If you have a broad Australian or non-native English accent and feel like you want to take steps towards improving your pronunciation and enunciation of the language, you might be considering taking an accent reduction training course.
You might be thinking; Can this really work? Is it the right choice for me? What should I expect in my classes?
In this article, we'll aim to answer these questions and give you a deeper insight into what the process of changing your accent through training looks like.
Want to get started by practising on your own? Check out these helpful tips to get you started.
Can You and Should You Change Your Accent?
The simple answer is yes, you can change your accent and many students successfully reach their goals every year. This doesn't mean it's always easy though.
Everyone's reasons for wanting to change their accent will be different, but if you have a strong enough motivation to push you on- you shouldn't have any problems achieving your targets quickly.
A lot of people seek out accent reduction classes if they feel like the way they speak is holding them back in their professional life. This could be communication issues within the workplace or with clients, being unsuccessful in interviews, or struggling to talk clearly over a telephone.
Just because you can change your accent doesn't mean that should. Only take measures to do so if you truly feel that it will benefit your life in some way and you will feel more confident and comfortable afterwards.
The confidence you gain from accent reduction can help you in other areas of life as well as professionally.
Social interactions will be stress-free, and all the little things like communicating with your bank, your doctor, or your waiter will be smooth and easy.
How Speech Therapists Approach Accent Reduction
If you decide that accent reduction is the way forward for you, it's time to think about working with a professional. This can either be through a training program or private sessions with a tutor or speech therapist.
No matter what you choose, you will initially need to complete an English language and pronunciation proficiency test to see what your current level is.
From there your teacher will work out what you need to work on, let's now look at a few areas of focus.
Find out more about taking online ESOL classes.
The Australian English accent, and all English accents really, have sounds, vowels, and intonations that you don't really find in other languages; That's why it can be hard to master the pronunciation of new words and phrases as a non-native speaker.
Your teacher will help you hone in on these sounds, and teach you what shapes to make with your mouth in order to achieve them and make them flow in words.
At the same time, you will be taught about the melody of the accent you are hoping to perfect - Where the pitch should rise and fall, where to take pauses, and how this differs between questions and statements.
Received pronunciation (RP) is a very formal English accent that was adopted in 1924 and was supposed to be the "proper" English accent.
It was mainly used by the British upper class, whilst very few people in Australia took it on. You can still hear remnants of Australian RP when watching the news or MPs' speeches.
Now, you don't need to learn to speak like the Queen of England, but pronunciation is an important part of any English accent so your instructor will be sure to spend a lot of time focussing on your pronunciation of words.
Depending on the accent you are aiming to achieve - A cultivated Australian accent, a British Accent, or just an undefined clear accent - you will learn to pronounce words in the way of that accent.
Practice and Repeat
As well as completing exercises with your tutor or teacher, they will encourage you to keep up your practice in your own time. Homework style activities might be organised for you, or you can find some helpful free resources that you can utilise.
Watching movies and TV with Australian accents is a great way to pick up the flow of conversation, as well as the slang used in Australia, without having the stress of responding or having to understand every word.
Other than media, just talking to people can really help to firm up what you learn in your classes. Plenty of people are happy to meet up for a coffee and a chat simply to exchange stories or culture.
Learn the Rhythm and Tune
As we mentioned before, each accent of the English language is quite different and therefore people with those accents pronounce words uniquely and have a certain flow to their words.
If you know which accent you want to cultivate then it's important to recognise the speed and intonations of sentences. Knowing the placement of each word in a sentence is a start, but you also need to know:
- How they link together
- Which words are usually shortened as slang
- Where to take pauses
- Where to raise and lower the pitch of your voice
All of this will change depending on if you hear an accent from Sydney compared to an accent in Liverpool, UK.
Go at a Slow Pace
An important thing that your teacher will remind you of is to take your time with speaking when you are learning to reduce your accent. Pronunciation is a lot easier when you have time to tackle each consonant, vowel, and syllable individually.
Speaking too fast carries the risk of you jumbling up word placements, as many languages have a different sentence structure to English, and also slurring words together rather than enunciating fully.
At least while you are learning, it is wise to slow it down a bit so you can focus in and get the best results.
How Long Until You See Results?
Now we've taken a look at some of the ways you will learn how to change your accent, let's briefly discuss how long you might expect to spend practising accent reduction.
You may have noticed that there is in fact quite a lot to learn and take on board when you are trying to change your accent, and the amount of time it takes to fully comprehend this and put it into practice with ease will depend on each student learning style, motivations, and even how much you want to spend on lessons.
If you are already fluent and confident in your English speaking skills then it won't take as much time to refine your Australian accent as somebody who is not so confident and doesn't have a lot of experience with conversational English.
Also, if you are taking your accent reduction lessons to prepare for job interviews or to improve your professional life, then you may give more attention to your studies and work hard to get faster results.
Perhaps you have a busy schedule, this might impact the speed at which you make progress too as you have less time to practice in your own time.
Basically, there is no set timeline for an accent change - Some people will practise for a lifetime and still hold on to some characteristics from their original accent. That doesn't mean that progress has not been made though, and nobody is saying that you need to cultivate a perfect resemblance of an Australian accent.
If you have goals you want to stick to though, and the motivation to see it through, you could easily see a dramatic improvement within a year of taking dedicated accent reduction classes.
Famous Australians Who Change Their Accent
Just for a bit of inspiration, let's take a look at a few famous actors who are known to frequently change their accents to play roles in movies.
If you've watched plenty of movies, you'll know that actors attempting different accents can be a bit hit and miss, but that's probably because they haven't undergone the extensive training that individuals like yourself might do.
Australian cinema isn't quite as big of an industry as American or even British cinema, so it's no surprise that many of Australia's best actors often take roles in American and British films, adopting that accent to fit in for the role.
If an actor does manage to pull off a half-decent accent in a movie it's worth remembering that while it looks perfect, any scene can be reshot and filmed, allowing for a multitude of mistakes to be edited out.
One of Australia's most famous stars, Hugh Jackman often takes on an American accent (notably in his role as Wolverine in the X-Men franchise) or sometimes a British one (like in Les Misérables, despite it being set in France).
Hugh Jackman has before stated that he has a trick to slip into alternate accents. He will simply say a sentence that contains all of the sounds of the accent which are different from his own, and then he is ready to shoot in that voice.
This Australian born rapper once had a distinct Australian accent, before moving to the USA and seeming to develop an American twang in her work.
Much like Hugh Jackman, Russel Crowe takes on many different accents in his roles in movies. With as much practice as they get, it can seem easy to slip between your different speaking voices.
Although not Australian, Daniel Radcliffe is a very famous actor and is known to switch out his accent too. As well as pulling off an American accent, Dan has also tried his hand at an Australian accent when performing in the 2007 film "December Boys".
Check it out to see his attempt and what succeeded and failed.
We wish you the best of luck in your endeavours to change your accent and hope this article has informed you on what to expect when you go through the process.
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