Many students ask how they can improve their spoken English. In my opinion, having taught ESL for over nine years, this is a two–part process that includes reducing your native accent and improving your pronunciation. There is an argument to be made that your native accent is part of your speaking personality. That argument is better left for another article.

Let’s talk about reducing your native accent. Is it possible to reduce or neutralize it? It depends on you. Here are some recommendations to help you get started.

First, when you are listening to a native speaker, watching a TV show or movie in English, watch the movements of the speakers’ mouths. Try to move you mouth as they do without saying the words.

As you listen to music in English, read the lyrics. If you can, watch a music video where you can observe the singer’s mouth. Move your mouth in the same way. Once you have completed these steps, now you can listen to the song, read the lyrics and sing along. Who cares if you cannot carry a tune, you are simply improving your pronunciation.

When you encounter words that are difficult to pronounce, write them down. Later, you can practice pronouncing those words with a native speaker. You can find native English speakers in any large city, at your local university, by Internet, or through your local American Society. If you invite them out for coffee or a drink, they may help you without charging you.

When you are with a native speaker, find text from a book, a magazine, an article, or even comics. Read the text aloud for 15 to 20 minutes everyday with a native speaker. Ask this person to help you pronounce the difficult words correctly. Then ask this person to read back what you have just finished reading. Pay careful attention to their mouth and move yours accordingly.

Re-read the text again on your own out loud. You may want to record your voice to playback later. Recording your voice allows you to hear the words and expressions you pronounced correctly and identify those words or phrases that are difficult to pronounce.

Purchase books on tape. Buy the book, too. As you listen, read aloud. Then, go back and record yourself re-reading the text aloud. Compare your voice recording to the person who is reading the book on tape. Note any pronunciation differences to discuss with your teacher or a native English speaker.

Finally, be patient. You can change the way you speak. It’s a slow process and does not happen quickly. People are often impatient and quit too soon. You will change the way you sound if you are willing to put some effort into it. Following these steps will help. Good luck!

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