You might not know it, but Improving your English pronunciation can improve more than just your speech! As an American accent trainer, I have helped many students change their English to become more understandable. Some of my students want to sound more American, and some of them want to be more understood in an international environment. It takes time and effort, but speaking English more clearly has huge benefits both professionally and personally.
But as we work together I’ve noticed that not only do my students speak more clearly, but other skills get better as well. These secondary benefits of accent training are the things that improve, even though we aren’t focusing on them. Through accent training, I’ve seen my students also develop better listening skills, develop a stronger voice, spell English better, and gain a surprising amount of confidence. Let me explain a little bit about how this happens.
Most people who study English know that understanding spoken English can be very challenging! There are several reasons for this. First of all, there are probably sounds in English that you didn’t grow up speaking - maybe “th,” or “a” as in “apple.” So these sounds can be hard for your brain to process. When you learn to correctly pronounce English in an accent training program, you learn the difference between “bed” and “bad” or between “heart” and “hard.” Once you can make these different sounds with your mouth, your ear will be able to recognize those differences in other people’s speech.
Secondly, English speakers connect words when they speak. This is called linking. In an accent training program, you will learn how to link words yourself. You will learn that “a lot of” sounds like “a law tuv.” Again, as you learn to speak, your brain will now be able to recognize the same sounds when you are listening.
Finally, English speakers change the sounds of words when they speak them. This is called reducing. So “to” becomes “tuh” and “a” becomes “uh,” “for” becomes “fer” - and there are many, many more! An accent program will help you make those changes yourself, and thus recognize reductions when you hear them.
Here's an article that I wrote that explains all this in much more detail if you are interested: https://www.verbling.com/articles/post/the-number-one-reason-why-spoken-english
Everyone knows that English spelling is so difficult to learn! The letter “a” can sound like “apple” or “father” or “place” just as an example. Five letters (a, e, i o u) make 16 different vowel sounds. And it seems that for every spelling rule, there are just as many exceptions.
Working with accent training, however, you begin to learn the patterns that are mostly true. Did you know, for instance, that putting a “silent e” at the end of a word changes the vowel sounds? This happens in a predictable pattern, vowels change from “short” to “long” for example bit becomes bite and not becomes note. This and other patterns become more understandable when you study pronunciation, and it makes reading aloud and spelling easier.
A Stronger Voice
To change your accent you have to become aware of how you make speech; how your jaw, tongue and lips shape the words you speak. To do this I have my students do exercises to strengthen and gain more control of their mouth muscles. We also practice breathing. I’ve been surprised to see that these exercises have helped my students have a stronger and more resonant voice. When you breathe properly, using your lower stomach muscles, and you learn where to place sounds in your mouth, you don’t have to strain to speak and your voice sounds more pleasing.
The most surprising extra benefit that I’ve seen with my students is their increase in confidence. I think this happens because my students now understand what they are doing and how to change it. Plus, they get honest regular feedback about their speech from a coach, and they have someone to support them through difficult situations. It has often surprised me, because I’ve seen such amazing changes. I’ve had students ask for a raise at work, complain about bad service at a restaurant, and sell ideas to an investor. All things that seemed impossible until the moment when they felt the confidence to say what was important to them.
I Hope this Motivates You….
Accent training is hard work. It takes regular practice, over months. But if you are considering making the commitment and investing in yourself I hope you will see that there are many benefits; maybe some you haven’t even thought of before. I’d like to encourage you to give it a try! I’m curious about any of your experiences or comments below - and good luck!!