It’s time for us to be really honest with each other.
I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to think about your answer.
Are you afraid to reduce your accent?
“Why are you asking me this question?” you may be saying.
“Kim, obviously I want to reduce my accent. I want to sound completely like a native. What are you talking about?”
I’ve always thought the same about my strong accent when speaking Spanish or Portuguese, but a native Spanish speaker pointed out something I hadn’t yet considered.
He thought the reason I have an accent in Spanish might be because I’m afraid to lose my connection to my American identity.
At the time, I thought that was a little bit crazy, but over time, I’ve started to think there may be some truth to that.
An accent is a clear marker of where you come from.
Since so many people are proud of their heritage and their backgrounds, losing their accent can feel like losing part of what ties you to your native culture.
Of course, that’s not the only reason that some people have such a strong accent.
In my case, I think it’s just that I’m so expressive when speaking English that I don’t know how to control my intonation when speaking Spanish.
But it’s something I’m definitely going to work on in the future!
If you feel afraid of, reluctant to, or stressed out about reducing your accent, I have some words of wisdom for you today.
Let’s talk about five reasons you may be afraid to reduce your accent and what to do about it.
To make progress on reducing your accent, you’re going to need to shift your thinking on these mindset blocks.
This article and the above video will help you through it.
Reason #1: You feel like your accent is part of your identity and people respond positively to it.
As I mentioned above, your accent marks your identity.
Because your accent can be an identifier, it can have both positive and negative impact on how people see and perceive you.
For example, some Americans really love the French accent. When French people speak English, it can sound romantic, sensual, and intriguing.
The same goes for Italian or other Romance languages.
(Other accents are viewed more negatively!)
If you’re getting this positive reaction to your accent, you may not want to reduce it. After all, that might reduce the amount of attention you’re getting based on where you’re from.
In this situation, I suggest that you really focus on clarity of speech.
It’s completely okay to keep your accent, but you want to focus on how to make your speech more clear.
Start by stressing words more clearly, starting to change your intonation to follow intonation patterns, and really choosing the vocabulary that expresses what it is you want to say.
I also want you to think about what’s distracting from your message, because sometimes a strong accent can completely change the way people hear you.
You want to focus on making sure people understand what you want to say by focusing on clear communication.
Reason #2: You’re afraid it’s going to be too much work.
The second reason that many non-native speakers are afraid to reduce their accent is that they’re afraid it’s going to be too much work.
I completely understand; I feel that way about reducing my accent in Spanish!
Instead, reducing your accent requires focused attention for 30 minutes a day for several months. You’ll quickly notice a significant difference in how you sound when speaking.
All you need to commit is five, ten, or even 30 minutes a day, whatever works for your schedule. Improving your accent is like exercise: it builds up from repeated action and repeated activity.
The reason that so many non-native speakers think that reducing your accent is hard is that they’re actually just collecting information and learning about pronunciation as entertainment.
If you’re watching all of the videos available on the internet about pronunciation, but you’re not actually implementing the suggestions you hear, this may be you.
If you think it’s too much work, you probably haven’t actually been putting in the work.
Because you’ve heard so much information, you’re probably just feeling overwhelmed.
So I want you to put in the work, and that’s going to help you reduce your accent.
Reason #3: You feel like it won’t change and don’t want to waste time, money, or energy.
Another reason that people tell themselves that they can’t reduce their accent, or decide they’re not going to invest the time into trying is that they feel like it won’t change.
If you’re going to spend all that time, energy, and even money to reduce your accent, you really want to see results.
And if you don’t believe that you’re going to see results, then you’re not going to put the time and effort into doing so.
But want to know the truth? In my years of doing accent coaching, I’ve noticed that it only takes about 12 to 15 weeks to really, truly notice a significant improvement in someone’s accent.
After three months, they understand how all of the different aspects of pronunciation work together and are starting to naturally shift their speech without thinking about it.
What helps people to stay motivated with reducing their accent?
They notice how people react to them. Here’s what I mean:
People are less likely to think that you don’t understand because you’re speaking much more clearly.
They’re going to include you in their conversations and plans because they don’t feel like you’re a foreigner who’s just here for a quick visit.
Native speakers understand that you’re really interested in having a conversation with them and you’ve put the time and effort into learning how to speak English so clearly.
Real talk: It is true that consonants that don’t exist in your native language are especially challenging and it can take extra effort and extra time in order to master them.
These are things that you can definitely master in a shorter period of time and these are things that are going to have an immediate impact on how people see you and perceive you.
My clients have definitely shown me that it does not take as much time as you think in order to see a big difference in how you sound when speaking English.
Reason #4: You use your accent as an excuse for not working on your grammar and vocabulary.
The next reason is that some people think if you have an accent, you’re able to avoid working on your grammar and vocabulary!
If you have an accent, that can be an excuse for why you don’t speak English as well as you want to.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t speak English very well”? This is often an easy way out.
Instead of putting the effort into fixing common grammar and vocabulary mistakes, they use their accent as an excuse for not advancing other aspects of their English.
Reason #5: If you have a better accent, people will expect you to speak English more fluently.
The other side of this coin is that if you have a better accent, people will expect you to speak more fluently.
But I suggest that you not worry too much about this. Instead, work on reducing your accent so that you can be sure people to truly understand you.
Don’t you want to feel confident that your meaning has really been conveyed and that the other person really understands what it is you want to express?
Reducing your accent to the point that it forces you to improve other aspects of your English is actually a great problem to have!
Once you speak more clearly and confidently, that can help push you to the next level of English.
Remember: as I’ve said previously, native English speakers also have to work to improve their communication skills and the way that they interact in conversations in English.
Learning to communicate more effectively is always going to be part of your fluency journey.
You’re always going to be improving your language in order to sound better.
But reducing your accent now and improving how you sound when speaking English can have an immediate impact.
Accent reduction is truly going to help you speak more clearly, express yourself more the way that you want to, and find more success in situations where you need to speak English.
I hope this article helped you understand some mindset blocks you might have with regards to reducing your accent.
Now it’s your turn. In the comments, please share your thoughts:
What are some other reasons that you or other English learners might not want to reduce your accent?
Have you been holding yourself back?
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