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Karaoke sign outside a building.
Tips for Changing Accents (And how Karaoke helped me with Spanish)
First off, I must say that everyone has an accent. Yes, including you. Just because you cannot hear your own accent does not mean you do not have one. Accents vary based on a many different factors, including geographical location and who is in your social circle. Everyone has an accent; in fact, even people who speak in sign language have accents. Slight deviations in how different words are signed are even enough to indicate whether or not the person signing can speak or is mute. Heck, even cows have accents. Their mooing varies depending upon what region they come from.

This article is geared towards offering a few brief tips to people who wish to change their accent. You may wish to do this for a variety of reasons. But again, I stress that everyone has an accent. If you wish to change your accent simply because you believe that another accent sounds better, please remember this simple fact. Everyone has an accent; everyone thinks the grass is greener on the other side. I would personally recommend only considering an accent change if your accent is currently inhibiting your ability to be understood by others.

As a final caveat, I must say that unlearning an accent is a difficult and long process that may require professional help. A speech-language pathologist is one such professional who can help you with this process. He or she will minutely examine how you pronounce various consonants and vowels. He or she will also consider such elements as stress, rhythm of speech, etc.

There are, of course, measures you can take on your own to begin to change your accent. What follows is a few of those tips. In general, you want to practice verbal speaking as much as possible. If you want to see slow, gradual improvement, you really need to practice at a minimum around thirty minutes per day.

  • Find recordings of single words or phrases. Listen to these over and over again. After each repetition try your best to sound out the words in question.

  • Practice specific sounds repeatedly. It is often important to focus on specific parts of words rather than the entire words themselves. Practice enunciating difficult consonants, vowels, etc.

  • Watch as much television as you can in your accent of choice. It is important to say, however, that passive listening will not cut it. To make improvement you will need to mimic the actors as they speak. Here is another important part: practice speaking in different tones of voice. Mimic the actors when they are excited, when they are angry, when they are surprised, etc. You will need to practice all of the various emotional tones to be able to get a grasp on the language.

  • Read out loud in your desired accent as much as possible. If you have kids, a great way to practice your accent is by reading to them. They will both enjoy listening to stories and find the new accent hilarious and entertaining.

  • This is going to sound crazy, but I personally believe that one of the most effective ways to learn a new accent (and to have a little fun at the same time) is to do karaoke. Your first step is to find a series of artists who sing in your desired accent. I decided to listen to songs by Hector Lavoe, Juan luis Guerra, and Los Tigres Del Norte. Then all you have to do is just jam right along with them. Sing their songs constantly: while you are doing laundry, while you are driving to work, while you are on the computer. This was the only way I was able to make any progress in improving my abysmal Spanish accent.

Photo Credit: Eden, Janine and Jim

lrngo users in over 190 countries

City view of Taipei Taiwan at night.
Learn Taiwanese Quickly
It is proven that the fastest way to learn Taiwanese, or any other language, is by emersion in the language and culture of the people. This forces the learning into daily life, and surrounds you with opportunities to practice speaking, listening and conversing in the local language. It also takes the learning off the page and brings it to life. If you want to learn Taiwanese quickly, there is no better method than diving into everyday life in Taiwan.

This may seem like a far-fetched idea to some, but there are actually quite a few opportunities to work in Taiwan temporarily. One opportunity is to teach ESL in Taiwan. Teaching ESL opens up opportunities all over Taiwan for you to use your English to teach in a variety of school settings. You don’t even have to have experience in Taiwanese to teach, and you will get an excellent surrounding of culture and language to help with your language efforts. You can find ESL teaching jobs in a variety of places, and you can check out LRNGO’s ESL blog for more information on qualifications and certifications necessary to teach, as well as advice on finding a job right for you.

There are also opportunities for you to work abroad for room and board. If you’re interested in farming, check out WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) , which offers tons of opportunities for volunteers to connect with farmers all over the globe for a temporary stay and work opportunity. You could also check out Helpx, with a similar concept of volunteering for room and board, but with opportunities spanning across the board, from helping with small hotels to tutoring hosts in a variety of skills.

