Ways to Improve Your English Accent
不同的语言有不同的发音方式。有的样子很相像，但是发音却是完全不同。中文里的某些发音在英文里根本没有，所以，必须注意不要在说英文的时候发出中文所特有的，但是英文中没有的那些音。比如，法文中的“r”和德文中的“l”与英文里的发音不一样。（中文拼音中的 “ch”， “sh”， “th”，“q”， “x”，在英文里的发音都是不一样的。 【译者注】）
一些英文单词的发音很接近，这对英语作为第二语言的人说就会有困难。比如你是否能读出“bed”与“bad”的区别；“ship” 别和“sheep”的区别，等等。夸大这些单词的元音的发音，这样的话，你才能听清楚这些词的发音。要达到能够明显区分各个元音的发音，从而提高英语语音的能力 。
在日常的英语会话中，有时有些字的音是合并在一起的，就是连在一起读的。比如，“Won't you”中的“t”和后面的“you” 就连在一起发音。这样的发音是正确的，也是很自然的；这不是偷懒的发音。把每一个字都发音得十分精确，这是不错的；但是如果你要说得很流利，你必须按你所选的英语口音来连读。
Ask for the help of a native English speaker:
Learning from tapes and instructional videos is good, but learning from a live native speaker is better. If you have a friend who's a native speaker of English, approach him if you encounter any difficulties in your training. List the words you find difficult to pronounce, and then have your friend pronounce them for you.
Make friends with native English speakers:
Obviously, you'll find the previous tip problematic if you don't have a friend who's a native English speaker, which is why it's important for you to go out and make friends with native English speakers. Face it: if you're surrounded by speakers of your own native tongue all day, you won't absorb the accent you want very quickly. Step out of your comfort zone, find opportunities to socialize with native English speakers and make new friends and acquaintances. This way, you'll have more opportunities to practice your accent even when you're just walking down the road on a regular day.
Talk, talk, talk!
You won't achieve anything significant if you limit yourself to talking in front of a recorder or a mirror. You need to immerse yourself in actual conversations with native English speakers to get the feel of the language. Books will help, but they mostly present a structured view of language that is different from the flexible language spoken in the real world. Don't be shy, and always engage native speakers in conversations even in the early stages of your training. Remember that mistakes are part of the process to being a fluent English speaker.
The best way to quickly get rid of your accent is to expose yourself to as much English media as possible. Tune in to American or English-language sitcoms, movie channels, and especially news programs. Pay attention to the rhythm and intonation of the speakers, and closely observe the movement of their lips. Try to imitate the sounds they are making by saying sentences exactly how they say them. This is the same technique that a young child does to learn a language, and it works for adults too, albeit at a slower rate.
Record your progress:
Language learning is largely done unconsciously, so it's hard to know whether you're progressing or not. Use a tape recorder to record your voice and evaluate how much you've improved. At the start of your training, read portions of English books or magazines aloud. After a couple of months, read the same passages again, and then listen for differences. Take note of which aspects you've improved on and what areas need more development. You can also ask a native English speaker to read the same passages, and then compare his recording to yours.
Speak slower and improve your pronunciation:
A good technique to reduce your accent is to speak slowly and clearly. It's easy to forget to pay attention to your pronunciation once you learn to speak fluently. You may also develop bad pronunciation habits that are incorrect, such as pronouncing “th” as “d.” Speak slower and pronounce each word clearly to polish up your accent.
Compare English sounds with the sounds of your native accent:
Different languages have different ways of producing sounds. Some alphabets are pretty much the same, but their sounds are very different. Your native language may have sounds that English doesn't use. Be careful not to accidentally produce such sounds when speaking English. For instance, the French “r” and the German “l” are pronounced differently from their English equivalents.
Examine minimal pairs:
Minimal pairs are pairs of sounds that non- native English speakers often confuse, such as “bed” and “bad” or “ship” and “sheep.” Exaggerate the sounds of minimal pairs of vowels when you practice their pronunciation so you can clearly hear the difference. Vowel sounds largely distinguish one accent from another.
Improve your intonation: Intonation gives feelings to your spoken words. You may send out the wrong message if your intonation is wrong. For instance, you might sound angry when you're actually happy. The best method to improve your intonation is to listen to and repeat spoken English. Accent reduction textbooks and workbooks for advanced ESL (English as Second Language) students also have written exercises that can help you understand English intonation better.
Listen to sound combinations:
In normal spoken English, sounds are often blended or linked together. For instance, “Won't you?” often sounds “Wonchoo?” when spoken. This sound blending is correct, natural, and not lazy speech. Pronouncing each word clearly works, but to be fluent with your chosen English accent, you must also learn how to blend these sounds.
Clearly pronounce endings of words:
Many students of English have a hard time pronouncing word endings like “s,” “ed,” and “t.” For example, “can't” becomes “can” or “girls” becomes “girl.” Take your time pronouncing these word endings, because they may greatly alter the thought of your sentences. In the case of can't, if you're not comfortable saying it, try saying “cannot” instead. You may do this until you've perfected saying the word “can't” clearly.
Use audio books and surf the Web:
Audio books or tapes help a lot in teaching you how to properly pronounce words. You can borrow these tapes from the local library or purchase them. The Internet is also a great tool to help you get to know your preferred accent more. Lots of websites have videos that clearly show you how the lips move when pronouncing combinations of consonants and vowels. Try to duplicate the sounds that you hear, and you will eventually feel comfortable saying difficult words.
Practice with poetry and tongue-twisters:
The English language you learn from textbooks and audio CDs is mostly very clean and structured. While this will help you in the early stages of your training, you need more advanced reference materials as you go along. Reading tongue-twisters and poems is a good trick to fast-track your accent training since these materials have more flexibility and changes in intonation.
Use a good, old dictionary:
A dictionary may not exactly tell you how a word is pronounced, but it points you at the right direction on how to say a word. If you think you're not pronouncing a word correctly, just grab a dictionary and see if your pronunciation is close or not. Later, you may ask a native speaker how to pronounce that particular word just to be sure you understand what the dictionary says. In addition, there are “online dictionaries” on the Internet that have libraries of pronunciation recordings that you can listen to. Be patient: The truth is, learning a second language is much harder for adults than it is for children. Don't be too hard on yourself if there seems to be no improvement after the first month. Just continue on your training routine, and give yourself a pat on the back for every English conversation you've handled well. Eventually, you'll feel more comfortable speaking with your chosen accent and on your way to fluency.
What ways are you using to improve your spoken English besides taking this class?
Which of the above ways would be easy for you to do? Which ways will be hard for you to do? Explain why.
Would you approach an English speaking foreigner to practice your English? What would you say to them?