How many times have people been able to guess where you’re from just by listening to your accent when speaking English? Although there’s a distinct charm in, say, an Italian or French accent in English, if it’s something that bothers you, I’m here to share some tried and tested tips on how to work towards a more native English accent – and become a more confident speaker in the process.
1. Choose your accent
Think about the accent that you like the most, and that fits your personality the best. There are many accents to choose from: posh British, cool American, laid back Australian and so on.
When you made your choice you have to stick to it and be consistent while talking. Use the right vocabulary that comes with it as well. If you decide to have an American accent, try to avoid saying things like “mate” or “trousers”, the British version of “dude” and “pants”.
2. Watch and listen to everything in English
It may seem obvious, but watching everything in English is one of the most helpful things you can do in order to learn faster and develop your accent. Force yourself to watch every program, TV-series, movie or YouTube video in English. Learning new words is, of course, very helpful, but your accent will thank you as your ears get used to hearing English all the time (and the right kind of accent too – see point nr 1.).
I personally like watching things in the original language, instead of the dubbed version. You can start by watching movies or videos that you’ve already watched or know really well in English. It might be hard at first but if you help yourself with subtitles it is going to get easier every time. Here is a list of Netflix shows to learn English with, if you’re not sure where to start.
3. Listen carefully
English is a very musical language, so it’s really important to work on perfecting the right kind of sounds and the right flow if you want to sound native. I’m Italian and in Italy, we pronounce every single letter, so for us English can be tricky. I realized this for the first time when I started watching Gossip Girl in the original language. I was surprised by the way Manhattan was pronounced (mænˈhæt(ə)n) and hearing how different it sounded from my native language, I wanted to learn more.
It’s also worth paying attention to words that are pronounced differently in English, like “burger”, “spaghetti”, “gelato”, etc. Even if saying spaghetti the American way (where the double t is pronounced like a ‘D’), hurts my Italian heart I had to get used to saying that word like an American so I could improve my accent.
4. Say everything out loud
The more you practice your English, the better. If you don’t have anybody to practice it with, don’t be scared of talking to yourself. The mirror can be your new English partner – trust me, it works! One of the things that helped me practice my accent, was reading English books out loud so I could practice my pronunciation. If you like a specific movie quote, make sure you repeat it in the same way as the actor did in the movie. Learn the lyrics of your favorite songs by heart and repeat them again and again out loud. Learn and repeat phrases that you like from your favorite TV-series like the famous Joey catchphrase “How you doin’?” from Friends. It might be an odd tip, but it works!
5. Take every opportunity to talk
Since I didn’t have foreign friends to practice my English with back home, I created opportunities for myself at school. I was always putting my hand up when the teacher needed some volunteers to read a text or to just answer questions when the teacher asked. The more active you are, the more you’ll learn and the faster your native English accent will develop.
Another helpful way to improve your English is going abroad and actually practice it in real life. This is the ultimate experience in terms of learning English and getting rid of your foreign accent – you just have to know which accent you want and where you should go. I’ve been lucky enough to work with EF these past months as a Global Intern, but I’ve traveled with EF before and made massive strides in my accent when using my English with my international friends in class, and of course outside the classroom with all the locals. I’m still friends with the many people I met during that time.
In the end, if you want to make fast progress with your skills and with your accent, there is no replacement for the dedication and just putting in the hours; otherwise, we get lazy and never improve.