How Do I Start My Accent Training?
So you feel you’re ready to work on your accent. You want to sound clearer and want to be fully understood when you speak English. Or you want to sound less accented and more natural when you speak English. I get it! I was there once too. You’re ready to work on your accent, but you have no idea where to even begin? Don’t worry. You’re in the right place. To start to change your accent, you need to truly immerse yourself in English. You have to listen to the pronunciation you want to adapt. You need to understand it and hear its variations. You have to go through auditory training.
Auditory training in accent coaching means training your brain to truly hear the sounds of the accent you are trying to learn. You train your ear to listen to the way people who speak the language natively pronounce their words and sentences. How they say their “i”s and their “a”s and their “th”s. You listen to the language’s rhythm, the way people stress certain sounds, and the way their pitch changes when they ask questions. You really understand the music of the language, in our case English.
Now you might be thinking, hold up, I don’t get it. How would I even do that? Does that mean I need to follow native speakers around and listen in on their conversations? Well, that’s one way to do it, yes, but that might come off creepy. So let’s not do that, unless they are your friends or family. What if you live in a different country and don’t have the option to listen in on English speakers in real-time? Don’t worry, there are other ways of doing this.
Here are 3 steps to train your ear to familiarize yourself with the rhythm and pronunciation of English.
Step 1) Record Yourself
This one might make you cringe, but I hope you do it anyway because it’s super helpful. One of the best auditory training out there can be done by recording our speech. This is because we may not hear ourselves mispronounce things when we speak in real-time. By recording ourselves, we give us space and time to really tune in to how we can certain words and sounds and the rhythm of our own language. To do this exercise, record yourself on your phone or a recording device speaking. You can do this in front of the mirror or just sitting down in the comfort of your own room; however, you are comfortable. Then record yourself reading a few sentences. It doesn’t have to be a long paragraph. A few sentences are enough to give you an idea of where you are. Record yourself speaking and reading separately because we tend to sound different when we talk than when we read. Both will offer guidance and value in terms of how our accent really sounds.
Once you do this exercise a few times, you can move on to step 2. You will be ready to move on when you familiarize yourself with your accent enough that you can hear it in real-time. For example, when you are having a conversation, and you realize you just mispronounced a word.
Step 2) Practice Minimal Pairs
Minimal pairs are two words that differ by 1 sound. They are like sister words, in the way that they are said. They’re pronounced almost the exact same way, except for one sound. Listening to minimal pairs can help us sharpen our accent instincts to pick up the slightest pronunciation differences.
Here is an example of a few minimal pairs:
Minimal pairs may not look like they are sister words because they may be written differently. But they are pronounced very similarly. It’s not the way we write them, it’s the way we say them. Click on the link below to listen to minimal pairs.
Do this training at least 10 times before you move on to step 3.
Step 3) The Entertainment Training
Listen to Podcasts, Audiobooks, watch TV shows, movies, interviews. Whatever it is, whatever topic or genre you are interested in, listen to it or watch it. When you do, pay attention to the way people speak, pronounce their words, and what rhythm and volume they use when they talk. All these elements are essential when training your ear to recognize the accent you are learning. I personally love to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. I like that option because I can focus on one sense at a time. I can concentrate on listening only. If you decide to do podcasts and audiobooks, here are a couple of my favorites from the business, self-help, and creative world. I particularly love these speakers’ accents and their shows/books.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo
3 Steps to Thrive with James Lam
For inspiration, to pursue the job of your dreams, do something big in life, or to start your own business, listen to my own podcast, the Accented World.
There you have it. These 3 steps will help you with auditory training, the first thing you need to learn when changing your accent. To review, auditory training will help you rewire and train your brain to pick up on the sounds and the rhythm of the accent you are trying to adapt. Our brains are plastic, so we can learn new things at any point in our lives. It may take a little longer the older we get, but it’s never too late.