Updated: Jan 26
The desire to sound like a native or not wanting to be compared to a ‘foreigner’ is a common feeling around language learners and something most of us can relate to.
The search for the holy grail, the secret to having the perfect accent, is something most of us strive for sooner or later in our language journey.
In case you find yourself on this journey, here are some tips that can help to improve your accent.
1. Don’t underestimate the power of immersion. Yes, immersion again. I’m sure that by now you must be thinking, “Is immersion the answer for everything?”. Well, the answer to that is ‘Not quite’, but it does bring many benefits to the learner!
If you integrate your target language into your daily routine, surrounding yourself with content displaying the specific accent you want to achieve, in the long-term you will definitely pick up its nuances and see results much quicker.
That’s how a member of our Gladly Global team was able to pick up an English accent. They already had a pretty high level in the language so their focus was only bettering their accent.
They focused on immersion for a few months, and although results weren’t perfect right off the bat, you could tell there was a huge difference in their speech from when they had started and it only got better from there. Now they are often complimented on their accent because of how “native-like” it sounds!
2. Mimic native speakers. This bullet point ties into the previous one, but it is extremely important to keep it in mind because without it you will be left halfway.
It is not only important to pay close attention to how native speakers pronounce certain words, but also how they form expressions that are specific to their accent. And one of the best ways to practice what you learn is by mimicking and repetition.
For example, in British English, you may be more likely to say ‘driving license’ as opposed to the more American expression ‘driver’s license’. If you aim to acquire a more British English accent, saying an expression ‘the American way’ can affect how you sound overall. These small details may seem irrelevant to some but a native speaker would definitely notice a difference, even if they aren’t able to articulate why.
3. Search for specific pronunciation guides online. Taking into consideration the point above, it is understandable that sometimes we are not able to identify every single expression and word and how they should be properly said in our target accent.
Luckily on resources like YouTube, there are plenty of native speakers who create content to teach non-native speaker’s language. Some of them make videos focusing specifically on pronunciation.
We recommend that you watch pronunciation guides on YouTube so you don’t have to wonder if you’re saying the correct words the way they must be said and so you won’t spend hours searching for what someone has already done.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for correction and help from natives. If you have friends who are native speakers in your target language and who speak the same accent that you want to achieve, there’s no shame in asking for help.
There’s only so much we can do by ourselves. Even if we have a very good grasp on our target language, we should not be averse to asking for help or correction if needed. After all, we are humans— we can’t know everything.
It’s evident that someone who has been surrounded by a certain language ever since they were born may have a sharper judgement than, maybe, our guesses based on a tv-show or a song. So never be afraid to ask for help!
5. Practice makes perfect. Improving your accent may seem like a quick and easy process when segmented into bullet points like this, but perfecting pronunciation is a task which can be very difficult and/or take some time to master. Your learning proficiency will obviously depend on many factors such as the time you spend on it, your level in your target language, how good is your teacher (if you choose to have one), and so on.
Above all, it should be a process you enjoy doing! Things can become increasingly more complicated if you have to force yourself.
Tip: Try to mix up your studies with your hobbies or things you enjoy watching/listening to and you will end up practising without even noticing!
Finally, although it is desirable to have the “perfect native-like” accent, not having one shouldn’t limit your speaking skills. Foreign accents are just as beautiful as native accents. There is a famous quote from Amy Chua which says, “Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery.”
So, the objective of this blog post is not to discourage anyone or make you feel like you have to completely change your accent in order to fit in or be more worthy of your target language. Even as you seek to hone certain skills, don’t forget to appreciate what you already have as your personal triumphs can serve as inspiration as well.
So what now?
Let rip and feel free to treat the comments section as a community journal by connecting with fellow language learners down below.
Let us know which tip was your favourite along with any other thoughts you might have on this topic!