How do I lose an accent in a foreign language?

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Sometimes, an accent just doesn't go well with a language you are trying to speak. This means that the accent is probably going to go bye-bye. Except losing an accent is really hard. Gaining one is easier but losing one takes lots and lots of time with complicated techniques along the way to remove the accent. This is treacherous work and sometimes people don't even know how.

So how can I remove my accent as much as possible, if not all? This is not a duplicate as this asks the complete opposite question of the linked question.

Anthony Pham

Posted 2016-04-06T01:15:54.800

Reputation: 3 777

@callyalater What do you mean by "losing an accent" (without acquiring any other)? There is no such thing as "no accent". – michau – 2016-10-17T11:27:14.413

1It likely depends on the target language - anecdotal evidence: during their university study, (Slovak) students of Mandarin often reach pronunciation (but not grammar) level fooling native speakers. Since there are something like just 800 syllables in Mandarin, much of the university course is focused on training the pronunciation syllable by syllable, again and again. Clearly, this would not quite work for other languages. – Radovan Garabík – 2016-10-17T12:35:52.073

@RadovanGarabík So they basically gain an accent of a native speaker. A little offtopic, but I can't resist asking: is this Slovak course based on materials by the legendary Prof. Oldřich Švarný? :) – michau – 2016-10-17T14:42:31.947

@michau No, it isn't. Though the phonetic part is based on work of Hana Třísková, which in turn is based on Švarný's materials (this I've been told - I am only very tangentially involved myself). – Radovan Garabík – 2016-10-18T08:15:43.600

Could you narrow this down to specific language pairs? Otherwise this is going to be too broad to answer. Also you might differentiate between accent and tonal languages (for example European languages vs. Vietnamese or Chinese). – user3169 – 2016-04-06T04:36:21.937

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Possible duplicate of How can I develop an accent in a foreign language?

– Flimzy – 2016-04-06T06:20:03.730

By gaining the accent of the speakers of the foreign language. – hippietrail – 2016-04-07T13:03:57.087

@Flimzy Acquiring and losing an accent are two different things that require different techniques. – callyalater – 2016-04-08T03:41:38.190

Answers

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Have a native speaker coach you on your pronunciation.

Your best bet as far as identifying certain sounds you make and training yourself to speak more like a native would be one on one training with a native speaker. The native speaker can easily recognize what sounds you make incorrectly and even demonstrate how to say them right. This is especially effective if you're friends with the native speaker and over time he or she makes a note of what sounds you consistently say incorrectly. Having an independent third party identify what you need to work on and focusing on that will be much more effective than approaching the problem yourself.

If possible, try to immerse yourself in the language as well. Doing so will help you subconsciously pick up how to speak and give you plenty of examples of how to say things correctly.

brandaemon

Posted 2016-04-06T01:15:54.800

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3According to my experience, if what you say is understandable, most native speakers aren't going to correct you just because you don't sound like a native speaker. Even when I specifically ask them to do that, they do it very rarely. – michau – 2016-10-17T11:23:53.997

In US a speech pathologist could be qualified to help loosing an accent, while speaking English. It's a native speaker with skills and tools for the job. – Vitaly – 2018-01-25T17:56:29.783

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In my experience, there are two types of "accents." That is the "lack" of a local accent, and the presence of a "positive" or "foreign" accent.

My greater problem is the "lack" of a local accent. That is, if an "r" or a vowel is pronounced a certain way locally, it takes a lot of time for me to pick it up. It may sometimes be years before I pronounce things a certain way.

"Losing" an accent is easier for me. That is, if I can distinguish what is present in my speech and not present in the language. For instance, if I'm pronouncing vowels "gutterally" and there are no such sounds in the local language, then I can suppress my gutteral tendencies. Or I can forget to trill my tongue on an r. This usually takes me a couple months.

I find "suppression" of an "improper" sound easier than the positive learning of a "proper" sound.

Tom Au

Posted 2016-04-06T01:15:54.800

Reputation: 1 373

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Foreign accent is caused by "sound blindness" both in terms of (A) automatic pronunciation patterns you add from your own language, and (B) the sounds you "don't hear" in the foreign language.

To handle A you would need to study, dissect and deconstruct the pronunciation patterns of your mother tongue to the point where you could hear and speak it the way a foreigner would. Ie you should bring yourself to the level where you can consciously remove the automaticity of speech in your native language and assemble the sounds the way a foreigner would - this is easier said than done but is a rewarding exercise.

To handle B I would recommend studying and reproducing the speech of a native speaker (from your target linguistic group) talking in your native language with a very strong accent. This can help you reverse engineer the soundset of the language you want to master and imo is the best way to pinpoint the sounds that you are blind to. This implies learning to speak your native language with the specific foreign accent - it can be a bit challenging but it is a useful shortcut that can help rewire your brain much easier than trying to identify all the "non-existing" sounds in the language you are dealing with. And moreover it can be a lot of fun! (But make sure you don't offend anyone.)

And some general tips:

  1. Increase the input to the maximum, ie get exposed to as much live material as possible; the input doesn't necessarily have to make any sense, but it's good when it is some kind of meaningful context and focuses on your areas of interest beyond language learning.

  2. Watch closely the lips and mouth of native speakers (slow motion video might also help), and identify how it differs from the way you do it.

  3. Record yourself speaking the target language, and listen to it over and over again until you feel you've identified the sounds that are off. A variation of this approach would be recording yourself saying the same text as a recording of a native speaker and then find the differences.

  4. Last but not least would be requesting a native speaker, preferably a trained teacher, to identify which sound patterns they perceive as foreign, and let them drill you in repeating the problematic sounds, words and sentences over and over again until they are happy. Help from native speakers is imo overestimated since in most cases they are not professional linguists, and even if they are capable of detecting speech defects often they might not be able to properly explain how to fix it or understand the deep origins of your problem.

ccpizza

Posted 2016-04-06T01:15:54.800

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Live in the country[ies] that the language is spoken in

This is similar to having a native speaker coach you, but having many of them assisting you one way or another and being able to hear and replicate their accents. I have had personal experience with ESL-like people who have lived in the US long enough to basically remove most of their accents.

SMS von der Tann

Posted 2016-04-06T01:15:54.800

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