Accent Reduction is the process of changing the sounds you use to speak in English so that others can understand you better. For the most part, this involves learning new vowel and consonant sounds, but can also involve learning about intonation and rhythm.
Learning a new accent is a skill like anything else. Because it involves training muscles, you can compare it to learning a new instrument, learning how to play a new sport, or training to get six-pack abdominal muscles. You have to re-train your speaking muscles to move in new ways. It will take time for your muscles to change their habits.
How quickly you improve is based on:
- Your native tongue (because some languages are more similar to American English than others)
- Your current level of American pronunciation
- How often you practice at home
- Your attitude towards learning a new accent
- How quickly your speech muscles adapt naturally
- How comfortable you are with sounding very different
Like any other skill, some people are naturally better than others, and some people have to work harder.
With the sounds you are working on, you should notice “effortful” change almost immediately and effortless change in 3-6 months.
As much as you can. The more you practice, the more you will improve. I recommend short practice sessions every day. This is better than an hour-long practice session once a week.
If you practice every day over a long period of time, your American accent will become a habit. It will be easy for you (because your muscles will become used to it) and you won’t have to think about it.
It is a myth that only children can learn new sounds. It’s true that it’s easier for children to pick up new sounds, but with listening training and lots of practice, adults can too.
It doesn’t matter how old you are. All you need to do is retrain your speech muscles and practice often.
The reason people can’t understand native speakers is they have not learned how words actually sound in real, spoken English. They’ve learned incorrect sounds or slow, disconnected “teacher” English. Once you learn how words, phrases, and sentences truly sound, you will be able to connect those sounds to meaning more easily.
This is possible, but most people do not reach this point. It requires a lot of time, guidance, and practice. I would be happy to help you work towards this goal, but there is no guarantee of success.
If you are an actor it is much easier to do this because you do not need to be able to speak spontaneously. It’s easier to learn scripted dialogue in a “perfect” American accent.
Our top priority is for you to be able to community as clearly and easily as possible with native speakers. A secondary goal could be to sound as American as possible.
This is not something you need to be concerned about for two reasons:
1. It is extremely difficult to completely and totally remove an accent. Because of this, there will probably be some small aspects of your speaking that will give hints of where you are from, even when you are able to speak clearly and effortlessly. It’s impossible to sound 100% American by accident, so if this is not your goal then you don’t need to worry about this.
2. Learning a new accent is like having an extra jacket in the closet. You can put on your old jacket with family and friends and put on your new American accent jacket at work if you would like. You are not stuck with your new accent; you simply have more options to choose from. When I go to my hometown, I often speak with more of a Southern American accent; however, when I teach and when I speak to people who are not from the South, I speak with a Standard American accent.
You will be learning a contemporary Standard American accent. Most Americans will perceive this as not having an accent. This is how you will hear me speak. Although I am from the American South, I do not speak with a Southern accent (unless I am with Southern friends and family members).
1. Assessment of your accent
We start our lessons with a comprehensive assessment of your accent while speaking spontaneously and reading. I will make a personalized study plan for you based on your specific needs.
2. Become aware of the basics
In our first lesson we will explore the speech muscles so you can develop awareness. Most people have no idea what their lips, tongue, and facial muscles are doing. It’s important for you to develop awareness of these muscles so that you can learn new muscle positions and actions. You will also get an overview of all the sounds of American English.
3. Focus on important sounds
We will start with the sounds that make the biggest difference in your accent. The most important thing is for others to be able to understand you.
The second priority is to sound like a native speaker. Depending on your goals, we may study some or all of the following: consonants, vowels, rhythm, intonation, or voice placement.
4. Learn some IPA Symbols
IPA stands for the International Phonetic Alphabet. In English, words are not pronounced anything like they are spelled. Think of the word “choir.” This sound actually sounds like “kw-ah-ee-er.”
When you learn how words actually sound and use symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet, it will be easier for you to visualize and understand how we actually say the word.
5. Train the mouth muscles
Through training exercises you do in class and at home, your mouth muscles will become stronger and more flexible. Think of English as a different sport than your native language. When you learn a different sport, you need to train different muscles to play well.
You will have worksheets with illustrations, drills, practice texts, and audio recordings. In addition, you’ll be able to send me your practice recordings for feedback. I’ll give you guidance on how to use these new sounds in your everyday speech.
6. Speak with clarity and confidence
After taking lessons and practicing at home, your mouth muscles will naturally start to change their habits so that you can communicate confidently in English.
In the free evaluation I will give you a thorough assessment of your accent. Then I will recommend how many lessons I think it would be useful to take.
Most of my students take one lesson a week. If you need more time to study and review we can discuss how often you should take classes.
During every lesson you will have a worksheet with all of the exercises and drills we are doing in class as well as audio with which you can practice. You are also welcome to record our lessons for free on Zoom if you’d like to use that to review.
You need to have an intermediate to advanced level of English.
During your free evaluation we will record you reading a text. We can then re-record the text to measure your improvement.
Zoom is an online video conferencing platform like Skype, but better. There is a video, a chat box, a white board we can draw on, and screen sharing capabilities. Also, you have the option to easily record your lessons for free if you wish.
Download Zoom here.
You can add me by going to your contacts section and clicking “add contact.” Then put in my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have trouble adding me, simply wait for me to add you.
I have found online learned to be extremely effective as long as you have a stable internet connection and your video and audio are working well.
My internet is stable and fast, so there shouldn’t be any problems. However, if for some reason there is an internet outage and the fault is mine, I will reschedule the class to another date.
There is no refund or reschedule if connection issues are the fault of the student.
I encourage students to use their free evaluation session to test their internet and see if they like learning online.
Who I Teach
No. If you have a teenager (15 years +) who is interested in accent reduction, I am willing to meet with him/her for a free evaluation to determine if we would be a good fit for each other; However, I do not make any promises that I will teach a student younger than 18 years old.
Yes, if your issue is an accent issue.
If you have an issue that is a voice issue and not an accent issue, I suggest you find a voice coach to help you. They can help you with presentations at work, vocal volume, breath support, and general confidence while communicating.