If you’re thinking about altering your accent, try focusing on these aspects of language:
study the characteristics of your language’s sound system and how it differs from English. Start with the differing consonants, which seem to create more misunderstandings.
practice in phrases (not individual words) and how one word blends with the words surrounding it
move your mouth more than you’re used to – open it wider like you’re yawning, spread the corners of your lips to meet your ears! This sounds like an exaggeration, but moving your mouth in different ways is a major component of forming new sounds.
watch Americans’ lips when they speak – watching on TV is OK to avoid any awkwardness, but the Simpsons, Family Guy, or some other cartoon won’t help you.
listen to and imitate sentence stress and intonation and stress patterns within phrases (my favorite activity for this is listening to and singing along with music)
copy what you hear exactly and often (as exact and as often as you can)
This is all I can think of for now, but there are more. I’ll post them as I start to remember them. For now, I hope these help.
When people say they want to work on their accent, they usually say that people can’t understand them. A lot of times, what happens is that the characteristics of your native language might seep into your new language so much that it can be difficult for someone who is unfamiliar with those language patterns to understand your spoken words.
If fact, in Spain, the guy at the cafe refused to serve me coffee unless I said the word the way they said it. (Not cor-TA-doh, it’s cor-TAO). I think it was because even though I knew the word, my American English characteristics were so strong that what he heard wasn’t me ordering coffee in Spanish- it was a combination of nonsense American-sounding syllables. If I were to go to England, or watch British soap operas on TV, I might encounter a similar situation. Even though I speak English, the characteristics of the English I would hear in England would take some getting used to. For English learners, compound that with new vocabulary and regional colloquialisms, and you have a perfect storm.
Accents can be created by maneuvering your tongue, lip, and jaw. Accents, however, aren’t just how our mouths are positioned. They represent, to a large degree, our familial and regional heritage. People take pride in their accents because they represent where they’re from and who their parents are. Culture is very important, and should not be overlooked in the discussion of accents. Some places might be perceived as better than others, which is why some accents might be perceived as superior to others. There are no superior accents; only perceptions of superior accents exist.
Rather than learning an accent for its perceived superiority, start with these questions:
When you want to speak English well enough to be understood, where will you be? What are the sound characteristics of the consonants and vowels of that region? These characteristics vary from place to place. What about these sounds are difficult for you to say (based on your native language). If you work on your mouth position for these sounds, will people understand you?
Ultimately, your goal is to communicate to get your needs met. My tips for starting on accent improvement are in the beginning stages, (1) refrain from using too many regional expressions and (2) keep your word choice and sentence structure simple.
This summary of a research study by the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that when adults read in their new language, they’re recalling their first language. According to one of the researchers,
“Bilingual individuals retrieve information from their native language even when it’s not necessary, or, even more surprising, when it is counterproductive, since native language information does not help when reading or listening to second-language words,” Thierry said.
Even when it’s counterproductive? Also of note,
Michael Chee, MBBS, of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, who was unaffiliated with the study, said the findings show that even though people who learn a second language later in life are discouraged from directly translating words from their native language, they may be doing so anyway.
My takeaway for adult students of English is this: If you’re studying and you know that your brain is using your native language for translating without your conscious permission, try to incorporate study habits that intentionally avoid translation.
ask a native speaker to explain a word or phrase instead of translating it
Basically, your brain is translating anyway, and it might not be helping you. You can help yourself by adding some small changes to your study habits to at least cut down the amount of translating you do.
Amy Winehouse may be gone, but she left some beautiful music.
Here are the lyrics to What It Is, with all the noun clauses underlined:
I can see you ahead of me
But I’m not always forward thinking
I tell you what you want to hear
It depends on what I’ve been drinking
Cause everything I do or say
Makes it hard for you to stay
We both know what it is
Nowadays we talk too much
Like your forgetting all the good s___
You decide what’s wrong with me
I always used to let you say
But now I like to think out loud
Your running’ with some different crowd
We both know what it is
I don’t know you anymore
Supposed to be the man
That I live my life by
And your attitude become a bore
And I’m so tired I can’t even cry
Mr. Ultra sensitive
I’ll never let myself forget you
Messed each other up you know
So I’m sorry if I upset you
tomorrow is another day
So I’ll call you cause that’s OK
We both know what it is …
Relationship doesn’t remain
We resonate on different flames
I could cut you down again
If you were like all other men
If you were like all other men
I know that I could shut you down again
But my friend, but my friend…
I thought some of you might have the same question about much and many as one of my students. Here’s the question my student asked:
I don’t get when I use Many and Much
Correct: I have so much work.
Incorrect: I have so many work.
I know the first one sounds better but still don’t get why.
Here’s what I told her:
Your question has to do with count and non-count nouns. If you can count the noun (like “pen”), you can say one pen, two pens, three pens. A noun like “work” is non-count. You can’t say “one work, two works”. You CAN say “one job, two jobs” or “one assignment, two assignments”, but if you’re talking about work, the word “work” is non-count.
Many goes with Count Nouns
Much goes with Non-Count nouns
Ex: There are so many assignments I have to complete. It’s too much work.
Today is Martin Luther King Day. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement, which took place in the 1950s and 1960s. In August 1963, he delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech in Washington D.C.:
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