The first two years after moving to the United States, I experienced a tremendous cultural and language shock. She went through all stages, ranging from the fear of answering a phone call or placing an order at a restaurant, before studying at various language schools, then college, and, finally, working as an interpreter.
Over the years I have met many visitors from the CIS countries who recently moved to the United States, took up the language and want their English to sound naturally to the ear of the speaker, writes Olga Bogatova, translator of English and Spanish. Someone worries about their level of proficiency in the language, but someone does not like the accent.
Here are some simple tips that can help you “sound” better in a non-native language. They apply to any foreign language that you learn.
1. Speak slowly
This advice is always given to translators - it helps to facilitate communication.
What happens if you try to speak slower? First of all, it will be easier for your interlocutor to understand what you are talking about. Secondly, you will have more time to articulate the sounds in more detail and show your voice with accent and intonation. Slowing the rate of speech will immediately make your speech clearer.
In addition, the Russian language has a faster pace than English, so slowing down the pace of speech will help you to speak English more naturally.
2. Speak louder
Surely you have noticed that the Americans are talking loudly. A loud voice is primarily evidence of self-confidence and the absence of fear of attracting attention. Both of these traits are integral to American culture.
In addition, the Russian language is more “quiet”: we barely open our mouth when we articulate sounds, while in English there is an active movement of the lips and mouth.
Therefore, to get rid of the accent, you need to speak louder. How loud is it? Slightly louder than the internal "comfort level".
I remember a time when my own uncertainty about how or what I was saying made my speech more unintelligible and quiet. Therefore, if you feel that your voice gradually calms down, make an effort and turn up the volume!
On the subject: How to learn English on the go: four effective ways
3. Make yourself speak unnaturally
Emphasis arises due to the transfer features of Russian pronunciation in English. To get rid of the accent, you need to constantly push yourself beyond the limits of the usual pronunciation.
You have spoken Russian all your life, and for years your speech apparatus has been trained to play the sounds of the Russian language. Now your goal is to “recalibrate”, “reconfigure” it to English.
Let yourself experiment with words, sentences, familiar phrases in English. Try repeating the same thing in several ways - louder, quieter, with falling or rising intonation, with a smile or a sad expression on your face, stretching syllables more strongly. It sounds uncomfortable - great, this is our goal. Got an interesting option? Looks like a more natural pronunciation? Put the word or phrase in the piggy bank, and try on the following.
Where can you practice like this? At home, alone or with friends, and if you go to language lessons - this is also a great opportunity to actively “play” with your speech, imitating a carrier.
On the subject: 12 expert tips for successful immigration to the USA
4. Humble. Language is a melody!
When perceiving information by ear, we often focus entirely on the actual content of what we are told, but we completely forget about how information is presented to us.
Imagine that language is a song. Everything that you hear has its own intonational melody, which then falls, then rises. Words are broken into syllables, which the speaker stretches or squeezes like an accordion. Try to memorize these peculiar "melodies" and "tunes" for words and phrases.
When you say something, instead of using your collection of sounds from the Russian language, try to reproduce the very melody of a word or phrase that you have heard from a native speaker.
This technique can initially be difficult, because it requires memorizing individual “melodies” for your familiar phrases, and this is a whole additional layer of information. However, after a while it becomes automatic, and you begin to speak according to the language “melody”.
These are the simplest accent reduction techniques that I recommend to anyone learning a language. Good luck in learning English!