Yes, you can get rid of your accent & obtain a standard American accent. The debate as to whether you can obtain an American accent is over. It’s easy. But you’re probably doing it wrong. Have no fear! We’ll straighten this right up 🙂
How to Obtain an American Accent
- Don’t over-articulate. Contrary to popular belief, don’t move your face and lips around. Standard American English resonance occurs in the back of the mouth.
- Smooth out your speech. Most people learn to over-pronounce the letters. But English is spelled wrong. Gluing your words together is the real solution.
- Use a varied intonation pattern. Treat your words like musical notes. The essential ones are whole notes, and the non-essential ones are quarter and eighth notes.
- Let your voice come out on your exhale. All sound is air molecules vibrating. Your voice is no exception.
- Back resonance. Make sure you allow that air to vibrate in the back of your mouth.
As Communicators, We’re Infants.
We humans, have only just very recently begun communicating in a complex fashion during high anxiety speaking situations. Meeting new people, making small talk, making presentations, during conflicts with colleagues. These are all challenging things to do when speaking one’s native language.
But when you’re speaking a second or third language? Forget it! It’s ultra-difficult! Of course, you need some help!
When they think about obtaining an American accent or getting rid of their accent, most people think about the pronunciation of their sounds. That’s what most accent teachers are teaching. Admittedly, when I hung out my shingle, I did the same. That’s what all my teachers were teaching me.
After a few years, I had to drop that method with my clients because I realized this causes people to over-pronounce their sounds and use excessive front resonance. It results in a staccato, choppy speech pattern, which, in turn, results in a highly accented sound!
Not only are you not getting rid of your accent–you’re making it worse!
Watch the anchors on the national news or the actors in your favorite movies. Are their lips moving to make round /o/ sounds or /sh/ sounds? Do their tongues come out to make the dreaded /th/ sound? No & no. That’s because in standard American accented speech, there’s very little reliance on the lips.
Please don’t place your resonance at your lips. That means don’t move your lips when you talk. I mean, ok, your mouth opens & closes, but your lips don’t make crazy circles or shoot out to make your sounds.
Where should the resonance be, you ask? Good question. Thanks for asking!
It’s in the back. To obtain an American accent, you need to place a full vibrational resonance in the back of your mouth over the back of your tongue. Imagine a ball of energy hovering over the back of your tongue as you speak. Using back resonance helps you project your voice and makes others see you as the authority.
How to Obtain an American Accent
It’s a 2-step process.
First, you have to reduce the usage of the lips when making your American sounds. Where do we make the /o/ sound? In the back of the mouth, silly! Say it with me without moving your lips at all. (Pretend you just came from the dentist & you got novocaine in your lips.) /o/
Feels weird, doesn’t it? The same goes for the /u/ sound like in “boot.” Try /u/ without moving your lips.
The second part is: you must bring down the back of your tongue. Right now is where you may want to pick up the phone & just call me. Please do. I can get you to do this in 20 minutes flat. You’ve got muscles back there! You can pull the back of the tongue down with the muscles at the top of your throat.
If over-articulation and excessive front resonance are giving you a staccato, choppy speech pattern, don’t get me started on what it does to your intonation! Ok, you can get me started. But just try to stop me!
It makes your intonation flat. A flat intonation pattern is when you use equal emphasis on each syllable. What you want to do is vary the intonation. I talk loads about it in this article about being more persuasive. (pt. II)
Both overly staccato speech & a flat intonation lead to your not being crystal clear. When you’re not crystal clear, you have a harder time getting people to follow your call-to-action. What’s your call-to-action? Getting people to see how smart you are, to hire you, to buy your widget, to believe you, and to believe in you. Getting people to see how credible & authoritative you are.
And there’s one more thing it gets you. That’s fearlessness when you’re giving a speech or asking for a raise. No more losing sleep before big speaking events where you’re talking to one or many. So, yes, you can obtain an American accent and it will change your life 🙂