How to Reduce Your Accent in English

Real Life English is finding that Pronunciation for Brazilians is a very important topic for our readers and for the Real Life English Community.

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We got a lot of good feedback from Chad’s recent article, “Top 5 English Mispronunciations Made by Brazilians,” which was one of our most popular posts so far, and people have been constantly asking us to write about “accent reduction for Brazilians.”

So, today we’re going to discuss, in a general but very important way, how to reinvent your English accent.

By the end of this article, I want to:

  1. Challenge you to reevaluate your beliefs and assumptions about pronunciation.
  2. Show you a few resources and strategies to improve yours (in English, or whatever language you are learning).
  3. Motivate/ inspire you to assume responsibility, take action, and plan the reinvention of your accent.

If you are determined to improve your pronunciation, these tips will help a lot. If you’re not determined to fix your pronunciation, no amount of good strategies and advice will ever help you. Like most worthwhile things in life, you have to really want it. I’ve seen this over and over again: skillful methods + consistent practice + a playful attitude = quick and considerable improvements in pronunciation. Here are some things you should take into account.

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Accept That You Are in Control

People tell me over and over again that adult foreign language learners just can’t improve their pronunciation, that you have to travel and live in an English speaking country, learn the International Pronunciation Alphabet (IPA), or that you have to learn a lot of grammar to speak with a smooth accent. There is a limited degree of truth in each of these, but good language learners know that there are obstacles, and that there are many ways of overcoming those obstacles through intelligent strategies and small, consistent doses of practice.

They know that after all is said and done, you’re the only one who is responsible. You must have a method that works for you, believe in it, decide to do it, and make room for these practices in your life. An it´s important to note that pronunciation is its own dimension of language learning that demands a totally different approach that is basically non-existent in traditional language learning systems and institutions.

Pronunciation Lessons on Youtube

You don’t need to travel to the United States or pay a lot of money for an “accent reduction” class. There are plenty of really high quality pronunciation videos on Youtube for free. I use these all the time in my classes. Sound by sound you can master the whole English language.

Check Out RealLife English Pronunciation Videos

Rachel’s English is an excellent place to start. Rachel is American, she is clearly an expert in phonetics, and she has made thirty-three very well-done videos, each about 5-7 minutes long, teaching the vast majority of sounds in American English. These videos have very helpful charts, phonetic explanations, slow-motion clips of her mouth as she says them.

Pronunciation Can Be Quickly learned:

It may seem to go against everything you’ve learned, but with skillful practice, pronunciation can be drastically improved in just a matter of days. This will only be temporary, however, when the methods aren’t consistently applied. My advice: apply your practices consistently until they become permanent parts of the language you are learning.

With consistent practice, these methods can significantly bridge the gap between “non-gifted” language learners and the “gifted ones” who tend to have more natural verbal skills. We say that these people are natural language learners, but what is it that makes them fluent so fast? In my observations, these people are naturally good at telling jokes, imitating others, acting, storytelling and entertaining others. Their verbal skills favor the quick and efficient learning of pronunciation.

If you aren’t naturally good at any of these things, this doesn’t mean that you can’t acquire these skills with a little practice, or at least some of them. However, you have to consistently practice and develop your own verbal abilities through focused exercises.

Call to Action: Decide to Do it; Plan to Do it; Just Do it! 

“The gap between ignorance and knowledge is much less than the gap between knowledge and action.”

-Anonymous. 

These are effective attitudes and strategies to improve your pronunciation. You need to apply them consistently to be successful.

Now comes the part where I put the responsibility on you. Now you have a clear path forward. To be successful, you need to make time in your life, create habits, and actually do it. This is a process, but if you want to have better pronunciation, you have to take the process in your own hands. You could pay somebody to do this, like a teacher, which might motivate you to actually do it on a regular basis, but at the end of the day, you have to take responsibility for your process.

In the next few weeks, I’m going to write an article on “10 exercises to reduce your accent.” Sign up for our newsletter (below), and so we can let you know when we publish it. If you liked this article, feel free to “like,” comment and/or share. And we really love people who spread the word about the Real Life English project to their friends! Take care.

WE WANT TO HELP! MY QUESTIONS FOR YOU (FEEL FREE TO COMMENT BELOW):

  • What strategies and exercises have been the effective for you learning correct pronunciation?
  • What are your main problems with pronunciation?
  • If you have any questions or concerns, we’re at your service.

Free E-book: 101 Words You Will Never Learn in School

19 Comments

  1. […] at Real Life English our mission is to teach you how to speak English like a native speaker. Continuing with last Friday’s article, today’s post will also be about discourse markers and […]

  2. Aaron on September 25, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    I really enjoyed your practical advice and links to great resources about accent reduction. I have some friends and students who are interested in this topic who I will be sending this way.

