Do you speak English with a foreign accent? The chances are that you do because you arrived on my blog which is dedicated to foreign English speakers!
Do you hate your accent and wish you’d never been born in a foreign country? Before you answer this question – think twice, because what you’re about to discover in this video episode might change your perception regarding your foreign accent and pronunciation!
Watch the 24# Video Episode where I’m discussing the connection between English pronunciation and English fluency. And if you can’t watch the video for some technical reasons – you can read the video’s script below!
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Hi my friends, I’m back with another English Harmony video episode!
Today let’s talk about your accent and its role in improving your spoken English and fluency.
I got an e-mail the other day from one of my website’s visitors saying that I have a distinct East-European accent and I’d better improve it in order to make my English sound more native. Also there were concerns voiced in the e-mail regarding the English Harmony System.
The person had assumed that the System consists of a bunch of video lessons recorded by me and that it wouldn’t be the best idea to make people improve their English by listening to a chap rambling away in hardly accented English. The e-mail got me thinking about my accent for a good while and that’s why I decided to dedicate this video episode to this topic.
I suppose that majority of us – foreign English speakers have more or less distinct accents and there have been times you’ve been embarrassed of it, or it has prevented successful communication between you and a native English speaker.
So first of all – the English Harmony System
You can rest assured that it’s been voiced by a professional American voice-over artist and it’s up to the highest standards. Also the whole system’s content has been created by a native English speaker – a good friend of mine, William, so there shouldn’t be any concerns regarding how my accent might interfere with using the English Harmony System.
Correct Pronunciation Doesn’t Necessarily Guarantee Fluent English Speech!
Over years I’ve heard plenty of fluent English speakers who have distinct accents and people whose English has to come along big time before it could be called fluent; yet they had perfect American English pronunciation!
What is especially worth noting is that you can find plenty of foreign English speaking professionals all across the board who haven’t got rid of their native accents but yet they’re successful in the fields they work in and having accent doesn’t prevent them from having success!
So here the question arises – how important is it to get rid of your native accent and work on your speech in order to simulate British or American English pronunciation?
Personally I wouldn’t put accent reduction on the top of the to-do list for foreign English speakers who want to improve their English. Why? OK, here’s why.
My conviction is that foreign English speakers are very often lead astray by being told to focus on the wrong things when improving English.
The main focus always needs to be put on learning fluent English speech, full stop. Other aspects of English studies like improving your reading and writing come underneath it. Accent reduction, to my opinion, would come somewhere in between, probably between reading and writing.
Well, actually it’s not probably 100% right to separate accent reduction from speaking English because it’s an inseparable part of English speech. But what I’m trying to make clear here is that you really don’t need to make it a goal for yourself to speak like, for example, an American and put the main focus on this area of improving.
Well, there can be, of course, exemptions to this if you work in a field where it’s essential to have as perfect pronunciation as possible. If you dream of working in an acting industry, or become a radio or TV presenter you really need to take accent reduction lessons with English teaching professionals.
But if you’re an average Joe just like me then you’d better focus on speaking fluently and naturally rather than devote too much attention to speaking with a perfect accent while missing out on enjoying normal English conversations with natives and other foreign English speakers!
I’m not saying you don’t have to make any effort to reduce your accent!
Of course, if you speak producing your native language’s sounds, it can be a real hurdle for successful communication. I know plenty of foreigners living here in Ireland who don’t make the slightest effort to get rid of the east-European accent. And I agree – it does indeed sound terrible and hampers the communication process.
However, anyone who has spent reasonable amount of time learning English, then improving it and also speaking a lot, will naturally lose some of their native accent.
Of course, you have to be conscious of the sounds you produce and you should try to speak as closely to correct English pronunciation as possible.
But I’ll say it again – my point is that you don’t have to focus TOO much on it and assign too much importance to the way you pronounce words when speaking English
Do your best, but don’t stress out if you still have retained some of your accent. It’s part of your identity, and if a Spanish accent, for example, is considered actually cool, why would any other language be worse?
Specific English Sounds And How To Pronounce Them If You’re Struggling With Them
First of all we have the famous ‘th’ sounds – [ð] and [θ].
I know for a fact that plenty of foreign English speakers struggle with them and pronounce them like ‘s’ saying ‘sank you’ or ‘z’ like in ‘zis is’. Here’s my advice – it does sound wrong, so better replace them with ‘t’ and ‘d’. ‘Tank you’ and ‘dis is’ sounds a whole lot better and by the way – it’s exactly how English is spoken in Ireland!
And by the way – did you know in some areas of London the ‘th’ sounds are pronounced as ‘f’ and ‘v’? They say ‘fings’ instead of things and ‘bover’ instead of bother. If they can speak like that, who can look down on you for saying ‘tings’?
OK, next let’s a look at the ‘r’ sound. In my native Latvian we pronounce it hard but I find it quite easy to pronounce it softly. However, others foreigners are struggling with it.
Once again, if you can’t achieve the perfect ‘r’ sound – don’t try to choke on your tongue after hundreds of unsuccessful attempts! Try to find a sound that’s somewhere in between and that you’re comfortable with. For instance, if you naturally pronounce the ‘r’ sound very hard, try to make it at least less pronounced.
And the same goes with other English sounds. If you can get them right and you sound almost like a native English speaker – great! I’ll say it once more – I’m not against proper pronunciation! I’m not saying you have to start speaking in a heavily accented way and I’m also not saying you don’t have to make effort to speak with decent English pronunciation.
I also work on my pronunciation and when I look a few years back I can definitely feel improvement in the way I pronounce English sounds. But the main point I want to make today is that pronunciation has very little to do with real English fluency!
Let’s not forget that there are so many different native English accents on the planet, and I think that these days no-one really cares if you have more or less accented speech as far as you speak clearly and fluently!
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Here’s a really funny video where a British chap is speaking English in 24 accents. There’s lots of cursing going on too, but believe me – you’ll be having a great laugh watching him! This is to give you an impression of the vast variety of different accents out there and I bet yours is definitely better than some of those native ones!
P.S. Are you ready to get on the fast track to spoken English fluency? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!
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