By Harriet Anderson
If you’re learning how to speak English, learning to pronounce words is the best way to get started.
There are many types of English accents. There are the American accent and the British accent. But those are not the only ones, as English is also the first language of people in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and lots of little places. Every area usually has its own accent. If you are from New York, you will have a different accent than someone from Newark, even if these places are not far apart in distance. To you there may not be so much difference, but native speakers from a certain place can often tell where a fellow-native is from, only judging by their accent.
It’s simple to improve your English accent. In this article, we’re going to share some tips to help you improve your English accent.
Tips for improving your English accent
1. Pick the accent you want to speak
As said in the last section, there are different types of English accents, but your main options are the American and British accent. Most learning materials will show you how to speak a standard American or standard British accent.
American and British accents vary in pronunciation, so it does get confusing if you switch between learning materials for each. Both accents have similar consonant sounds (except for ‘t’ and ‘r’ after a vowel) but different vowel sounds. British accents often use more vowels; some of those vowels are pronounced differently than when you speak with an American accent.
So, before you start reviewing material, choose whether you want to speak in an American or British accent.
2. Learn the individual sounds of English
Before you learn your accent, it’s important to learn more about the individual sounds of English.
The English language has different sounds: individual letters (vowels and consonants), letter combinations and whole words. The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is a collection of symbols that represent different sounds of many languages, including English. So, it’s a good idea to learn these phonetic sounds before tackling your accent, since it helps you learn how to pronounce any word in English.
3. Take time learning new words
If you say words with an incorrect pronunciation, it takes longer to correct that pronunciation. In other words, it’s hard to break that bad habit!
Online dictionaries like the MW Learner’s Dictionary and MacMillan Online Dictionary show the correct phonetic transcription of words (with sound clips). Those resources help a lot when you’re learning how to correctly pronounce words. Learn how to use the phonetic alphabet here.
If you like to browse YouTube, check out the English pronunciation videos there. YouTube has a lot of videos for learning American English and British English pronunciation, so don’t be afraid to watch them to learn more.
4. Imitate spoken English
The best way to learn is imitation. ‘Imitate’ means to copy someone or something. So, try imitating the accent you want to speak. If you like how someone speaks, try speaking just like them. Many people who learn English (or another language) imitate how other native speakers speak.
You can get started by listening to something in English, such as a podcast, TV show, movie or song. Listen closely to the speaker and try imitating their words. Make the same sounds. Don’t feel discouraged if you feel you’re ‘doing it wrong,’ because you’re not. Practice as much as you can and you’ll learn in no time!
5. Use an English transcript
A transcript is the words of any piece of media in text form. Transcripts help people understand what was said in any type of media. So, if you’re having trouble following what’s happening in, let’s say, a podcast, a transcript helps you catch up.
You can also use transcripts as a learning aid. In fact, you can read a transcript when you listen or watch something. The best way to have something transcribed (the act of producing a transcript of audio) as you listen is watching something with subtitles. In English, of course.
Subtitles are a great way to see and hear how English words are pronounced. You can follow along with subtitles to see how people speak in real-time. If you feel that it’s moving too fast, stop and start the video or audio as much as you need to follow along.
6. Try thinking in English
It’s easy to think in your native language. If you’re learning in English, thinking in your native language might make learning English tricky.
When you think in your native language, you might end up translating your thoughts into English without speaking them. This is actually a mistake, since English syntax (structure) and word order works differently from other languages.
So, in order to successfully speak English, remember to think in English, too.
7. Talk to yourself out loud (at home)
When you’re at home, talk to yourself. Learning an English accent is easy when you practice it. It also helps you get used to speaking anywhere without having to worry about being criticized. In other words, speaking English will be easier for you.
If you don’t understand some of the sounds or ideas you want to express, write them down. You can address them later by looking them up or talking to a native English speaker.
Here are some more articles that teach you pronunciation of specific sounds:
How You Can Always Know How to Pronounce a Word