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accent; pronunciation; English

Most of us have surely had our English pronunciation called broad and stiff. Unfortunately, being Poles, we tend to pronounce some sounds without softening them. Polish is a language that sounds quite harsh to foreigners, unlike English, which is more like a melodious song. However, you don’t have to get rid of your accent – it is not impossible to improve it. All you need to do to correct your pronunciation is just to follow a few rules. As a result, you will sound more fluent and professional.

Learning English is difficult. We learn the rules first, then the exceptions these very rules. And after you’ve learned the grammar and memorized the vocabulary, you travel to English-speaking countries only to have someone take issue with your… accent?

Surprising, isn’t it? After all, at home, no one ever made any remarks on your pronunciation. Knowing the language alone was impressive enough. But now, you find out that there is a new obstacle that completely puts into question how your competences and professionalism are viewed by others. In some cases, it may even cost you your job.

However frustrating this may be, there are a few ways through which non-native speakers of English can reduce their accent. By adding some exercises to your study routine, you can improve your pronunciation and practice clear speech. However, first things first…

REDUCE rather than GET RID OF your accent

Note that we didn’t tell you to get rid of your accent altogether while learning English. That’s because the accent itself isn’t all that bad. Remember that your accent speaks volumes about your culture and heritage. What’s more, it’s something to admire because it proves that you speak two languages! And native speakers themselves have accents! The point is to get your colleagues, clients, acquaintances and friends to understand what you have to say.

Slow down and articulate each word

We tend to speed up the pace of our speech when we have much to say or when we are excited about something. If you speak with a strong accent, speaking quickly may further instensify it and make it more difficult for others to understand what you are saying. For this reason, don’t hurry. Slown down and articulate each word with care. While this may be a little irritating at first, it will let you get your brilliant ideas across to others. Listen to some of the most well-known speeches and let yourself and your pronunciation be inspired!

improve your English accent and pronunciation with audiobooks;

Listen to audiobooks when you read

When studing English, it is useful to learn the pronunciation of a word simultaneosly with its spelling. For this reason, when buying a book, be sure to also download its audiobook version to listen to while reading. This will help improve pronunciation of words before the wrong pronunciation gets stuck in your head. A cheaper alternative is to borrow the book with its audiobook from a library – most city libraries offer a wide variety of those.

Audiobooks can also be bought in smartphone apps such as App Store or Google Play.

Feel the rhythm

While practicing your pronounciation is essential, it is not the only way to to reduce your accent. The other, often underrated key part of sounding like a native speaker is the rhythm. Watch movies and imitate the way actors talk. Pay particular attention how and which words are stressed in a sentence. As a general rule, stress the most important part of the sentence, not every single word.

Apart from that, you can also search the Internet for English rhythm tutorials. These will contain even more precise pronunciation tips and tricks, with examples of sentences pronounced with and without appropriate rhythm. They are a good way to quickly improve your accent.

Pronounce the words when you study

Combine careful pronunciation and rhythm with reading aloud to yourself. Although it may seem like you’re talking to yourself at first, this is a great way to practice moving your mouth like a native speaker. Remember: haste makes waste. Speak slowly – as if you were giving a speech. This will help you get used to the way you sound when you speak English, and boost your the confidence when speaking at work.

improve or get rid of your accent by pracitising "th"

Focus on the sound „th”

One of the sounds you will use a lot in English is “th”. It makes up 2/3 of the word “the”, which is one of the most common words in the English language. In fact, if someone mispronounces this very sound, you’ll instantly know that they are not a native speaker of English. This is why practicing the way you say “the” can easily help you improve your accent. A good way to get better with the sound is to hold your tongue between your front teeth before uttering the next sound. This is because people who don’t speak English daily tend to pull their tongue back too rapidly when saying this word. Follow this advice and you will find a great difference when pronouncing such words as “the”, “through”, or “think”.

Record your pronunciation

Fall in love with the sound of your own voice. Start recording yourself as soon as you begin with accent reduction. Thanks to that, you will be able to discover how your pronunciation evolves as you implement all the techniques. This will also allow you to exercise many things at once – such as reading aloud and focusing on specific sounds.

Let others correct you

The best way to learn is by feedback. Let a colleague you trust and respect know that you would like them to correct you if you pronounce something wrong. However, keep in mind that some people may not be comfortable doing this. But if it’s no problem, it can be a great way to learn the pronunciation of words that you often use in a professional environment. What is more, you will get precious feedback on what you still need to improve.

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Hire a pronunciation tutor

Consider hiring an accent reduction cocach, or a tutor who specializes in pronunciation, intonation and rhythm in English. Although this may be a bit pricey, it is a quick way to track your efforts and progress. A cheaper, but an equally good idea is to get yourself a pen pal, with whom you will be able to exchange letters or even make video calls.

Stay positive and don't give up

Practice makes perfect. Be patient and stay positive. Be your biggest supporter and don’t worry about your language skills or competences. The fact alone that you have learnt English is something to be proud of. You’re already over the hump – now comes the easy part. Focus on being understood, not eliminating your accent altogether, and you will be running successful meetings and making confident presentations in no time!

Remember – as long as you give it your all, you will succeed. You don’t have to be perfect – after all, everyone is good at something. In the meantime… good luck!