You can also work with a native Taiwanese speaker through tutoring or language exchange. You can find a tutor on a variety of sites such as WyzAnt, and a language exchange partner at LRNGO, if you would like to exchange lesson for lesson as opposed to paying a tutor. Working with a native speaker allows you the flexibility of asking questions and having lessons tailored to your learning style and abilities. They also open up doors for cross cultural understanding and are the best way to learn what natural, modern Taiwanese looks like.

You can also find some computer courses to help you learn Taiwanese. These are interactive and a close second to having a private tutor, but often times still cost. Be sure to do your research before opting for this method, and make use of any free trials offered to you so you can be sure that you’re paying for a program that is right for you.

Your efforts to become proficient in a new language will be rewarded by the joy of being able to communicate more freely and explore the opportunities this introduces.

Photo Credit: Luke Ma

lrngo users in over 190 countries

Peles Castle in Romania.
Romanian Made Simple
Interested in learning Romanian? The language is most prominent it Romania and Moldova, but has speakers scattered around various other countries. With native Romanian speakers numbering at about 24 million worldwide, along with approximately 4 million second language speakers, there are ample opportunities to learn the language and add to that 4 million!

Reaching proficiency in a foreign language takes a few singular qualities: drive, commitment, and determination, to name a few. If you feel up to the challenge, then all you need now is a way to achieve your goal. There are a variety of ways you can learn Romanian, and it is often best to combine the different resources out there and gain a rounded understanding of the language as a whole.

Take a Class

If you function best in a classroom setting, consider doing your research on Romanian classes near you, perhaps at your local college, or online. Not all colleges have the option of Romanian courses, so you may have to fall back on the online option. Finding the right class is an important part of your learning, so be sure to read plenty of reviews and try any free trials offered before committing to a course.

Hire a Tutor

This is an excellent option as face-to-face practice is extremely important in any language study. You can check out local classifieds or turn to established tutoring sites like WyzAnt, which posts ads for tutors available both in person or through video chat. The site even includes available tutors’ hours of tutoring experience so you’ll be sure to work with an experienced tutor.

Connect with a Language Exchange Partner

If you would like to learn Romanian without the price tag, then this is the option for you. Because face-to-face learning and practice is so important when it comes to languages, this is an excellent alternative to a hired tutor while still getting the benefits. The idea is that we all have something to learn, as well as things we can teach, so instead of exchange dollar bills for a Romanian lesson, why not exchange your time and teach your partner something you know? Heck, you could even teach English or any other native language whose ability for you to teach you may take for granted. As you probably know, sites like LRNGO allow you to connect with a partner locally or online via video chat so that you can be sure to have options wherever you go.

Explore Online Options

There are plenty of learn at your own pace Romanian resources on the web that are best used when paired with one of the above options (but are incredibly valuable resources for practice and extra study).

Romanian Lessons is a great place to get a grasp of the basics, for free. The free course includes ten lessons so that your foundational knowledge of the language will be solid.

Romanian 101 is perfect for vocabulary and grammar, as well as a place to find links to Romanian radio and news so that you can practice your listening and reading skills while learning about the language’s surrounding culture.

Learn Romanian with Nico is an awesome YouTube channel that helps with grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and conversation. Taught by a native speaker, these videos are very useful for those interested in not only the language, but the culture.

Worldwideliving-Romanian Language is a free podcast on iTunes, giving you the opportunity to listen to bits of Romanian wherever you go, be it in the car, while cleaning the house, or walking your dog, podcasts are a great way to squeeze in some study time in your daily life. This particular podcast plays the audio in both English and Romanian so that you get a better understanding of how the two function in comparison to one another.

Remember that you now have the resources you need to learn Romanian, so get out there and utilize them!

Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis

lrngo users in over 190 countries

Learning and studying in the library
The Rules of Language Learning
So you’ve decided to embark on the language learning journey, have you? Be prepared, you’ve got a long road ahead of you, but with the right amount of passion and dedication, it will be a worthwhile one. If you’re new to language learning, you may need a few tips on where to start. Have no fear, some rules to live by for language learners is here.

