If you are an international professional working to improve your English, listening is key. By ‘listening’ I do not mean superficial, lightweight listening, I mean REALLY listening. Listening is hard work and requires concentration.
For the international professional, listening is the key to being able to pronounce sounds the way Americans do. The rule says: You cannot pronounce anything that you cannot hear! Speaking with a strong non-English accent is a result of not hearing the differences between the way your native language says a sound and the way Americans say that sound. Accents are simply habits brought over from your native language. An ‘accent’ means that you are not hearing a particular sound (or several sounds) the way that native English speakers do. What can you do about this? Can ‘listening’ be improved upon? The answer is a resounding YES!
One very easy way to improve your ear for English is to watch television. The best shows to watch are not the news reports (although those are helpful, as well), but the silly, situation comedies. Watching a show about an American family gives you the opportunity to really hear how Americans talk in day-to-day life. What do they say when they come in the door exhausted from work? What expressions do they use? What sounds do they make when they set down a big load they are carrying? How does their voice go up or down with emotion? Another good place to listen to American English is in line at Starbuck’s. Or at a cafe where you can listen unobtrusively to the people next to you. Or at the grocery store and you wait at the check-out counter. Anywhere Americans are speaking is a good place to really listen!
The more you can identify (by listening) how Americans speak and express emotions (whether good or bad), the easier it will be to actually SAY those sounds in the way that Americans do! Without any hard effort, your auditory discrimination (the technical term for ‘hearing the differences between sounds’) will improve. With improved auditory discrimination, you will experience improved American English pronunciation!
If you would like to schedule a consultation with me, Dr. Ojakangas, to discuss beginning accent training, click HERE!