First things first – everyone has an accent! I bet you didn’t realize that. But it’s true. You may find when you are learning a new language that your accent gets in the way. When this happens you begin to think “How can I get rid of my accent?”
The simple answer is “You can’t.” You can’t get rid of it completely, but you can make your errors seem less noticeable. That’s where accent modification lessons can help. With accent modification lessons (also called accent reduction or English pronunciation training) you often work with a speech-language pathologist (SLP) specially trained to teach you how to speak American English like a native speaker.
Your teacher will emphasise correct pronunciation of American English sounds, words stress and sentence stress, linking sounds together in running speech, common reductions, and the melody and intonation patterns that will help you to sound more American.
What’s your part? You need to spend focused time listening and imitating American English. One quick way to get a handle on an American English accent is to mimic an American speaking your language. This is called reverse accent mimicry. Just speak your language the way you may have heard an American speak it – by mimicking an American accent while speaking your language, you will trigger areas of your brain that control speech learning and accent. Then make these same sounds when speaking American English. You should see an improvement.
Work one-on-one with an SLP who has been specially trained in accent modification. The most well-known national certification is Compton’s PESL course (pronouncing English as a Second Language). An SLP, with a PESL certification, is the best teacher to provide direction and feedback as you learn the expected American English accent.
Try accent reduction books with CDs. If you are an auditory learner the recordings will be helpful, and if you are a visual learner, read along in the book while you listen. One of my favorite self-study books is Lisa Mojsin’s Mastering the American Accent.
Set a goal for yourself. You could select one sound. Many speakers from Asian countries can improve R (made in the back of the mouth) and L (made near the front of the mouth). Spanish and Persian speakers can improve TH sounds by placing the tongue between the teeth. Find out your challenging sounds and try to improve them on purpose.
Let friends or co-workers know that you are working on improving your accent. Many Americans are too polite to correct words someone is pronouncing wrong, but if you let them know you want their feedback, I’m sure they will be happy to provide that.
Good luck with your accent learning, and keep up the good work!