If you’re trying to improve your foreign accent in spoken English, there are some dos and don’ts you should be aware of. Here are seven things you can do to avoid making common mistakes while learning to pronounce American English.
1. Don’t be scared to leave the comfort of your cultural group—spend time with Americans and engage in conversation regularly. Watch how they pronounce words and sounds you have trouble with.
2. Don’t avoid learning the rhythm of English: it’s not enough to read and write English well if you’ll need to speak English in a work setting or socially. Use an English pronunciation and accent reduction class online to help you understand American English rhythm.
3. Don’t forget to breathe: In any new language we learn, it’s always better to breathe and speak slowly and deliberately so listeners can focus on what you’re saying rather than how you’re saying it. Speedy speech is not the hallmark of excellent fluency, and can often make you seem more anxious.
4. Don’t think your accent will go away on its own over time. You need to engage in routine activity socially, at school and/or work, and also practice your spoken English. One of the most effective ways to do this is to have a speech pathologist listen to your recorded voice and give you feedback about where you need help with your pronunciation in English. Practice, practice, practice, and help from an online accent reduction coach—all of this can be done for less than $20 per month.
5. Don’t avoid social media: Take the time to listen to accent reduction videos online and join social media groups that focus on American English pronunciation learning. You’ll hear from others who are going through a lot of the same things you are, and also find a wealth of helpful information about accent reduction exercises and other tips to improve your English.
6. Don’t avoid social groups or clubs: Joining a club or group with common interests such as sports teams, book clubs, and even volunteer activities will help grow your circle of native English speaking friends and enhance your understanding of conversational English.
7. Don’t be scared to ask for feedback from friends and family—ask important questions, including, “Can you understand my English better now than when we first met?” and so on—likely, you’ll be very encouraged by what you hear.