Whether you want to lose your accent entirely or keep just enough of it to add “spice” to your presentations, conversations and job interviews, here are 5 ways to improve the way other people are able to understand you.
1. Slow down: Half of your issues may improve almost immediately, by slowing down. Speaking more slowly will enable the listener’s ear to adjust to the way you speak. It will also enable you to be able to take a bit more time to make sure that you’re understood.
2. Use your consonants:If you use the consonants such as b, c., d, g, t and p, your accent may improve considerably. Practice saying the following “ Tabby the cat has a capacity to scat, so try to feed him this and that.” While it may sound forced or feel uncomfortable at first, using your consonants to enhance understanding is definitely worth the time and effort.
3. Listen:Find a good model. Many TED speakers have excellent speech, and most on-air journalists and some podcasters speak well, too. Because there may be gender or regional differences in speech patterns and modulation, you may want to model yourself after someone of the same gender who has Standard American Speech. For women, Teri Gross,
’a podcaster who hosts NPR’s “FreshAir,” has excellent, clear speech. For men, listen to NPR’s “Morning Edition” host Steve Innskeep and “Weekend Edition/Saturday” host Scott Simon.
4. Watch:Look at how good speakers form their words. Look at their mouth movements and see how to replicate them. A good coach will also be able to guide you on how to produce certain sounds correctly, like the “r” sound. In Standard American speech, the “r” is produced by flattening the tongue at its base. For example, many Russian and Baltic State speakers have the “rolled r”. Flattening it can take some doing but can be modified with practice.
5. Practice, practice, practice: Mastery requires retraining your brain and your speech muscles. Find exercises online or seek professional help to address specific speech issues; the rest is up to you
When I work with clients, I create voice recordings with exercises or with their professional vocabulary so that they can practice in between sessions. And remember, a little bit of an accent can create interest and can give your speech “spice.” Think of all you've already accomplished! You can do this!