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3 Ways To Develop A Great Accent When Learning a Foreign Language

Oct 20, 2007
Do you have an accent when you speak a foreign language? Is it a bad accent or are you a perfectionist (like me) that can't stand mispronouncing words? I have a very good accent but I mispronounce words from time to time and, although it never bothers the person I'm speaking with, it drives me nuts!

There are people who want to speak as natively as possible and others who aren't worried about it. I can honestly say that it really makes no difference. I know from speaking Spanish with native speakers that they don't care how you sound (within reason) as long as you can get your point across.

Which means that if you want to improve your accent, you're really doing it for yourself. Like I did. I wanted to get as close as possible as often as possible when I was studying Spanish. And thanks to that attitude, I've been able to develop a very good accent as I speak. Is it perfect? No, but it is close enough even for a perfectionist like me.

Just keep this in mind, correct pronunciation is not a God-given ability. It is a result of muscle memory. If you do something enough times, your tongue and brain muscles will make the connection and you will pronounce it correctly every time.

If you don't put in the time, then your accent won't improve much. You'll have the same excuses others have: "I have a bad-ear" or "I'm just not good at accents." You and you alone decide how well you want to speak.

So, with that in mind, let me share with you some tricks that will help you improve immediately...if you are so inclined.

Tip #1 - Keep track of the words you mispronounce when you say them. This means remembering a word or expression after a conversation is over. Then, once you're alone, start saying the word or expression again and again. Write it down so you can remember to say it the next day and the next. You'll get it.

Tip #2 - Read out loud. Find something interesting and read it out loud. Try to sound like a real native. Make a note of the parts that cause any difficulty. Say them again and again. Write them down in a notepad and look at them in the car, while you're walking or any time you find yourself with a moment to practice.

Tip #3 - Memorize a song. Find a song that you like in the target language and get the words. Listen to it enough that you have it memorized. Then, sing it to yourself when you have the time. You'll be amazed at how well you sound after a week. In fact, I recommend having a journal and writing comments about the song before you begin to practice it. Make a note of lines that appear "absolutely impossible." Then, a week later, look at those notes and see for yourself. It really is a question of practice and nothing else.

There are many other ways to practice your accent but you'll be fine with these three to start. You'll find the words and vowel combinations that give you trouble. And believe it or not, there aren't many. Master them and your accent will be top-notch.
About the Author
Jim Sarris is a veteran Spanish teacher and the author of a new ebook/audio series "The Secret to Learning Any Language." Visit his blog to obtain free information and learn about other resources to help you learn faster and easier than ever.Language learning made easy.
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