You Practise:
They key to changing your speech is to focus on it regularly. It’s no good spending an hour on it once a week. Practice needs to be regular. We are changing habits you’ve had for many years.
Quality courses provide their students with easily accessible resources. You need to have access to practise resources that you can use to practise with on a daily basis.
People who make excellent progress are dipping into videos and audio lessons every day or at least every few days. They are practising regularly – each day – building their skills, little bit by little bit.
Your Motivation Levels:
Some people want to improve their English pronunciation but they aren’t willing to put time into it, or prioritise it. That’s fine but it means that not much will change.
I often meet students who say they are desperately trying to improve their spoken English for an IELTS exam or job interview BUT they are only speaking English every few days. It’s just not enough to make improvements and changes.
It’s not going to happen by itself. You need to be proactive and motivated. You need to put in effort and actively listen and actively speak. Patience and persistence is the key.
Example of Improvement Timeline
To help you understand how long it can take to change an accent I’ve put together this timeline. Of course it varies from person to person and on the 3 factors above but this is an outline anyway.
So how do I know all this? From working with thousands of students over 15 years!
Skills One Month After Starting Training:
The first week is spent identifying priority areas, understanding these areas and developing listening skills. Hearing the difference is the first step to achieving real change. Once you can hear the differences you can start adjusting your speech.
A gentle warning! In the first 2 weeks of the course I occasionally hear from a student who is frustrated because they feel like their pronunciation is getting worse!
Their pronunciation is not getting worse – it’s just that they are starting to hear and starting to recognise their errors. It’s just that before – they were blissfully unaware!
Once they develop their listening skills and practise to gain control over the new sound they are learning – they make excellent progress!
I always hear students say at this stage of their training “I can hear the difference now! I can hear things like word stress. I can hear that my speech and tone is flatter than a native speaker. I can hear when I mispronounce my /v/ sounds!”
This is exciting! This awareness an essential step before being able to make any changes.
Skills At Two Months After Starting Training.
With quality training and practise resources most people make very good, noticeable improvements in the first few months. Usually they have improved between around 3 priority areas. For example this might be, rate of speaking, general mouth position, word stress, sentence stress or a particular vowel or consonant sound.
We must remember it’s crucial not to move too fast. As I mentioned, I often have very motivated students (which is brilliant), but they want to move from area on to another area very quickly. They want to ‘learn’ but not spend the time ‘doing’!
Remember that the aim of English Pronunciation training is not to ‘learn’ better English pronunciation it’s to USE better English pronunciation.
Doing is the most important part!!! : )
So a good, quality course will give you LOADS of opportunity to practise you new speech sounds and stress patterns.
This stage focuses on self awareness, monitoring skills and practise. At this stage, our students find that people understand them more clearly and when someone does misunderstand them, they understand why and change their speech to ensure it’s clear the next time and repair the communication breakdown.
I always hear students say at this stage of their training “Sure, I still make mistakes, but most of the time notice and correct it!”
Skills Four Months After Starting Your Course.
This is when real change starts. Four months from starting, many of our clients find that this is when their colleagues and friends often comment that their English pronunciation has improved.
They often notice that they’re easier to understand. The student feels like their confidence has grown.
St this stage, When someone misunderstands them and usually more confident. This is when people start to see big results after so much hard work.
This stage is when students really gain good control of their new sounds. They practise regularly to make their pronunciation of the new sounds easy and automatic.
At this stage I hear students saying “Wow, things are easier now. I don’t have to concentrate as much to make better word stress and correct my sounds”.
Skills Six Months And Beyond
A great English Pronunciation course should give you the skills and knowledge to keep improving and levelling up your pronunciation skills well in to the future.
In other words, it should empower you with the knowledge and skills to continue your improvement forever!
After your training you will know what areas to work on and how to do it!
If you stay aware of your pronunciation, actively listen to your pronunciation and others you will continue to improve.
As you continue to focus on your pronunciation you’ll notice smaller, more subtle differences. The good news is you can also take a break and enjoy the confidence that comes with being easily understood and sounding more like a native english speaker.
How Long You Can Improve Into The Future.
Once you understand all the key areas of English Pronunciation and you know how to improve them, ‘the world is your oyster’. We say this when we want to say, “anything is possible”. Another way to say this is “the sky is the limit”.
It really comes down to how much practise you are willing to put in.
Some things are a relatively quick fix, once you understand it and can control it it’s just practise to improve.
Some aspects of English pronunciation are an ongoing project – like learning to play an instrument – you’re continually levelling up your skills.
An example of a pronunciation skill that is an ongoing project for students is using ‘weak vowels’ in English. Using weak vowels in English is challenging because you can’t tell by the spelling, so by how the word looks, if it has a weak vowel or not. There are no rules about when weak vowels are used in English!
A great course will teach you what it is and when it’s used. You’ll also learn how to make it and hear it. You’ll probably practise words that non-native speakers often miss weak vowels in.
It’s a constantly developing skill for most students and as they pick it up it brings their pronunciation closer to that of a native speaker.
How To Speed Up Accent Change
If you’re reading this it’s likely you want to achieve pronunciation changes fast. While there are not really any big shortcuts, there are definitely some things you can do to get faster change.
Immerse yourself in English – Speak More English. Every. Single. Day!
Look at your day. Think to yourself, when through my average day could I speak more English?
If you speak English at home and at work then you have plenty of opportunity to practise.
