When I first speak with a client, many tell me that they do not know how their accent can change. It is a mystery to them. It seems un-doable, even. This makes total sense! When you speak with an accent (and we ALL have accents), you are not hearing how you speak. You have no reference. You cannot compare yourself to others, because you are inside your own head, so to speak!
Then, the work begins! And this work is interesting and even fun. There are rules that exist for how Americans speak. Americans don’t know these rules, funny enough. They just grow up using them unconsciously. However, international speakers of English can learn the rules and apply them.
Work together with my clients always involves some degree of auditory work, as well as speaking. This is to make sure that the client can hear the difference between their pronunciation and the American pronunciation. Auditory discrimination goes on in one’s brain – in the auditory areas of the temporal cortex. Interestingly, it improves very fast with the right instruction! And once you can hear the difference between the way you are pronouncing a sound and the way Americans pronounce it, you can very quickly learn to say it!
After you can hear the correct pronunciation and can say it, all that is left is the PRACTICE in order to create new habits of speech. After all, you do not want to think about HOW you are speaking, but WHAT you are saying! This is an easy and yet time-consuming process. One must practice. Just like if you were learning to play tennis! You wouldn’t expect to be able to play perfectly after one lesson. You would optimally practice daily. The same goes for speaking with a new pronunciation. Practice daily is key.
What is the practice like? Most often, it involves repetition – repeating out loud what one hears on an audio file. Since it is normal nowadays to walk around talking to oneself on one’s cell phone, my clients walk practicing! On the subway, in your car, during your daily jog, at home – it doesn’t matter where!
How long does it take to change one’s accent? I am a neuroscientist as well as a speech-language pathologist. The research tells us that the brain takes about three to four months to change motor habits, of which speech is one. Therefore, my courses usually last about that long. We meet once per week, usually via the internet. I give you all the materials you need (pdfs and audio files). And then the fun begins!
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