Phillies Girl cartoon

How can I improve my accent?

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

Now, I’m not gonna bore you with the technical definition of pronunciation and all that mumbo jumbo. We’re gonna cut straight to the chase and talk about how you can improve your accent.

But first, let me give you some examples of bad accents. You know, the kind that makes you cringe and want to run for the hills. Like when someone tries to speak Italian and sounds like they’re choking on a pizza. Or when someone attempts French and ends up sounding like a constipated goose.

So, how can you avoid being the target of everyone’s accent jokes? Well, there are plenty of tips and tricks out there, and we’re gonna dive into them head first. Get ready to sound like a local, folks!

Expose yourself to spoken language

I’ve got a story that’ll blow your mind. So, there’s this 7-year-old girl from Saudi Arabia, we’ll call her Shahina. Now, Shahina moved to the good ol’ US of A and didn’t speak a lick of English. But, being the resilient kid that she is, after just one year of living in Philly and attending school, she spoke perfect English with a Philly accent! Can you believe it?

Phillies Girl at stairs cartoon

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “But 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 have a better chance of picking up accents than adults.

But, let’s not get too down on ourselves. If Shahina spent about 1,500 hours listening to English at school, then maybe we just need a little more time. Like, I don’t know, maybe 2,000 hours? It’s not impossible, folks! We can do this! Just gotta put in the time and effort. Who knows, maybe we’ll be speaking with a perfect Philly accent in no time. Yo, Adrian!

Where Am I At?

Alright, folks, it’s time to face the music. How many hours have you actually spent actively listening to the language you’re trying to learn? And be honest, we won’t judge you… much.

Because let’s be real, the key to mastering any language is putting in the time and effort. Just like our friend Shahina, who spent a year listening to English at school and came out sounding like a native Philly gal. But how long would it take you to get in 2,000 hours of listening? Let’s break it down.

If you only listen for 15 minutes a day, it’ll take you 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, we’re looking at a cool 10.95 years. And if you can handle 45 minutes a day, it’ll only take you 7.3 years. You get the idea.

But you don’t have to listen for hours on end to improve your accent. However, if you want to make progress, you need to start by actually listening to authentic sources. That means radio programs, TV shows, and movies in the target language. And let’s face it, we all have some downtime during our commutes, so load up 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 you’re probably not as cute as a 7-year-old, so you’re gonna need to work a bit harder.

First things first, how many hours have you actually spent listening to the language you’re trying to learn? If it’s not enough, then you better get your headphones on and continue listening! An advantage you have is that you’re not a 7-year-old anymore, you’ve got some study skills up your sleeve, right? The good news, you can slash that 2,000-hour figure down with some solid study habits.

It all starts with noticing the gap between where you are and where you want to be. You gotta listen closely to native speakers and replay those juicy pronunciation moments in your head. Listen to your own voice and notice the sound and rhythm of your words. Record yourself speaking, listen back, and compare it to a native speaker’s pronunciation.

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. Learn some songs in the language you’re trying to master. Singers have to 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, whether it takes you 21.9 years or 3.65 years to get those 2,000 hours in, just remember to keep noticing the gap and keep those headphones on. You got this!

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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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