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Accent Reduction: Why Your English Speech is Difficult to Understand Even Though You Live in an English Speaking Country

Accent Reduction: Why Your English Speech is Difficult to Understand Even Though You Live in an English Speaking Country


What you are saying:

“I have been trying my best to improve my English.  I went to an ESL class and I had a private English tutor about four times.  I couldn’t succeed.  I think I have a problem because I have lived in Canada for  more than five years and I (think I) should be able to speak good English by now.  I think I should be  75%.”

That was a message from MCB.  She is like many people who have been living in the U.S. or other English speaking countries.  They think they will learn to speak clear English by living and communicating with native-English speakers.

You may be like MCB. You know you communicate better now in English compared to when you first arrived in your new home of an English speaking country.  But your pronunciation is still accented with many sounds from your first language.  And people have difficulty understanding you.

Here is some information.  Your situation is like young people who watch their parents drive a car hundreds of times and think that should be enough to be able to drive a car themselves.  Funny, as adults we have all learned THAT is not true.

To learn to pronounce and make clear English, you need to train your brain and muscles to new movements and make different muscles strong.  Then your speech sounds will be pronounced accurately in English.

The problem is knowing what are the different movements of your tongue, lips, teeth and jaw for your inaccurate speech sounds?  How stiff or tense do you need to make the muscles?   Which muscles do you need to make stronger?

Then you need to go about doing the actual training of muscles and brain.  Neuroscientists tell us it takes 1000 times of doing a new pattern just to get a mental trace in the brain.  They say it takes 10,000 times of doing a pattern before it is a habit.   And that is what you want – the habit of clear English speech.

That’s a part of the story to answer MCB’s puzzle about why she is not highly intelligible in English after five years in Canada.

People speak their accented and often difficult to understand English because that is what their brain and muscles know from the patterns of their first language.  To get to clear English takes training brain and muscle.  You need to learn what you need for movement patterns, tenseness of  speech muscles, speed of muscles.  The cognitive knowledge is critical.  For most efficient learning, having a coach tell you exactly what you are doing right and wrong is critical.  It is all in the training.  Yay! You can improve.  It is wonderful to master a skill – especially clear English.  Communication and relationship.  That is what it is all about.


Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos  for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercise.

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