    Totally agree: moving forward in reducing accent is all about deciding to, doing it, and being consistent about it.

    And best of all, you can do it for free. Love your ideas!

    • Justin on October 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm

      Thanks for the response and the enthusiasm for improving pronunciation, and we appreciate your referrals. What’s your native language, are you learning/ have you learned any other languages, and what’s your methodology?

  3. Guadalupe Pereira on November 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Excelent!

  4. Freddy J Marcano on November 22, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Excellent

  5. Dareen on November 26, 2013 at 10:22 am

    I enjoy reading this artical its very good but I have one q I am worker and I have 2 kides so I am very busy really I want to speak english as a native speaker could tell me how many hours I can improve my speaking and writing and listening from where I can start because there are a lot of english website all of them it’s excellent ?
    Thanks a lot for this website to help people and give our more and more .

    • Justin Murray on March 18, 2016 at 10:01 am

      Hey Dareen, Sorry for the delayed response. I hope you English learning journey is going well!

  6. Shelly on February 4, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Hello,
    I would like to speak native english,how can I do it by myself?
    I’ve been trying to look for it in the net,but most of the thing cost money
    Thanks for your help!

    • Justin on February 5, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      Hey Shelly, check out this article! It will help a lot. Take care!

  7. Nzinga-san on January 20, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Indeed great post although seems to be an old one.
    Thanks for sharing your amazing strategy to reduce accent: decide to, doing it and being consistent about it.

    Regards!

  8. Birgit Häde on February 17, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    10 exercises to reduce accent.sounds great:-)
    Where can I get them?
    Now subscribing options here.
    Thanks

    • Justin Murray on March 18, 2016 at 10:00 am

      Hey Birgit, What do you mean? Make sure you subscribe, we have a lot of awesome material about pronunciation and connected speech!

  9. Birgit Häde on February 17, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    10 exercises to reduce accent.sounds great:-)
    Where can I get them?
    Now subscribing options here.
    Thanks

    • Justin Murray on March 18, 2016 at 10:00 am

      Hey Birgit, What do you mean? Make sure you subscribe, we have a lot of awesome material about pronunciation and connected speech!

  10. Camilla on March 17, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Actually, the sad thing is that, when there is attention to this matter, much emphasis is placed on pronunciation alone. This leads to disconnected speech and inability to really apply smooth, fluid, native-like style to communication.

    Did you know that the real key is much beneath the surface? Yep, it’s inside you.

    In order to get an accent and have success with its pronunciation (and be clear), you need to actually get into the character of a target language. That’s right. It’s part of what acculturation is (changing and adapting into its culture).

    Once we allow ourselves to ‘be’ – look, sound, move, act, react – like a target language, guess what? The accent and pronunciation moves so much easier and it sticks. Partly this is because you’ve emotionally connected in a positive way.

    Latest neuroscience shows us that when we begin with emotion on something, the body automatically starts to memorize this. There’s so much to say, but sufficient to say that when the body is in line with, or memorizing, the positive emotion, it sends signals and thoughts to the brain. Now, when you move your articulators (mouth, tongue, muscles, etc.) in a new and different way to sound more like the target language and culture: kaboom! You’ve got it and now you’ve got a basis for new accent, pronunciation and clear speech acquisition.

    Cheers and all the very best!

  11. Camilla on March 17, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Actually, the sad thing is that, when there is attention to this matter, much emphasis is placed on pronunciation alone. This leads to disconnected speech and inability to really apply smooth, fluid, native-like style to communication.

    Did you know that the real key is much beneath the surface? Yep, it’s inside you.

    In order to get an accent and have success with its pronunciation (and be clear), you need to actually get into the character of a target language. That’s right. It’s part of what acculturation is (changing and adapting into its culture).

    Once we allow ourselves to ‘be’ – look, sound, move, act, react – like a target language, guess what? The accent and pronunciation moves so much easier and it sticks. Partly this is because you’ve emotionally connected in a positive way.

    Latest neuroscience shows us that when we begin with emotion on something, the body automatically starts to memorize this. There’s so much to say, but sufficient to say that when the body is in line with, or memorizing, the positive emotion, it sends signals and thoughts to the brain. Now, when you move your articulators (mouth, tongue, muscles, etc.) in a new and different way to sound more like the target language and culture: kaboom! You’ve got it and now you’ve got a basis for new accent, pronunciation and clear speech acquisition.

    Cheers and all the very best!

  12. Justin Murray on March 18, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Hey Dareen, Sorry for the delayed response. I hope you English learning journey is going well!

  13. Justin Murray on March 18, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Thanks!

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