Speaking With an English or American Accent

Speaking with a correct accent involves having correct pronunciation. As a teacher you need to have in mind exactly which accent your student is trying to pick up, if you're American and your student wishes to learn British you might not be a good match for them. If your a student read on and you can learn some tips on what to expect from your teacher.

Pronunciation is a broad term containing a variety of factors. The first thing you need to determine is where the problems lie by reading, or having your student read, a short dialogue. Identify the intonation, stress, or rhythm of their words. You may also notice incorrect vowel patterns or consonant pronunciation. Take notes and correct these inaccuracies.

One very noticeable issue you will come across with English learners of second languages, or ESL, is something called minimal pairs.  This is when two separate words can have entirely different meaning based on the smallest unit of sound. For example, the words 'lip' and 'rip' are separated in meaning only by one sound. The only way to distinguish 'rip' from 'lip' is by knowing the correct pronunciation of the letter r. For example, in Korea it is difficult to distinguish between the R and L sounds. Additionally, Koreans have no short i sound in their native language causing minimal pair issues when distinguishing between “sheep and ship.” These two words are distinguished only by one smallest unit of sound.

There are many effective techniques to teaching accent and pronunciation and this first is imitation. Attempt to imitate the problematic sounds by you or your student imitating native English speech. It is beneficial to repeat a targeted sound at least two times followed by a vocabulary word itself. For example, “Shuh Shuh Shoe” will help develop the “sh” sound in the English language. Repetition of the various sounds and contrasting them with different sounds is also beneficial. In the case of learning “sh” you may also want to teach “ch” to contrast the different sounds. By attempting the word “chew” you can attempt to differentiate between the words “shoe” and “chew.”

Imitation is not the only effective method; you or your teacher can also develop native speaking patterns by observing the shape of the mouth as well as the placement of the tongue when pronouncing a targeted sound. Attempt to mimic the same physical movement of the mouth and make the sound.  It may seem a little goofy to practice this with your teacher or student, but it actually can be quite effective to see clearly how the accent you are trying to develop is pronounced. If you are an artistic type you could draw a mouth shape and tongue placement in your notebook or if you are a teacher you can draw this on the board.

When you hear the right sound it is important to reinforce that sound so you are able to conjure it at will. Additionally, be aware of when you or your student is making the correct sound, otherwise your efforts will be useless. When you are aware of a correct sound it will be easier to recall later.