5 THINGS TO DO TODAY TO IMROVE YOUR ENGLISH ACCENT FOREVER

 

Do these 5 Things To Improve Your English Accent

I’m often asked “What are some easy things I can do to improve my English accent?”.

Here are some free, easy ways to start improving your English accent and spoken English from right now. And the great part is that these skills will help you improve long into the future!

You don’t need anyone else, you can do these things by yourself and you can start them right now! They are free and easy ways to develop your skills for long term learning and improvement : )

 

1. Subscribe to a Podcast & Listen.

The first step in improving your English accent is to improve your listening skills. 

You need to start to hear the more subtle differences between your speech and a native speakers English. 

It’s like playing ‘spot the difference’ but with your ears instead of your eyes!

And to do this you need to boost your listening skills and become a listening expert! Improving your listening skills will not only help you improve your English accent and pronunciation, it will help you improve many areas of your English too. 

Podcasts are a fantastic tool that you should be using to improve your English. See more on why podcasts are a great free tool here – Using Podcasts to Improve Your English. 

Listen to each podcast once for meaning – so focus on understanding the meaning of what is being said. Then listen to the same podcast again and this time listen specifically for the sounds and pitch and rhythm of the speakers English. 

I recommend listening to it a 3rd time. Each time you listen you will get better at hearing the sounds the speakers make, the way their pitch rises and falls to stress certain syllables, the way they link words together and so on. 

You might already have some podcasts in mind, if not, start with this one: BBC – 6 Minute English.

The aim of this is to increase the amount of English you are listening to AND give you time when you are actively listening specifically to pronunciation. 

 


2. Revise All The Sounds In English. 


Vowel Sounds
– English has 20 vowel sounds. There are short vowels, long vowels and double / diphthong vowels. As a non-native speaker of English, you’ll be pronouncing some of these differently to native speakers and this is part of what is giving you an accent. 

The vowels that most non-native speakers would benefit from improving are these three vowels:   

/ou/ like in ‘hope’ (when you say the word ‘note’ does it sound more like ‘not’ or ‘nought’?)
/ei/ – when you say a word like ‘rain’, does it sound more like ‘ren’ or ‘ran’?
/i:/ -when you say a word like ‘week’, does it sound more like ‘wick’?

When you have identified an area pf pronunciation that you need to improve, maybe it’s improving your pronunciation of the vowel /i:/ or the sound ‘th’ for example. 

When you have chosen a sound that you know you need to improve, make a list of target words with that sound and practise each word with the correct pronunciation. 

If you need more help on how to pronounce that particular sound, search for it on youtube and you will find some training videos to help you.  Practise the words with the difficult sound and when you have got the words right, then practise them in phrases. 

For example, if we were working on improving our /i:/ sound:

Start with /i:/ in words eg speak, week, need, people, 
Then move on to /i:/ in phrases: eg I’ll speak to her next week. 

Consonant Sounds – There are a few things to think about for English consonant sounds.

The first is that it’s likely that you don’t have some of the consonants in English in your first language. Which consonants don’t you have in your first language that we have in English? Do you know how to pronounce these and are you confident you are pronouncing them correctly? 

Are you pronouncing consonants at the ends of words well? Some speakers, especially speakers of Asian languages such as Cantonese, Thai and Vietnamese leave sounds off the ends of their words in English. 

Word endings are very important in English. We need clear word endings to differentiate between words and to for grammatical markers such as past tense and plurals and the 3rd person. 

Revise the IPA for English Vowels – Listen & Record

Revise the IPA for English Consonants – Listen & Record

The aim of revising all the sounds in English is to help you understand which sounds are easy and which sounds are challenging for you to pronounce.   

 

3. Understand The Importance of Word Stress.

To improve your English accent – pleeeeaaase don’t underestimate how important word stress.

My students all want to improve English accent – for clarity and some of them want to sound more local – either way, by far the most important thing for most of them is to focus on improving their word stress.

Many of them either don’t know what word stress is or they are a little unclear or unsure about it or they don’t realise how important it is for improving English accent.

This is the area that I would put at the top of their priority list! Why? Because it has the biggest affect on how clear their English is to listeners AND because it is so important for sounding more like a native speaker and speaking engaging English.

So, here’s a crash course on English Word Stress (a crash course is another way of saying a quick mini-course!).

In English, every multi-syllable word has one stressed syllable. The stressed syllable has slightly more emphasis and is higher in pitch.

In English, listeners use word stress to help recognise words. We don’t know we are doing this – but research shows that we actually rely on word stress even more than sounds to recognise words.

