Padma wanted to get rid of her accent for a variety of reasons. One being that she hated when everyone asked her, “Where are you from?” as soon as she opened her mouth to speak. Another reason was that she knew that people had to work too hard to understand her & that it was limiting her prospects at work.
Here are the steps to get rid of your accent:
- Glue your words together. Clauses & phrases should not be separated.
- Talk in the back of your mouth, not the front. The SAE uses back resonance.
- Use a varied intonation pattern. Use emphasis on the important words. Reduce the volume on grammar glue.
- Use linking. If one word ends in one sound and the next word starts with that sound say it only once.
Those are the quick tips. If you want to know the ins & outs of accent reduction, read on. If you just want to get to the how to get rid of your accent scroll down to that section.
Continuing Padma’s story…
So she took a few accent reduction courses.. Each time her instructor gave her a book or a piece of paper with a particular sound on it and she practiced producing that sound till she was blue in the face. But after many sessions when she thought her accent would be gone–it wasn’t. Very frustrating.
Watch this video of Ita Olsen: 3 Amazing Tips to Sounding Smooth in Standard American English
You can’t get rid of your accent by just practicing sounds.
You want to know why it didn’t get rid of her accent? A few reasons.
- All that work on sounds makes your speech choppy and staccato. The opposite of a Standard American English accent.
- Each letter in English can represent multiple sounds. So you can’t put only one sound in per letter.
- To get clear, persuasive speech (which Padma didn’t learn until she came to me :)) into your life you need to work hierarchically–from easy speaking situations to challenging ones.
What if everything you’ve ever thought about accent reduction was wrong? What if everything you’re doing right now to improve your accent is actually making it worse?
The bad news: It probably is.
The good news: The solution is simple.
Traditional accent reduction trains us to over-pronounce our sounds & have a staccato intonation pattern. Making it very difficult for our listeners to understand us and do what we want them to do. We need our listeners to think we’re smart, hire us, buy our widget, invest in our startup, find us to be credible, don’t we?
Over-pronouncing our sounds makes speech very choppy. But when you went to that accent reduction class you were busy repeating “errrr” and “thhhhh” all over the place weren’t you? That is part of the reason we end up with a flat intonation pattern.
Having a flat intonation pattern makes it very hard for our brains to process information.
How to Move Your Mouth for a Standard American English Accent.
I tricked you! You don’t have to go crazy moving your mouth if you want to get rid of your accent and end up with a Standard American accent. Do you see Americans in the movies making their mouth into a big circle to make the “o” sound?
It’s a very common misconception that you have to move your lips all over the place to speak with an American accent. Even the teachers are out there teaching people to move their mouths. I see it all over YouTube and the internet. Please do not do this!
Moving your mouth too much gives you both a front resonance and staccato speech. Which is basically what an accent is.
Intonation is Information.
The more information a word or part of word has the more you want to give it duration (time) as well as volume. The less information a word or part of word provides for your listener the lass duration and volume it should have.
For example, In the following sentence which 2 words are most important? So that if you only used those 2 words your listener would understand you…
“Do you want to go to the beach on Sunday?”
Yes! Beach / Sunday. Muy bueno! So, to sound crystal clear in SAE you make the ee sound in beach nice and long & loud and the uh sound in Sunday nice and short & quiet. Maybe the word, “want” is of tertiary importance.
Here’s what the sentence ends up sounding like. Read this aloud:
Totally cool, right?
If you need to break it up into 3 parts the first few times just write it down in 3 parts. Then try it in 2 parts and then when you master that do it all in one. Make sure you use a lot of air for speech.
It’s got to sound very strange in your head but when you play the sentence back on the recorder you’ll hear that you sound completely Standard American English.
Get Rid of Your Accent During Routine Situations
If you want to get rid of your accent & want to make your listeners understand you, please follow these steps :
- Glue your words together. Write down what you’re going to say and put a slash between phrases. Everything within the slashes should be connected with your voice.
- Talk in the back of your mouth, not in the front. The Standard American English (SAE) accent is a very rare language in that it uses a resonance that hovers over the back of your tongue. If you’re using front resonance you end up with deep nasolabial lines and a very thin resonance. This doesn’t make you sound crystal clear, credible, authoritative or warm. Here’s how:
- Stop using your lips to formulate your sounds. I know it sounds crazy because that’s what everyone has told you to do thus far. That’s wrong!
- Pull down the back of your tongue and let the air focus it’s vibration there.
- Use a varied intonation pattern. Make sure that you make some vowels shorter & quieter and some vowels longer & louder. You’ll find more details here.
- Use linking. If one word ends in the same sound and the next word begins only say the sound once. For example:
What time is it? becomes: Whatimeisit?
My hands are really cold. becomes: Myhandsereelikold
Get Rid of Your Accent Off-the-Cuff
To get all of this into your running speech requires bringing your new skills through the hierarchy of your life. As you go through your day take note of what you say throughout the day. Chart the easy speaking situations and work on those areas first. Continue to work through your hierarchy until it becomes a habit.
Make sure that you’re recording your speech. This is the important part. Because the speech you hear in your head is not what you really sound like. You’ll want to make sure that you record yourself making all of these speech changes. Then when you listen back it becomes instant feedback and what sounded weird when you were saying it ends up sounding amazing on the recorder!
More on getting these new skills into your life. As always, come & see us to make it work fast!
I want to hear from you. Have you ever tried to get rid of your accent? What kind of success did you have? Do you remember going to accent training and have someone make you move your mouth all over the place to make sounds?