Updated: Jun 17
If you haven't already, watch my recent IGTV video here where I summarize these steps.
This week's blog post is all about taking specific, actionable steps that you can implement TODAY to improve your American Accent with more effective communication skills. Maybe you've heard of these tips before but got off track with incorporating them into your practice. Perhaps this is the first time you are hearing these suggestions. Most people don't learn these concepts in ESL classes. Either way, I hope that this information is helpful to you, wherever you may be on your American English communication skills journey.
Before I get into the specific tips and strategies, please make sure that you don't just skim through the page without having any intention of actually APPLYING the advice. It is not enough to simply KNOW what to do - you must take ACTION. This advice applies to any skill building or habit forming behaviors. We all usually know what needs to be done, and even how to do it, but we often times lack the motivation, willpower, discipline and determination to execute on our knowledge. Language learning and application is a life-long journey. There is no easy way around it - no quick fixes or magic equation to get you from Point A to Point B faster.
American Accent training is no different. It requires daily, consistent, dedicated effort on the learner's part if you are truly seeking progress and transformation. There are so many different components to communication skills, and pronunciation is just one aspect of it. These tips are for ESL / EFL learners who are tired of making the same mistakes, over and over, and want to try a new approach. These tips are meant for individuals who are committed to themselves and their self-development. By improving your pronunciation and American Accent, you are taking steps towards improving your ability to be understood, and your understanding of others. When people understand you, they can spend more time hearing your message, and less time focusing on your mistakes. You can stop doubting yourself and stressing over each word, and redirect your energy into the meaning behind your content.
Are you ready to move forward and stop feeling stuck? Then keep on reading!
Three Specific Steps & Tips
to Improve Your American Accent TODAY
Pronunciation Tip #1 : You need to SEE what you are saying
Every time you are practicing American accent pronunciation, try to incorporate using a mirror or cellphone. Turn the camera on your face and watch your mouth. It's not enough to just read a word list out-loud. You have to confirm accurate tongue, lip and teeth placement with some sort of visual representation.
If you are unsure of HOW to make a certain sound, look up a YouTube video in American English (the Sounds American channel is my favorite) or use diagrams. Then, double check the way your mouth looks when you go to make the same sound. This is a CRUCIAL step, especially when you keep feeling stuck and "can't understand why" it's "not coming out right".
Pronunciation Tip #2 : You need to FEEL what you are saying
Speech sound production, pronunciation & american accent work is impacted directly by the way you use your lips, teeth, tongue, voicing, and your breath. Each of these physical components must be FELT. It's not good enough to just "think" about a sound when you make it. You might not be used to moving your tongue in certain positions for certain consonants, using your teeth, opening your mouth and rounding your lips for different vowel sounds. But these components are critical to more accurate American accent pronunciation.
When you pronounce words with -TH, you should FEEL it in your TONGUE and your TEETH.
When you pronounce words with -L, you should FEEL it in the tip of your TONGUE, pushed up against the back of your TEETH.
During sessions I always ask my clients what they are FEELING when they are having difficulty with pronunciation. I can't always see the inside of their mouth. Being able to describe what you feel, and how these different articulators are acting together will help us both identify what's going wrong, and how to fix it. That's how accent modification and accent reduction works.
Pronunciation Tip #3 : You need to HEAR what you are saying
If you can't hear your mistakes in English, you'll never be able to fix them.
First, make sure you spend time (minimum of 30 min - 1 hour) every DAY listening to different examples of the sound you are working on, and the model you are working towards. This could be through YouTube videos, TEDtalks, podcasts, local news, lectures, and so on. Find speakers with a strong command of the English language, and model an example of the American accent you are striving for.
Second, try a Listening Discrimination task. This helps to make sure that what other people HEAR is what you are ACTUALLY saying. I do this often with minimal pair words with my clients. A minimal pair consists of two words that are almost identical, except for ONE sound. For example - the words Bar and Car are minimal pairs. Sue and Zoo are minimal pairs. Pad and Pat are minimal pairs. Read a list of minimal pair words out loud. Let the listener spell out the word they hear. If they match, great job! If they spell a slightly different word, then you know you have more work to do. It also helps to have your listening partner do the task for you as well. This ensures that you are able to hear and differentiate the target sound against other sounds.
It is so easy to just "go through the motions" and not pay much attention to the way you sound, but if you are not SEEING, FEELING, and HEARING yourself properly, I guarantee that you will be slow to make progress with your American Accent training and communication skills.
Which one of these steps are you going to take today? Have you heard of these before? Are any of these steps new concepts for you?
Leave a comment with your questions related to the American English Accent, Communication Skills & Public Speaking Skills, or shoot me an e-mail at Diandra@americanspeechcoach.com
Until next time,
American Speech Coach
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