The problem is that word stress is very difficult for non-native speakers.

Many non-native speakers find making word stress in English very challenging. This is a for a few reasons.

The first being that you can’t tell where the stress should be by looking at the spelling of an English word. You have to learn it through listening and practise.

The 2nd reason is that for many people, they bring the rhythm and stress patterns of their first language into their English. This results in stress patterns and rhythms that are different to what English native speakers are used to.

So, the key problems for non-native speakers are that they are likely to sometimes put the stress on the wrong syllable of words, but an even more common problem is that they use flat stress.

From today, you can start to improve your word stress by LISTENING for it!

Let me give you some examples – we’ll start off with easy ones and move onto some more challenging ones!

In the word ‘teacher’ where is the stressed syllable? 

Teacher – Is the word stress TEA-CHER, TEA-cher or tea-CHER. 

So, we can rule out the firs one because no English word has flat stress. Every multi-syllable word has one stressed syllable.  

You know it’s not the last one because no native speaker says ‘teaCHER’. A French speaker may pronounce it like this though, because many French words have the last syllable stressed, so some French speakers bring this pattern of stress into their English. 

It’s TEAcher. With the stress on the 1st syllable. Native speakers from all over the world will pronounce it like this. 

Ok, so let’s look at another 2 words that non-native speakers often mispronounce. 

suburb: is it SU-burb, su-BURB or SU-BURB

So we know it’s definitely not flat. SOOO many non-native speakers say su-BURB. This is incorrect, it should be SU-burb. With all the stress on the first syllable. 

The first syllable is stronger and higher in pitch. The second syllable is weaker and lower in pitch.

I’ve included some videos at the bottom of the page to help you improve your word stress skills for people who are thinking “I want to improve my English accent”.  

Start to pay attention to the up and down of English speakers pitch when they are speaking. 

The more you listen, the better you’ll get at hearing it. 

You’ll notice that English is not like this: 

        – – – – – – – – – – – – –

it goes up and down,  

it’s more like this:

         _   –  __  –   _   –   ___   –   _   –    _   –   

It takes practise to hear it, start from today. While you are listening to a podcast, close your eyes and tune in to the up and down of the voice. 

Tune in to the MUSIC of English.

Check that you are 1] putting the stress on the correct syllable in words AND very importantly 2] making enough stress. 

See this page for English Pronunciation Word Stress Exercises & Videos

 

4. Start Shadowing.

Shadowing is repeating out loud straight after its been said – trying to say it in the same way. It’s a very effective technique for improving your spoken English and is used by many people who have looked into “how to improve my English accent”. 

BUT it has to be used in the right way. 

Don’t just repeat without listening. They key to shadowing correctly is to actively listen not only to the words, but to the pronunciation too – the stress and rhythm, the sounds etc.  

Now, using the technique of shadowing won’t directly help you with understanding how to make the correct mouth positions for specific sounds. It is a listen-and-repeat technique – with no teaching. So keep in mind that shadowing won’t help you fix specific pronunciation errors with sounds. 

If you already know what specific sounds you need to correct and you know how to pronounce them correctly – you can use shadowing for practise.

But I recommend you complete seperate, specific practise and exercises to correct specific sounds. 

So – why use shadowing? If you listen to and pay attention to the stress, pitch and rhythm of the speaker as they speak, shadowing will help you improve the stress and rhythm of your English.

You should use shadowing to specifically improve your stress and rhythm in your English accent. 

The aim of Shadowing is to give you lots of practise actively pronouncing words and phrases in English. This gives you practise moving your muscles and controlling your speech for clearer English. 

The great thing is, that you can even do it silently – How great is that?!!

Silent Shadowing. This is an awesome strategy to use when you are on the train or the bus! Use this time to improve your spoken English.

Silent shadowing is simply using the silent voice inside your head. The voice in your imagination. So, imagine you are saying it out loud!

BINGO! You have a perfect way to use otherwise wasted time on the bus or train or other times out in public. 

 


5. Speak Out Loud To Yourself. 
  

The truth is that the only way to improve your pronunciation and spoken English is to speak.

It’s the icing on the cake!

You cannot improve your spoken English and English accent just by being in an English speaking country…… you need to work at it! Speaking is a physical thing – so you need to be physical to improve. Think of it like going to gym – for your mouth!

Just like watching some play the piano won’t really help you with actually learning to play the piano. 

Speaking out loud to yourself is another proven method that is very effective for improving your spoken English and pronunciation. 

