Here’s something that will help some of you quickly improve your accents.
Do a little self-diagnosis of your individual speaking style. Here are three questions to ask yourself:
1. Do you tend to speak quickly in you native language?
If yes, you probably speak fast when you are speaking English as well. This can cause your accent to sound stronger, particularly if you are not following the rules of American English word stress and intonation (The melody of the language.) Think about it; if you are speaking fast and not stressing the right words, people will have a very hard time understanding you.
You shouldn’t sound mechanical by pronouncing every word separately like a robot. Learn the rules of linking words together when speaking English. Linking and speaking fast are two completely different things.
2. Do you have a quiet, reserved or shy personality?
Are you more introverted than outgoing? This can also be cultural, by the way. If yes, people may have a harder time understand you. Outgoing people are more animated not only with their body language but also with the way they move their mouth and use their vocal cords. The loud voice often forces the jaw and lips to move more, creating a sound that is clearer. Imitate someone who is outgoing and has a “big” personality. Remember, Americans are generally not shy people. They are more expressive than people from a lot of other cultures. Asians and northern Europeans in particular are less outgoing in general. I’m sure they think we Americans are too loud. In fact, I don’t think, I know they do. Imitate us and your accent will sound better!! 🙂
3. Do you tend to mumble in your native language?
Some of my students admit to me that when they speak their native language they are often asked to repeat what they said. They have what is called “lazy lips.” They don’t enunciate (pronounce fully) all of the consonant and vowel sounds in any language. This bad habit can be broken.
Try this: Imagine that you are speaking to a deaf person who has to read your lips. You will naturally move your mouth more to make it easier for the deaf person to catch every word you’re saying. Or imagine you are a theater actor or a poet reading his poetry out loud – every word is beautiful to listen to, every word matters. Fall in love with the beauty of words, pronounce them clearly and with energy. Don’t just mumble them as if they are not important. Your words are important so say them well; don’t take short cuts. Just like a dancer moves beautifully and a singer sings beautifully, a speaker can speak beautifully!