Follow these accent reduction tips and improve your American English pronunciation!
1. Use accent reduction books, CDs and software to help you learn to make sounds correctly. Select a systems such as “Master the American Accent” which shows you on video how to form your mouth to make sounds correctly. Such systems show how your mouth, lips, tongue, and chin should be positioned to make vowels and consonants sounds like a native speaker of English.
2. Pick a sound (such as “th” “r” or “v”) to focus on each week. Take a newspaper or magazine and select an article. Circle all words with your target sound. Now read the article aloud, focusing on your sound of the week. This will reinforce correct pronunciation, says accent reduction expert Judy Ravin. Practice is essential in solidifying correct pronunciation in your mind.
3. Figure out the sounds you have the most trouble with and focus on them. Depending on your native language, certain sounds will give you trouble. For example, native Spanish speakers have particular trouble with the sounds “j”, “y”, and “th”, native Chinese speakers have trouble with the sounds “r”, “i”, “ld” and the final “l”, native Korean speakers struggle with the sounds “p” and “f”, “r” and “l” and “th”, native Japanese speakers with the sounds “v” and “b”, “r” and “l” and “th”, and native Russian speakers with the sounds “h”, “th” and “r”. For a helpful guide on English pronunciation problems by 40 major languages, visit this web page on Answers.com, compiled by Wikipedia: Non-native pronunciations of English.
4. Pay attention to the rhythm of English. Every language has its own unique rhythm. Think of it as the music of the language. Listen to the “music” that native speakers make when speaking English. Play their sentences back in your head. When do their voices rise? When do they fall?
5. Speak slowly. It may feel unnatural at first to slow down your rate of speech, but it will help your pronunciation. This is true for speakers of all native languages.
6. Familiarize yourself with the International Phonetic Alphabet. The IPA is what you’ll find in standard dictionaries – it’s used to indicate the proper way to pronounce words. Print out ESL Mania’s handy Phonetic Alphabet Reference Card offered free by clicking here and refer to it whenever you look up a word in the dictionary.
7. Let your American friends and colleagues know that you want them to stop and correct you when they hear you pronouncing a word wrong. Out of politeness, most of them will not automatically do this. You need to make a point of telling them. Say something like, “I’m really making an effort to improve my accent. Please stop me if you hear me pronouncing a word incorrectly.” People appreciate being asked to help.