Accent Reduction and Pronunciation: American English Versus English Spoken in India

accent reduction for Indians learning English pronunciation

Many regions and provinces in India mean many dialects, many languages, many accents in English.

Native Indian accents vary greatly due to the diversity of languages spoken within Indian states and Union territories. While the native languages are Hindi and English, French and Portuguese are also widely spoken, providing great diversity, but also a unique blend with how words are pronounced that is unique to India. Some individuals speak English in a manner similar to the Standard British accent, with others leaning towards a more native-tinted accent for their English pronunciation. Indian professionals and students in the US may have difficulty communicating effectively with Americans due to the differences between Indian English and American English. In becoming aware of how Indian accents vary among American English accents, focusing on adjusting pronunciation can allow for stronger, more effective communication that is more widely recognized.

With vowels, many Indian speakers do not make a clear distinction between the letter o and a, making a word such as not sound like nat. This can be adjusted by pronouncing an increasingly rounded o. Rounding the letter c in addition to o, can help properly change pronouncing “coffee” as kaaffi, and saying “copy” clearly instead of kaapi, etc. Words including class, staff and last are often pronounced with a back /a/ as in Northern British dialects, unlike American English. Recognizing frequently used words and learning when to stress the letters and round them can help eliminate confusion for those working on accent reduction in English.

Consonants pose their own struggles in communicating Indian English with American English. With standard Hindi and most other vernaculars not differentiating between the letters v and w, many Indians use the letters in free variation, letting words including wet and vet become homophones. Other letters often interchanged in sound include f with p and s with the letter z. It is this issue with pronunciation that makes taking an online accent reduction class very worthwhile for non-native speakers from India.

If learning how to pronounce American English is important in either your personal or professional life, listening intently to how American English is pronounced can introduce you to ways you can improve your American accent.