Whether it is to try out for an acting role, or to be better understood, accent reduction is the process that will help you lessen your native accent. Communication is very important. So mispronouncing words can prove to be quite the barrier. By taking a systematic approach to assume and study a new accent, you will familiarize yourself with the phonology, or sounds, of the new language or dialect. By utilizing this technique, you can learn to change your speech to more closely resemble that of a specific group of people. In turn, clearer speech will make it easier to communicate with them.
How does one actually reduce their accent? What steps can you take to reduce your accent quickly? This article will help put you on the right path to speaking English without your heavy accent. You will also improve your ability to communicate or prepare for a role that calls for a believable English accent.
11 Tips on Accent Reduction for Your Acting Career
1. Identify the Region
Most countries do not have a singular, generic accent. Instead, you will notice they vary by region. If you are learning an accent for a part in a play or film, you may need to find out which region your character is supposed to be from. You would not want to waste your time learning a southern dialect if your character is from the New England region of the United States.
Not only is it inaccurate for the part, but you will more than likely look very silly. If you are looking to reduce your accent, it will be less of an issue. You will just want to pick a clear region where an actual accent is absent.
2. Use Your Ears
Once you identify the region, one of the first things you should do is listen to a native speaker. While you listen to them, it is important to identify variations and repetitive sounds that you may not be used to or use yourself in your current language. Keep in mind any speech patterns, pronunciations, and habits you observe.
One way to do this is to find some podcasts or newscasts where an English speaker is being interviewed. This can give you an idea of the language in its raw and natural form.
3. Types of Accent Reduction
There are generally two types of accent reduction coaching programs available.
- The first type is aimed towards people wanting to do business with English speakers and work through telemarketing. This type of coaching will help you sound more natural when reading through a scripted response. Successful coaching will allow a speaker to reduce any miscommunication that happens during spontaneous informal speech. This method will create a clear pattern of speech for scripted words. But it will usually not prepare you well for normal every day conversation. Thus, this is an easy way for an actor or actress to learn their lines with an accent reduction.
- The second type focuses more on a more natural conversational speech situation. This type of coaching will reduce miscommunication in unscripted speech. If you choose to find an accent reduction coach, it is important to find one that understands your specific needs.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice
It is not enough to just listen to your new dialect. Practice makes perfect and the only way you will get used to pronouncing new sounds is by using them. Using your new accent reduction with other English speakers will get you used to hearing and responding in the proper dialect. You will find that most US speakers are used to hearing a variety of dialects. They are welcoming to new comers and will not make fun of you or point out your improper speech patterns. The native speakers are a great resource to get some constructive feedback. They will help you become more accurate with your accent reduction.
If you find yourself in a conversation where an American laughs at your mispronunciation or misuse of certain words, try not to be offended. They are not poking fun at you. In most cases it is a way to make light of the language barrier. Being able to laugh with them will help you work your way through with motivation.
5. Learn the Slang
Even if you learn the language, there will be surprises around every corner. Slang is common no matter where you go. Various phrases you may come across such as laugh my face off, make me bananas, or on point can be misunderstood. This is only if you do not realize that they come from slang and people use its second or even third meaning.
Be sure that if something sounds particularly offensive or out of place, it may just be because you are talking to someone who uses a slang capacity.
6. Listen to Yourself
Sometimes it is a good idea to take a step back and hear yourself from someone else point of view.
- Use a small voice recorder or your phone to record yourself while you are reading a newspaper article aloud. When you play it back pick out any missed sounds or areas where you can still heavily hear your accent.
- Another way you can do this is to watch a television program and record yourself repeating a few lines from it. Then you have a way to compare how well your accent matches that of the one heard on the show. Then adjust your pronunciation by altering where your tongue rests when you make the sound. You can also focus on the shape of your lips when you utter the words.
7. Confusing Consonants
Some specific consonant sounds are extremely difficult for individuals trying to be successful with accent reduction. Look for exercises that focus on problematic sounds such as: W, V, R, B and TH. They will likely stress fluidity of sentences. But they will also show you how to make use of contractions and use proper syllable stress to accomplish this.
Maintaining this smoothness in your speech will make you sound much more natural.
This step will likely be one of the more advanced ones after you have gotten good at language patterns and speech in general. Intonation is the variation in pitch as you speak. The best way to master this is to just listen to and watch a lot of television where the everyone speaks the language in a native manner.
Pay close attention to the tone of the speaker’s voice and where it rises and falls. Also watch for gesturing. Apply these to your skills. Not only will you sound like a native, but you will look like one as well.
9. Make Friends
Being exposed to a new culture, you may be tempted to stay close to others that share your heritage because you feel more comfortable. Do not be afraid to make American friends. Being exposed to more people on a casual level will help improve your accent reduction much more quickly.
You will also find that on an informal level, your new friends will be more than happy to help you get past the language and cultural differences.
10. Go Incognito
Take your new accent reduction on the road. Stop into a store or restaurant. Then, use your new dialect to ask questions or order your meal.
- If your accent is successful the server or clerk may even ask where you are from.
- If your accent is not so believable, they may make a strange expression or seem suspicious of you. You can later let them know what you are doing. This will get you some great feedback on top of the practice you just got.
11. Ask for Help
There is no shame in asking for assistance with your accent reduction. If you are an actor or actress trying to recite lines in an English accent, there may be another individual trying out that can help practice line with you and give you real-time feedback. In turn, you can offer the same assistance.
If you need to streamline your learning and get more help, look into hiring a dialect coach. They have already done all the research and are well versed in what to look while listening and directing you towards your accent reduction. This minimizes your learning curve since you now have someone that can listen to you and correct you right away. They can also provide vocal exercises that will help you learn to form and pronounce words easier.
No matter why you are attempting to minimize your accent, it is important to familiarize yourself with the language and the new sounds you may not be used to using. It is also imperative that you immerse yourself into your new accent. Use it regularly in not only formal but informal conversation too.
Surrounding yourself with others that speak the language in a native way will help you quickly pick up on the nuances that will make you sound more natural. What methods have you used to successfully reduce your accent? Feel free to leave any helpful hints for others trying to do the same.
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