Phillies Girl cartoon

How can I improve my accent?

Let’s talk about something often overlooked in language learning: accent! And no, I’m not talking about the fancy thing you wear around your neck. I’m referring to how you sound when you speak a foreign language.

I’m not going to bore you with the technical definition of pronunciation. We’ll cut straight to the chase and talk about how you can avoid being the target of everyone’s accent jokes. Get ready to sound like a local!

Expose yourself to spoken language!

A 7-year-old girl from Saudi Arabia called Aisha moved to the United States of America. She didn’t speak English. But she was a tough kid, so after only a year of living in Philadelphia and attending school, she spoke perfect English with a Philly accent!

Phillies Girl at stairs cartoon

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve been learning a new language for years, and my accent still sounds like a constipated goose!” Well, sorry to say, but you’re not a 7-year-old child. Studies have shown that kids are better at picking up accents than adults.

However, let’s not get too down on ourselves. Aisha’s accent assimilation did take time. She must have spent about 1,500 hours listening to English at school. So, maybe we haven’t listened to our target language with intent for as long as Aisha. Who knows, after 1,500 hours, any of us would speak with a perfect Philly accent. Yo, Adrian!

Where Am I At?

Alright, folks, it’s time to face the music. How many hours have you spent actively listening to the language you’re trying to learn? The key to mastering any language is putting in the time and effort. Just like our friend Aisha. But how long does it take to get in 2,000 hours of listening? Let’s break it down.

If you only listen for 15 minutes a day, it will take you a long time. That is a whopping 21.9 years! That’s almost as long as it took somebody I know to finish college.

If you up that to 30 minutes a day, it will take you 10.95 years. And if you can handle 45 minutes, it’ll only take 7.3 years. You get the idea.

Do you want to make progress? Start by actually listening to authentic sources. That means radio programs, TV shows, and movies in the target language. We all have some downtime during our commutes. So load your phone with podcasts and audiobooks to get your listening hours in.

Study Skills

If a 7-year-old kid can master a new language in just one year, then so can you! But since you’re probably not as cute as a 7-year-old, you shall work harder.

However, not being seven years old is also an advantage. You have some study skills up your sleeve.

Wrapping Up!

Start listening to your target language today! You have wasted a lot of time so far, and there is no more time to waste.

  1. Listen closely to native speakers and replay those juicy pronunciation moments in your head.
  2. Listen to your voice and notice the sound and rhythm of your words.
  3. Record yourself speaking, listen back, and compare it to a native speaker’s pronunciation.
  4. Get creative with your learning. Try to associate rhythms or melodies with phrases as you learn them. Get up and start clapping, humming, or singing along to the words.
  5. Learn some songs in the language you’re trying to master. Singers articulate individual sounds very clearly, so songs are an excellent resource for pronunciation. Plus, you’ll impress all your friends with your new karaoke skills.

So, it may take 21.9 years or 3.65 years to get those 2,000 hours in. No problem! You got this! Yo, Adrian, I did it!

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8 Comments

  1. Speaking in a foreign language without a “heavy accent” is a real challenge. I am a Filipino, and while we are known to be good English speakers, only a few of us manage to speak the language the way native English speakers do. We generally learn English by reading, not listening. So, spending hours listening to the language we are trying to master would be a game changer.

    1. Yes, listening to natives is crucial to improving our pronunciation. Thanks for sharing insight into the Filipino people. The Philippines – where beauty meets hospitality.

      Your comment is much appreciated.

  2. Your article sounds like something I heard called “immersion technique.” It’s been a while since I attempted to learn another language, and you’re right. A few minutes a day won’t get it – you’ll have to put the time in to get the results out.

    I took French in college. Over time, not using what I’ve learned has resulted in loss. I imagine if I practiced, it would come back. But it’s another example of use it or lose it.

    1. You can brush up your French faster than it will take to learn a new language. So, I encourage you to start listening to the news in French or watching videos on YouTube in French. It will be a good exercise for your brain.

  3. Hey, this is good advice! I’ve been working on improving my accent for a while, and your tips resonate with me. It’s true; it’s all about practice and patience. I’ve found that watching movies or TV shows (in the language I’m learning) has been helpful. It not only exposes me to different accents but also makes the learning process more enjoyable. Plus, who doesn’t love a good foreign film night, right? Thanks for sharing these valuable insights.

  4. I totally agree with listening to natives as much as possible when it comes to learning a language. I took four Spanish classes in college and part of our assignments consisted of getting on a platform where we actually did video calls with natives in Spanish speaking countries. Over the course of a year, I had many video sessions with people in Guatemala, Peru and Argentina. It definitely improved my abilities in mimicking the appropriate accent. 

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