by Sean Morgan
English is the most dominant language in the world. Whether it's diplomacy, business, travel, or academics, English is the primary language that people use in global communication. The demand for English is continues to be high as the world becomes more connected.
Even though English is often taught with a British accent (the original accent) in the schools of Europe, Russia, Asia, and other areas, I have found that many are seeking to retrain themselves to speak with an American accent. Perhaps this is because American movies and popular culture has a strong influence globally. Or perhaps it is because of the strong economic influence of the United States.
When I started teaching English as a foreign language, I had no idea that the American accent was so desired. I also didn't know that pronunciation is often the weakest part of language teaching in traditional language learning institutions.
Whether it was a doctor that needed their patients to understand them or an actor that wanted to play American roles, I needed to be able to teach my students how to speak with a more native sounding American accent.
The area of pronunciation is filled with weird symbols and academic terms that few understand. I wanted to make it easy and intuitive for my students to learn the American accent, so I developed the Shape/Tone method of accent training.
I could tell you many techniques that could help you improve your accent, but let's start with the 5 most powerful techniques for dramatic changes.
Vowels make up fifty percent of English. So, theoretically, if you improved your vowels, you will improve your accent by fifty percent. There are five vowel letters in English and each letter has several sounds. Focus on these few sounds first. I teach a person to focus on the shape of their mouth, tongue, and lips as well as the tone of the sound (how high or low). There is much more to teach on this subject. I have created specific memory devices to remember the shape of each vowel sound to help my students.
The most common word in the English language is "the". This word makes up six percent of English. The words "a", "of" and "and" are the other most frequent words in English and most people mispronounce them. Learn the rules of the two different pronunciations of "the" and "a".
There are only a few vowel sounds that differ between the British and American accent, but they make a huge difference. Learn the differences and practice accordingly.
English is not a phonetic language. For example, the "o" in "of" is not the same as the "o" in "go". Once you learn the different sounds that each letter makes, you won't make as many mistakes (focus on vowels first).
This technique is extremely powerful, yet few people do it. The main reason they don't do it is because they fear of hearing their poor accent in a recording. However, the way you hear your voice in a recording is much more accurate than the way you hear it in your head when you are speaking. Using a mirror allows you to see your mouth movements and be more aware and intentional about the shapes you are creating. You can compare your speaking to a native speaker imitate them through experimentation of the shape and tone of the sounds. When you hear your imitations by recording, you can adjust and try repeatedly. Each time you experiment with the shape and tone of the sound, you can hear yourself accurately through the recording. Through trial and error, you gradually improve. It is better to practice daily for five minutes rather than one hour for one day a week. You are retraining micro-muscles in your face and mouth and you need to use the process of muscle memory and repetition to instill new patterns and habits.
Sean Morgan is an expert in helping people transform their communication and their lives. Through his training as a singer, actor, and language teacher, he invented the revolutionary Shape/Tone Method of American Accent Training, which simplifies the complexity of pronunciation so that anyone can achieve a professional accent. He is the founder of http://www.AmericanAccentAcademy.com