The first thing most accent modification students say to me when they start working on their English pronunciation is, “But I’ve tried before so many times to reduce my accent, and I just can’t get it!” I try to share with them the confidence I have in their ability to change their accent, to be understood all the time. The confidence that it works, when we put together their commitment with my decades of experience and individualized, creative teaching methods. IT CAN BE DONE. Does it happen overnight? Of course not. But SOMETHING HAPPENS QUICKLY – awareness happens quickly (for some things, sometimes overnight), and I have heard from many students that within a month or so, they are much less frequently asked to repeat themselves, and their confidence rises. They begin to have hope that they will be understood all the time. They enter conversations with employers, employees, patients, students, store clerks, etc., with greater confidence. This part I’m talking about here is the active practice, learning where to put the tongue, and other very tangible techniques.
But, then, there’s daydreaming, which can move you along, too.
A technique I suggest to students who are blessed with very active, creative imaginations,, is to daydream themselves speaking standard American English. Students sometimes seem perplexed by this idea…”How” they wonder aloud “can I imagine something I cannot do in real life?” Valid question, indeed, but they are often surprised by how much it helps. The imagining doesn’t need to be perfect, and wouldn’t be for a while. But it’s the process of letting the mind create speech, correcting itself, exploring, and redoing that exercises the mind in a different way when actual speech is “turned off.” By traveling with the mind, one learns how much one already knows but has tucked away, not being used.
TRY IT! Go ahead! Choose a topic you enjoy. Truly enjoy. Not something that will bore you to sleep while daydreaming, but something that lifts you into great joy. Say, a sport you find mesmerizing, an accomplishment of your child, something you did that made you proud, something in the sciences that your find fascinating. Anything vivid for you. Set aside fifteen minutes, relax. You can either close your eyes, or keep your eyes open, and look upward, distantly unfocused, and start your inner speech. Listen to your voice. Stop and correct yourself, repeat. Just have an exploratory time with it.
When you’re done, make note of how it went, how you feel the speech you produced was. What was the daydreaming like? You might even admire the excellence of your daydreamed speech! I’ve heard students say that.
Regardless of how fluent you are in your daydreaming, it gives you a chance to talk yourself creatively and quietly towards being understood all the time! And you’ll start by understanding yourself because, after all, you’ll know what you are saying! Enjoy and daydream!
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