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Study Tips for Accent Reduction

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

Squeeze in small amounts of practice whenever/wherever you can.

1. At your lesson, pick 5-10 difficult words or phrases and write each on a sticky note. Post the notes near your computer at work. Then you'll look at them several times a day. Look at them before you take a walk down the hall to the restroom. Then practice saying them on your break. After a week, check with your teacher or a native speaker how you're doing with each word/phrase on your sticky note. Once you're doing it right, toss the sticky note.

2. When you say a word or phrase that was misunderstood (you were asked to repeat yourself), write the word/phrase on a sticky note. Then go ask a native speaker or your instructor how to say the word/phrase. Ask if you can record them using your smartphone. Now you have the recording and your sticky note to remind you to practice!

3. Check out some children's read aloud books from the library. Practice reading them aloud. Children's books are written in a way that sounds great when read aloud. Some children's books come with audio recordings. Read along, listen and imitate! The Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney has very natural, everyday language and is fantastic for this purpose.

4. Pick a book that interests you that also has an audio version. Sometimes you will just listen, or just read, but when you have time, listen and read at the same time, so that all your senses are focused on the reading. This way you can learn what the words look like and focus on the grammar and read ahead while listening to the correct pronunciation and rhythm.

4. Don't try to incorporate all the pronunciation rules you're learning into your everyday speech all at once. Alot 5 minutes at a time to practice. Agree with yourself, for example, that for this 5 minutes, while you're talking to a colleague, you will just work on your linking. Or for this 5 minutes, while you're talking to a friend, you will just work on making all your -th- sounds clear. Don't try to change everything all at once, or you will set yourself up for failure. Even when you are doing your accent reduction homework, just listen to and practice with one repetition recording for 5-10 minutes. Work with the same recording again later in the day. Squeeze in as many short sessions as you can. You don't need a whole hour to sit down and study.

5. When you're listening to native speakers in person or on the radio or TV, of course you need to pay attention to the content of what they're saying, but make a plan to spend a couple minutes at a time listening for one of the rules you're studying. For example, "For the next 2 minutes, I will listen for their disappearing H, or H elision. Did he say, 'She has her own house' or 'She has er own house'?" It helps if you have time to listen to that section twice. You can pause the movie you're watching, and repeat after the actor.

6. Each evening, preview the next day's schedule, and pick a school, work, or social situation where you could apply your new accent, at least for a few minutes. Try to predict a few sentences that you'll want to say and write them down. Then practice saying them with your new pronunciation. The next day, look for the opportunity to use your rehearsed sentences.

7. Before a meeting, when you are planning what you might say, practice one or two of the sentences in advance. Decide what aspects of pronunciation you want to focus on, perhaps vowel lengthening of particular words. Practice several times, and when you are at the meeting, be sure to include your practiced sentence. If it didn't come out the way you want, don't be upset. Make the same goal for the next meeting. You don't have to focus on your pronunciation for the whole meeting!

7. Talk to yourself! Verbalize what you're doing in your head and focus on the rhythm or the intonation, or whatever it is that you want to work on. For example, I want to work on NG linking. I'm walkinggg to my car and openinggg the door. I'm sittinggg on the seat..." Talking to yourself lets you practice without fear of doing it wrong. You can even record yourself talking to yourself, and then listen to it and assess yourself!

8. Remember, if you catch yourself doing it wrong, it's not that you forgot to do it right; you remembered to do it right. You'll have many opportunities to do it again.

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