The most common question I get asked is how you can reduce your accent. While you cannot eliminate it entirely, there are certainly some things you can try out to sound "more native."
One strategy is called exaggeration, and it is not always recommended, BUT for English pronunciation it is a powerful accent reduction technique that can be used to achieve clarity and precision. Exaggeration requires that the tongue and lips make full movements to form and “exaggerate” the English sound. Think of exaggeration as “over-doing” or “making the most” of the movements of your speech muscles. Exaggeration works best when we say all of the sounds in a word and when we slow down and give the speech muscles time to move from one position to the next.
At first exaggeration can feel strange, but eventually it will feel more natural and it will make an incredible difference to your speech. Even if you have sound errors, people will understand what you’re saying. You can watch yourself in the mirror to see if you are using exaggeration correctly.
Here’s a few things you’ll notice:
You will clearly see your lips moving on m, w, b, and p
Your jaw will open more
You muscles will make fuller movements on vowels like “ee”, “oo” and “o”
You will see you tongue tip moving up on t, d, s, z and n
You will see your tongue tip coming forward between your teeth on th
Your rate of speech will be slower
The final consonant of words will be more noticeable
A good way to practice exaggeration is to grab a mirror and try saying common everyday sentences. You will be able to see and feel if you are using exaggeration. Record yourself and you will be able to hear if you are using exaggeration. Your speech should sound clear, with no mumbling or slurring.
Try practicing the following common sentences using exaggeration:
I think it’s a great idea.
Could you say that again?
Once you get the hang of using exaggeration with common sentences, you can try it out in conversations. Your speech will be clearer and you will be easier to understand!
If you are having trouble with these sounds or are not sure about how you sound saying them, then sign up for a trial lesson and I can give you some more tips and advice. You are probably better than you think! =) Good luck!