Chao, anyone who wants a Spoken English Tutorial
I think you are interested in perfecting your American English. There are many reasons for this – maybe you are not content with the fact that people don’t understand you, or maybe you just don’t feel confident exactly because of the fact that you have an accent, but anyway- good news – you can improve your accent. In order to do that you need to first learn the basics – What is an accent in the first place?
Well, if you use your common sense, an accent is just inability to sound perfectly like a native, right? Despite the fact that there is a difference in pronunciation even within the US country itself, there is a commonly accepted “standard American accent”. Anyway, this description/definition of an accent implies something that is completely wrong – that pronunciation is the same as accent.
To be more correct, pronunciation is just a part that constitutes an accent. So what are other parts?
Basically, an accent is composed of 3 things :
-Pronunciation. Yes, we’ve covered it. It is basically the ability to say every American English sound correctly, which includes the mouth,lips,teeth movement. For example, most people have trouble with pronunciation of ‘th’ sound.
-Word blending. This is less intuitive, because you wouldn’t recognise this part, since ,if I guess correctly, you are learning English as second language, which implies that you learn printed English first, unlike natives who imitate spoken English from the beginning.
Basically what this component means is that you want to blend the words together into a sound group. A big mistake foreigners do is that they try to read the sentence word by word – never do this. Yes, some natives might give you an advice like “Speak slowly and more clearly”, but it is actually a bad advice (although done with good intentions). Just ask any linguist – it is better for you to actually go faster. Get rid of your “reading English” habbit. Read the sentence in sound groups, not word by word.
-Intonation. This is very important. Every language has its own music – its own rythm, so to speak, and English is no exception. For this you just have to listen to natives speaking and notice when they are using a higher intonation, and when they are lowering their intonation.
In general, though, you want to raise your intonation whenever you feel that there is a new important information to be emphasized. Just by emphasizing a wrong word you might mislead your listener – as in the sentence “I didn’t steal the money” – depending on which word you stress the meaning and implication of the sentence will be slightly different.
If you get the intonation totally wrong – your speech will sound very weird to a Native’s ears.
Now, the question you might ask is that is it possible to learn a new accent? Well, the very fact that you came across this article means that you had some hope of accomplishing so. Good news is that learning a new accent is just learning any other skill – just takes practice, good direction and consistency.
Basically, if you are serious about improving your American accent, you just have to keep in mind that you need to work in these three direction – perfecting your pronunciation, perfecting your fluency (word blending) and perfecting your intonation (please listen to American speech and imitate or go to other sources, where the topic is revealed in more detail).
About The Author
Anton runs a website on the topic of English Speaking Tips, How to Improve English Speaking – http://englishspeakingtips.com/how-to-improve-english-speaking/how-to-improve-english-speaking-find-a-teacher-or-a-class and runs a series of Spoken English Tutorial – http://englishspeakingtips.com/spoken-english-tutorial/spoken-english-tutorial-improve-your-american-english-pronunciation-part-1
The author invites you to visit: http://englishspeakingtips.com