Do Your Research

In order to learn a language, you need to figure out where your learning materials will come from. Materials vary greatly from language to language, so it’s important to do your research. Google online practices, video lessons, and podcasts for your language and check out articles written about that language on this site for more specific recommendations.

There are also sites that are valuable for learners of a variety of languages. 101 Languages gives language basics, including vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation and links to TV, radio, and news sites in that language so you can get practice using real-life material, Digital Dialects hosts online exercises perfect for testing how your language learning has been going, and LRNGO provides platform for language exchange, where you can connect with users in your own backyard or anywhere in the world and learn from one another for free. You can also do some research on personal tutors or classes near you.

Be Committed

Now that you have your resources all in a row, it’s time to start committing your time to your studies. Make a schedule and dedicate a select amount of time each day or every other day to study and practice. Don’t save all of your learning for once or twice a week, as you need consistent practice in order for your learning to stick.

Practice, it Makes Perfect

You can’t get all of you knowledge from a textbook, you have to branch out and use your newfound language abilities in the real world. Use worksheets and online exercises to practice on your own, try following along with podcasts or movies to see how much you comprehend, and find a conversation and writing partner so that you can get human feedback on your progress.

Make Mistakes

As you go through the practicing process, don’t be afraid to mess up now and then, or occasionally, or often. Mistakes happen, and they are an integral part of the learning process. Don’t be embarrassed, you’re learning and if you keep on trying with your best effort, then people will understand. When you make mistakes, you learn, so embrace them instead of cringing at them.

With these tips in mind, you are on your way to the rewarding journey of learning a language. Keep your head up high and remind yourself of why this is important to you, so even through the rough patches, you’ll succeed.

Photo Credit: MC Quin

lrngo users in over 190 countries

Graffiti on the wall saying, Arriba.
Learning to Roll R’s - Alveolar Trill
Spanish; German; Russian; Bulgarian; Greek; There are a surprising number of languages where the trill- commonly known as rolling r’s- is an important part of everday speech. Of course, it is first important to say that not being able to roll your r’s is not the worst thing in the world; being able to do a proper trill is secondary in importance to knowing vocabulary, grammar, being able to understand everyday speech, etc. But of course, if you are striving for perfect “fluency”, mastering the trill is an important part of reaching that goal.

Types of Trills

A common mistake that many people make is to assume that all languages roll r’s the same way. As I was learning Spanish, I quickly realized (to my detriment) that this was not true. I had spent a significant amount of time practicing trills, and I eventually got to a point where I thought I was making the correct trill. Then I was told by a teacher that I was doing something called the Ulvular Trill. You do it by vibrating the Uvula at the back of the throat (that hanging thing that, if you touch it, makes you throw up). For Spanish, the more commonly accepted for of the Trill is known as the Alveolar Trill. This Trill is done with the tip of the tongue, at the front of the mouth. So much to my dismay I began to attempt to learn this new and alien form of trilling. Now, I do not pretend to be an expert on trills. I am also sure that there are other forms of Trills. For example, I have heard of something called a Fricative Ulvular trill, and I profess I have absolutely no idea what that is. All I can offer as advice is how I eventually got the hand of the alveolar Trill. Here are some of the best resources I found online that helped.

Free Resources - In addition to providing a variety of great tips, I really appreciated how this site emphasized repeatedly that everyone has the capacity to learn how to roll R’s. After doing it for many, many weeks, it was nice to hear a little encouragement. – For some reason or another, the way this video explained rolling r’s really clicked for me. I won’t say it will do the same for you, but I recommend you check it out. - I like the tip about loosening up the tongue before trying to practice. Reminds me a little bit of stretching before exercising.

As a final word, for me, learning to roll r's was a lot like learning to whistle. The only thing that seemed to work in the end, and I cannot stress this enough, was simply trying to roll my r's all the time. Make it into an annoying habit. Heck, I got to the point where I would watch movies and be making horrible, guttural sounds the entire time. And eventually you will accidently make the correct sound. And then a little later you will accidently make the correct sound again. That's my approach- learning by complete accident.

Photo Credit: Gabriel Seisdedos

lrngo users in over 190 countries

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