If you live with speakers of your first language, or you live alone you will need to make sure you schedule ‘English speaking time’. You can do this by yourself. Speaking out loud is a powerful way to improve your fluency.
See this video on speaking more English and improving your fluency.
Non-English speaking professionals who are working in an English speaking country and speaking English at work often find they aren’t getting enough practise with topics outside of what’s covered at work!
Enrolling in a tailored English Pronunciation Course is an excellent way to broaden your fluency on a huge range of topics while improving your English pronunciation skills. Our courses are designed for busy professionals. This course is made so you can easily dip in and out to practise as often as you can.
Take opportunities throughout your day to speak with native speakers.
If you have time, join Toastmasters Public Speaking Club (see more on this here), or a bushwalking group or volunteer. I understand that many people simply do not have time to do this though. If you don’t have time – make sure you watch this this fluency video!
The secret here is to speak English as much as physically possible. It seems pretty obvious but many people simply are not doing enough speaking.
So speak, speak, speak, speak.
Take Up A Specialised, Professional Level English Pronunciation Course
I know it sounds obvious – especially from someone who sells English pronunciation courses – but it makes a big difference to get a structured approach to help with your accent change and pronunciation.
There are lots of courses out there. You need to check that your course is at the right level for professionals. There are lots of general beginner courses out there and lots of courses that aren’t effective.
See our article – 5 Questions to Ask Before Enrolling in English Pronunciation Course.
Practise Your English Pronunciation Like An Olympian
This is the most important thing. Actively listening and repeating (yes – you need to GET ACTIVE! That’s why we’re called Speech Active) and practising out loud!
For many people it’s like learning a new sport.
Let’s compare it to Volleyball, to improve your serve you need to understand the correct way to serve and then do lots of practice. You’re doing the same thing just using your mouth and tongue instead of your hands.
What’s The Hardest Thing About Accent Reduction
I’m asked this a lot. For most English language learners it’s the sounds that don’t exist in their first languages.
If you hear me try to make some of the sounds in Spanish, Mandarin or Vietnamese I don’t do a good job at all – it’s very difficult.
The most difficult thing varies a lot from language to language.
Here are some examples with regards to English sounds. The most difficult English sounds for many Japanese speakers are /l/ and /r/.
The most challenging consonant sounds for a Thai speaker is consonant clusters (making 2 or more consonant sounds in a row).
The most difficult are for a speaker of Indian languages is often the stress and rhythm of English.
The stress and rhythm (word stress and sentence stress) in English is very challenging for many non-native English speakers. For many speakers this is actually the most important thing affecting their clarity in English and how easily other people understand them.
Identify Goals – What Are You Actually Trying To Achieve?
My students generally take our training because:
– They want to speak clearer English
– They want to speak English with more confidence.
– They want to sound more like a native English speaker.
Or all of the above. Why are you looking into this type of training?
Here are some potential pronunciation outcomes that you might want to aim for.
Clearer English – Speaking English that is easy for others to understand. This might be measured by how often someone asks you to repeat yourself
More Confidence. This one is huge. Confidence is so integral to how we feel throughout our day. It has such a big effect on life! Lacking confidence when you speak is exhausting.
So what do you want to achieve with regards to your speaking confidence? Is it speaking in front of a group and being 100% confident that you’ll be easily understand? Is it speaking with clients and never having them look at you like they’ve missed what you’ve said.
Sound More Like A Native Speaker. Many people who already have clear English are aiming to sound more local. Often this is because they’ve been living in an English speaking country for a long time and they want to sound more local. Sometimes, it’s just because they are a perfectionist!
It’s a really good idea to sit down before you start and have a think about what success means to you.
That way you know what you’re aiming for and you can celebrate when you reach that point.
Remember – It takes time. Don’t start too late.
Some people contact us and say “I have an interview in two weeks, I need to fix my pronunciation.”
For most people two weeks is not long enough. It takes time to achieve real change for the reasons I’ve explained in this article.
If you feel your English pronunciation needs improvement, make a plan and over the next few months enrol in a course and start the process. Trust me when I tell you, achieving real results is extremely satisfying.
Where should I start?
The great news is you can start here. Sign up to our free English Pronunciation video short course. It’s designed to get you started right now with some basic steps and gives your some really handy help to get started on your English pronunciation and accent change journey.
Sign up here to our free English pronunciation and accent reduction course.
Or, if you are serious about improving and you want to get started, check out our 6 months English pronunciation course which is tailored specifically for speaker of your first language.
Just visit our Speech Active English Pronunciation & Fluency Course list to get started.
Contact us today to talk about your English speaking goals and find out how our courses will help you speak English with clear pronunciation and sound more like a native speaker.
Call us on +61 411 295 828.
Chat with us on our website chat tool.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep up the great work.
Founder of Speech Active
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How Long Does It Take To Change An Accent?
Georgie Harding has assisted thousands of people from all over the world with improving their clarity and spoken English skills. A Speech Pathology degree (BAppSc(SpPath) and CELTA qualifications and over 15 years of experience providing 1:1, group and online training make Georgie a leader in her field.
Georgie is the creator the world’s leading English Pronunciation online courses that are tailored to the language background of the student and presents regularly at Universities.
If you’ve ever met Georgie or completed her award winning courses you’ll know how passionate she is about helping people move forward with better spoken English and more confidence.
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