Students often say to me “My spoken English is not improving because I don’t have anyone to speak with’. 

The truth is that you don’t need anyone to practise with. You can speak out loud, to yourself to develop your spoken English skills. 

Use this activity to improve your English accent by focusing on your pronunciation while you do it. 

Here are some ideas of what to speak about:

1. What you did yesterday (focus on using the correct past tense). 
2. Role play a conversation you had earlier today or yesterday.
3. Describe a movie you have seen recently in detail. 
4. Listen to a podcast. Describe it out loud in as much detail as you can. 
5. Pick a topic and speak on it for 5 minutes in as much detail as you can. 

Do this everyday and you will see very good  improvements in your fluency and vocabulary.  

See our video on the Speech Active Fluency Challenge – Improving your English Fluency – to find out about speaking out loud to yourself for 15 minutes a day. 

The aim of speaking out loud to yourself for 15 minutes a day is to make sure you are actively speaking English and building your vocabulary, listening skills and pronunciation skills too.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips on how to improve English accent.

You can start them from right now and they will give you skills for life!

So below if your list of actions. Which ones can you start right now!?

Adopt these habits regularly and you’ll see your listening skills and the sound of your English accent improve.

1. Subscribe to a Podcast & Listen.

2. Revise All The Sounds In English – Revise them here. 

3. Understand The Importance of Word Stress. Word Stress Exercises. 

4. Start Shadowing

5. Speak Out Loud To Yourself. 

Remember that doing this regularly is very important. If you do one of the 5 things above only once a week, nothing will change!

To achieve good improvement you really need to spend at least 15 minutes a day on improving your English accent.

Here are some other questions that people often ask us are: 

I need help to improve or change my English accent?

Changing and improving the way you speak isn’t easy. It takes time to develop the skills of hearing what it is you need to change and then actually changing it.

This process can be made significantly easier with the help of an expert and materials to support your learning. 

Speech Active’s English pronunciation course for advanced learners of English can help you fine tune your English accent and help you sound more like a native speaker.  

 Where can I find classes to improve English accent? 

Speech Active provides English accent classes for non-native English speakers. We are the world leading provider of online English pronunciation training.

These classes are tailored specifically for speakers or your first language. Find out more about our tailored course for speakers of your first language – Online English Pronunciation & Accent Courses.

How to improve English accent youtube?

Youtube is a great way to start improving your English pronunciation and accent. There are hundreds and hundreds of videos on all aspects of English pronunciation. Start with our Georgie Harding English Pronunciation Youtube to improve your English accent with youtube videos.

How to improve English accent and speak more clearly? 

If you would like to speak more clearly and really make changes and improvements with your spoken English, start one of our tailored English pronunciation courses. This is a comprehensive course for improving your English accent and pronunciation. You’ll improve your general mouth position, rate of speaking, word stress, sentence stress, weak vowels, linking, vowel sounds, consonant sounds, vocabulary and expression for casual and professional conversations and much more!

Start improving today with a Speech Active English Pronunciation Course – Enrol in English Pronunciation Course. 

How to improve english accent and fluency?

The steps above will help you improve your English accent and fluency. It’s key to do a little bit everyday. This way, bit by bit, little by little you are building your skills. Being regular with your practise is essential. If practice isn’t regular, many people forget what they have learnt in between.

So the key here is to practise regularly. Re-read the 5 steps above and complete at least one of them each day.

 How to improve English Accent and Pronunciation?

Start with LISTENING. Listening more carefully to you and to others. Listen to HOW they speak, rather than just what they are saying. Tune in to the up and down of the pitch of their voice, listen to the sounds they make.

Keep doing this for 2 weeks and you’ll start to notice more and more about their pronunciation. 

Then, focus on your own speech. Listen carefully to the sounds and stress patterns that you make!

This takes practise but you are building foundation skills. Once you can hear subtle differences you can then work on changing and improving your pronunciation and accent. 

Improving English accent and pronunciation is all about control – controlling the sounds you make. Making small changes to them so your English is clearer and easier for listeners to understand.

OK – that’s me done for today. Please check out our other blog articles and free resources to help you start improving.

Remember, do the 5 actions listed on this page, or even one or two of them, and you will be building important skills for improving your English accent and pronunciation.

Keep up the great work!

 Well done.

x

Georgie Harding

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5 Things To Do Today To Improve Your English Accent Forever

by

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(SpPathand 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. 

Email: georgie@speechactive.com
Linkedin: Georgie Harding 
Facebook: Speech Active 

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