Reduce Your Accent with This Fun Learning Technique
Updated: Feb 14, 2018
First things first: reducing your accent is often NOT the most important thing. For most students of English, clear core pronunciation, and using grammar and vocabulary correctly is all that is needed for people to understand you.
However, a very strong accent can keep you from communicating clearly and cause you a lot of anxiety. Sadly, research has shown that a strong non-native accent can be perceived as less convincing or persuasive.
That being the case, reducing your accent can certainly pay off in the long run. However, it doesn't have to take a lot of time and energy, and can be a lot of fun! In this blog, I'll teach you one technique you can use to improve your accent in an enjoyable but effective way.
Reduce Your Accent by Adopting a "Language Parent"
What is a "Language Parent"? Well, our accent is usually shaped by our parents and other people we had a lot of contact with while we were learning our native language. A "language parent" is a model who can shape your English accent in the same way.
When you do listening practice, do you often listen to many different speakers? This is great for improving your ability to understand English. However, with a "language parent", you find one model what you would like to sound like and listen to them often - every day if possible. You focus on copying their speech and accent, and over time this can influence how you speak English and improve your accent.
Does this work when you are an adult? Well, have you ever found yourself sounding more and more like a close friend you spend a lot of time with? The people we talk to the most influence how we speak and the phrases we use. Over time, we sound more and more alike. Although our ability to mimic tends to weaken as we age, we can still do it if we listen to the same person often enough.
How to Choose a Language Parent
As you are going to be listening to this person as often as possible, it's important to find someone that you find entertaining or interesting. To find a good model, try BBC Radio DJs, comedians, podcasts, or a YouTuber that talks about topics you enjoy.
Things to consider when choosing a Language Parent:
it is often best to find someone the same gender as you, as it is easier to imitate someone with a similar pitch
find a presenter with a lot of content, rather than just a few minutes of recordings
choose a native speaker
it is usually best to avoid strong or unusual native accents, such as from a particular region of the UK or US, as these are harder to imitate and understand
choose someone of a similar age to yourself or older, as younger people often use different or more "trendy" vocabulary and this might sound strange coming from an older person
How to Use Your Language Parent
It's easy! If you watch videos or listen to the radio for fun, this is much the same.
Listen to the person every day, even for just 10 minutes.
Pause and mimic phrases and sentences as closely as you can.
If you are using a video, pay attention to the way the person moves their mouth and gestures, and imitate these when you speak. Try muting the video and speaking along with it as if you are doing the voice dub.
As an extra technique, try speaking your own language with the accent of your language parent. e.g. If you are Spanish and you are learning English, imagine how your English "Language Parent" would sound speaking in Spanish and try to speak your language with this accent.
While we're on the topic of finding a "Language Parent", why not try a new approach to studying English? Our self-study service sends you workbooks that are based on real-world videos, audio, or articles that match your interests, so you will get some potential language parents sent directly to your inbox - one of our carefully picked out YouTube channels or podcasts might be a perfect match for you!
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