HOW MUCH WILL I IMPROVE WITH ACCENT REDUCTION TRAINING?
By Georgie Harding – Founder & Head Speech Pathologist
Are you wondering how much your pronunciation and accent will change and improve?
If you’re currently taking, or planning to undertake an English pronunciation course or accent reduction training you have probably wondered how much improvement is possible.
One of the first questions people ask me is “How much will I improve?”.
I’m a Speech Pathologist who has been teaching pronunciation to non native English speakers since 2004. Since then I’ve worked with people all over the world and I’ve been asked this question hundreds of times.
How much will I improve with accent reduction training? People with a strong accent, who have difficulty being understood can expect a high level of improvement with effective pronunciation training. For people who have clear English and want to sound like a native speaker the changes are more subtle. Influencing factors are listening skills and time spent practising.
This article explains how much change and improvement you can expect to achieve and explores the factors that influence this and gives you some clear tips on how to get the best outcomes!
Factors Affecting How Much Your Pronunciation Will Change and Improve.
If I had to choose the number one factor that impacts on how much people will improve when someone starts English pronunciation or accent reduction training, it would be how much they practice
Think back to the last time you learned a new skill, whether it was using some new software or learning a dance move, it doesn’t matter – to learn and then improve at the skill you would have had to practice.
How much you’ll improve depends largely on these factors:
1. AWARENESS & LISTENING SKILLS: What your awareness and listening skills are like. If you have good awareness of your pronunciation, you’ll have better control. Don’t worry, a good course will help you develop the awareness and listening skills that you need to successfully make changes.
2. PRACTISE & MOTIVATION: How much time you practise and how motivated you are. You need a ‘can-do’ attitude. With a can-do attitude and frequent practise, you can change your accent and pronunciation very quickly.
How much change is it realistic to expect?
Let’s assume you’re able to put in the time practising. Let’s also assume that you have access to quality English pronunciation and English accent training.
As a guide, we recommend 15 minutes of daily practice using our listen and repeat audio files and around 1 hour of video training per week.
In our courses, students watch the video to learn exactly what they need to change and how to change it and they complete guided practise with our videos. They then use the audio files to practice and to become more proficient and master their new sounds.
For most people, if they are putting in 15 minutes practise minimum a day and they have a clear understanding of what they need to change and how to change it AND they have good awareness and listening skills (a quality course will give you all of this knowledge and skills) they will be able to make very noticeable changes in their speech and pronunciation.
We see two types of clients:
1. People who want to be more easily understood when they speak English.
How much improvement should people with unclear English expect?
People starting training with unclear English can expect excellent improvement in their speech clarity and pronunciation skills.
With quality training they can expect to go from unclear English to clear English. Other people will notice improvements and you should also expect your English speaking confidence to lift enormously.
People at this level tend to achieve good improvement in:
2. People who are already clear and want to sound more like a native speaker.
For people who are already clear and want sound more like a native speaker, changes to their speech is more subtle.
This means that the changes are less obvious to other people. People may notice a general change in the way someone speaks, so they might say things like “Gee, your sounding very local these days”. Or they may notice that they are easier to understand on the phone or in noisy places, whereas before, they would’ve had to concentrate to understand their English.
People at this level often feel much more confident as they go through training because they have a good understanding of what they are aiming for and how to get there.
People at this level tend to achieve good improvement in:
Many people tell us they’re reluctant to speak in groups and after focusing on their speech this changes, which is what all the hard work is about.
The table below breaks up the different pronunciation areas and how much improvement people should expect and how much work is required.
Obviously these vary from speaker to speaker and is dependent on factors such as how long they’ve been speaking English, their listening skills, their control, their motivation.
This is a guide from all the hundreds of students we’ve worked with over the past 15 years.
Often people find that when they focus on one area, other areas start to improve by themselves.
Why does this happen? It happens because their listening skills, awareness and control all improve a lot as they go through their training. There is a nice flow- on effect – as they improve their English accent and pronunciation skills, changing their speech become easier and happens more quickly.
How Much You Improve Depends On How Much You ‘DO’
You need to improve by doing! For improving the way you speak English – ‘doing’ is the only way forward.
You can’t learn to play the piano just by watching someone else play. It’s the same for speaking English.
