English Pronunciation Training Goals: Should You Modify or Should You Eliminate?

change-948008_960_720“I want to have no foreign accent at all. Help me eliminate my accent!” I often hear new accent modification students say. It makes sense that anyone who has trouble being understood would think they need to get rid of their non-Standard American accent in order to be understood, but it’s really not true at all. You can be understood all the time and still have your accent, your culture, your own voice.

In fact, everyone has an accent. So there’s no such thing as eliminating an accent. We all speak, and we all speak in our culturally-trained way, or even in a modified way. But we all have an accent. And I love and appreciate different accents – accents reflect who we are, where we come from, what our lives are like. A variety of accents in our world makes this world more interesting, from where I sit. Indeed, the idea of living in a world in which everyone sounds the same seems rather dull to me! But we will work together to modify the accent you have.

So, as we move along in accent modification (English pronunciation) lessons, we emphasize working on the priority sounds that make you understood, tweaking the sounds that get in the way. We assess as we go along, we shift our techniques as you improve. And you do improve – in a short period of time (usually a couple of months), you will notice people are asking you to repeat yourself less and less. People are asking you, “Where are you from?” as their first question less often.  This change is heartening for students. Your confidence builds. You know that, when you speak, engage, start conversations, it will be easier and easier.

Of course, if you absolutely must get to a place of sounding Standard American (perhaps you aspire to be a radio announcer with certain characteristics, or your workplace insists on it), we can get you there, too. This is a personal choice, which I support the student to make. And, commonly, a student starts accent modification lessons wanting to eliminate rather than modify, and then changes that goal as they notice improvement in communication with others. And, conversely, sometimes a student starts wanting to modify toward being understood, becomes heartened by their progress, and decides to move their goal towards the Standard American accent. Both are infinitely doable. The latter (moving to a fully Standard American English accent) does take longer – up to two years.

Whatever your choice, I’m here, with decades of experience, to help you reach your goal.

© 2017-2022 Helen Kobek and helenkobek.com. All rights reserved.

How to Modify Your Accent Using Your Imagination

Indian Girl White Dress Female Girl Woman IndianThe 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!

© 2017-2022 Helen Kobek and helenkobek.com. All rights reserved.