You don’t have to hide that accent!
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I find it ridiculous and unnecessary when non-native speakers of English try fruitlessly to attain native-like accent. It’s fun though, I must admit.
By the accent, you are able to tell if the person is an Indian, German, Palestinian, or South African. The pronunciation of words is always influenced by your first or native language and social background.
The truth, however, is that it’s just okay to have an accent. It’s ok if you pronounce ‘wish’ as ‘vish’ or ‘pilot’ as ‘bilot’ or ‘land’ as ‘rand’.
However, the challenge about having an accent is that though you’re free to have one, you must ensure that others understand you when you speak. It moves beyond acquiring knowledge to developing and practising to ensure others understand when you speak.
Here are a few steps to help you overcome the challenge of being misunderstood because of an accent:
1. Listen more
To develop your verbal communication skills, you need to listen more before you speak. Listen to native speakers and look at the movement of their lips and tongue when they speak. Listen to podcasts, audios and watch videos that teach, for example, pronunciation, stress and intonation.
Stand in front of the mirror and watch yourself learn how to correctly pronounce words. Try saying ‘slip’ and not ‘sleep’, ‘lip’ and not ‘rip’, etc. With consistency in practice you can surmount this challenge.
3. Speak slowly
Wanting to speak like an American or a British doesn’t demand you speak fast. If you want to come close enough to speaking like that, in spite of your accent, you need to speak slowly. Take your time and speak out the words.
4. Listen to songs
Learning through hobbies and games is fun but effective. Get a collection of hymnals, country, blues, etc. and listen to the lyrics, for that has the power to influence your language. Keep listening and singing along.
5. Assess yourself
Mark your level of progress after a while. Endeavour to be shrewd about it. Otherwise, get a friend to honestly assess you. Identify the difficulties and devote more time to them. Be patient; it’ll take some time.
In all of these, remember it’s not about attaining native-like proficiency because linguists claim it’s impossible; it’s about helping people understand exactly what you say.