To improve and change the sounds you make when you speak English, you actively need to speak out loud to train your muscles and brain for making the new movements.
It’s physical – it’s like going to the gym., If you go once a week, you won’t get much change. If you every 2 days, you will achieve a lot of change and improvement.
How To Achieve Maximum Improvement
I’ve already mentioned practicing as the most important element, but there are a range of other factors:
Setting a schedule and making time to improve
This is obvious, but make sure you put aside time to watch your videos and time to do the practise. I suggest to people to do their 15 minutes of practice a day in the car or when they are walking. You can put a headphone in or on one eas so you can hear your speech in the other. Quietly practice as you walk to work. Or, practice loudly in front on a mirror in the shower. Play the audio files on a speaker and practice out loud. Listen and repeat! The main thing to remember is putting that time aside.
Being disciplined and motivated
Don’t miss your practice no matter what, and at the end of the week reward yourself – go to the movies, have a nice meal. Give yourself something to look forward to for the extra effort you’ve put in. Think about what better spoken English will help you achieve in your personal and professional life. At the end of a course book yourself a massage or a night away, so you have something to look forward to. Even something small can help you stay motivated.
Choosing the right course
There are lots of training options available. Choosing a course that’s the right level for you and the right quality is so important. Many people waste their money on cr*p courses. An excellent course will help you build the skills for ongoing success – no band aids or quick fixes. Like everything to do with language learning – there is no quick fix! See my article – 5 Questions to help you choose the right English Pronunciation Course.
Having the right mindset
This is critical, students who believe they can improve, will improve. At the start of accent reduction training it’s very common for people to have a small melt down – the feel that they are not improving. That’s because in the first part of your course, it’s your awareness and listening skills that need to be built up. These are essential skills that enable you to control your speech sounds. So trusting the process and showing persistence helps a lot!
Start listening more carefully and pay attention to your mouth movements
Start paying attention to how your mouth moves when you make sounds. This will help you develop your awareness of how you move your mouth to make sounds.
Also, start listening more carefully to your own pronunciation and other people’s pronunciation. The better your listening skills are the easier it will be for you to successfully make changes.
Do You Have More Questions?
Here are some other questions that we are often asked with some simple answers that we hope you find helpful.
What is accent reduction training? Accent reduction or English pronunciation training is the process of systematically changing a person’s speech sounds and stress patterns through practise. The ultimate goal is to make their English clearer or to sound more like a native English speaker.
Why would someone have accent reduction training? When someone is a non-native speaker of English, they may make some sounds and stress patterns differently to native English speakers. If this makes their English unclear or if they want to sound more like a native speaker they may have accent reduction or English pronunciation training.
Do I need accent reduction training? If your English is unclear to listeners and it’s causing you problems when communicating then you would benefit from accent reduction or English pronunciation training. Some people already have clear English but take the training to sound more like a native English speaker.
Can you lose your accent completely? For most non-native English speakers over the age of 13 years old it is unlikely they will lose a foreign accent altogether. There is likely to always be some influence from your first language in the way you speak English. This varies from person to person.
Can I reduce my accent? Absolutely. Just like learning any new skill, speech skills can be learned and changed. With clear teaching and regular practise, a person can change or adjust any sound or stress pattern.
In my opinion, people should only focus to change their pronunciation and accent if it’s causing them problems communicating.
See my article on Why We Should Stop Using The Term Accent Reduction.
And other articles on:
Where to from here.
Good question! Can I suggest you take a look at our free English pronunciation short course. It’s a 5 day introduction to the basics of pronunciation and is a great way to get started.
If you like the way we teach – and lot’s of people do – then you can enrol in our pronunciation course tailored for speakers of your first language.
To get started now, and that’s what I recommend, check out our Speech Active English Pronunciation Course List to find your course.
So, let’s summarise the main points
The amount of improvement you can achieve with accent reduction training depends on the level of clarity you have when you start.
People who are unclear and have difficulty being understood by native speakers can expect to see greater levels of improvement than those who are already clear and aiming to sound more like a native English speaker.
There are lots of factors that affect the levels of improvement a learner can expect but the most important of those is your ability to practice.
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 email@example.com.
Keep up the great work.
Founder of Speech Active
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How Much Will My Accent Change?
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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