5 Steps to Speaking with an American Accent

Achieving and mastering a particular accent is no easy deed. In the same manner in which we are all born into a language, we are all born into a way of speaking- a certain individualistic cry to assert the fact that people come from hundreds of different places and are, in turn, diverse from one another. Now, think about this: a child grows up in Nicaragua; for the duration of his coming of age he speaks Spanish with the swish of a Caribbean melody, omitting S’s and exaggerating H’s, but suddenly he learns that in order to be better understood, and potentially move upwards in the workplace he must ditch his accent and adopt a different one. Just like that. Sounds hard doesn’t it? Abandoning the way you communicate, your norm, and learning a new accent can seem daunting, but with the following 5 steps it can be an easier task than once presumed.

First, you have to learn the sounds and hang out with American natives. This step is perhaps the most important of them all because not only will it force you to immerse yourself in their way of speech (trust me, you will unconsciously attempt to speak like them as to not be the outsider), but it will also educate you on the aspects of pronunciation. “What do you mean?” you say? Well, you’ll be able to see, up close and personal, the way in which these speakers’ mouths move when pronouncing certain vowels and/or consonants- by studying this and then mimicking the shapes formed by their mouths, the sounds they make will begin to come naturally.

Secondly, watch a lot of American movies. And by a lot, I mean A LOT. What this exercise will do (in addition to giving some insight on American culture and history) is that it will embed the sound and rhythm the American accent makes into your brain- repetition is key: if you listen to audio tapes in the car every day and watch at least a couple of movies featuring American accents a week, it will be forever stuck in your head. This works in the same sort of way that playing a song on repeat works, and everyone knows that once a song and its lyrics are printed onto the walls of your cerebellum there’s no way they’re getting erased.

Thirdly, try speaking (slowly) with the accent in front of a mirror. Before you take the plunge into practicing your accent in conversations with other people it’s important to work on your technique. Speaking slowly at first is very important, this will give you a chance to observe the way your mouth moves when enunciating and cross-examine it with the way native speakers' do. This is also a great way to build confidence; trying out a new style of speech can be intimidating, similar to trying to speak a new language, so practicing by yourself will show you that you can do it!

Fourthly, record yourself. By using a recorder you are enabling yourself to be your own critic. Having yourself on record will not only be a great way to track progress, but also to identify problem areas that need to be worked on further. When learning new things this is of great importance because you personalize your learning and focus on what you need to improve instead of blindly moving forward.

Lastly, go ahead and practice your finalized product with a group of natives. I feel the need to stress that this should be the LAST step- if you throw yourself into expert territory too soon you might feel intimidated and lose ground. This step however, is great when taken at the right time because it will enable you to truly put all your work into practice and find guidance from friends!

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