English Learning Tips For Students
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Susan M Ryan

When people are thinking about signing up for accent reduction training they usually ask how long it will take them to reduce their accent. Here is my response to that very important question.

Although most people will never sound like a native American English speaker, everyone is capable of reducing their accent and making their speech more comprehensible. You can make changes to your current speech that will enable American listeners to more easily understand you. This this will make speaking English much more enjoyable for you and for your listeners!

How long it takes to improve depends on a few variables. These include:

1. Your understanding of how your native language effects your accent
There are some universal pronunciation problems that people from almost all languages have when they are speaking American English. These include the voiced th sound, consonant clusters and vowel lengthening. The speech patterns that you habitually use from your native language will also contribute to your accent. In order to study efficiently you may want to get an accent assessment. An accent assessment will tell you which sounds and patterns from your native language are contributing to your accent when you speak English. Once you understand what your specific pronunciation errors are you can start to focus on these.

2. Your listening skills
In order to pronounce the sounds and patterns of American English correctly you need to be able to hear them accurately. This is not as easy as it sounds. While as very young children our ability to discriminate a wide variety of sounds is good, this skill diminishes very early in our development. As we age we lose the natural ability to discriminate between sounds not found in our native language. Accent reduction classes will teach you how to listen for new sounds using auditory discrimination exercises. Hearing and pronouncing new sounds and patterns can take time, but with practice, you will get it!

3. Time you spend practicing in a focused and efficient way
In order to reduce your accent you must learn to move your mouth, tongue and lips in new ways. This will be uncomfortable for you at first but in order to pronounce American English sounds you need to learn to articulate new sounds and patterns.

Once you get an accent assessment and understand what sounds and patterns are contributing to your accent you need to find resources you can use use to improve. Resources may include books with CDs, online lessons or accent reduction classes. Many people choose to work with an accent reduction coach. Working with a coach may cost more than other books or group classes but the personal feedback and attention that you get from an accent reduction coach is very valuable and will probably save you time and money in the long run.

Whatever resources you chose, you must practice five times a week, just like you would if you were training for an athletic event or learning to play the piano. This will help your mouth and tongue develop the new "muscle memory" that they need for you to articulate American English sounds correctly. The more you practice and repeat the exercises, the more you will develop muscle memory. You simply must practice a sound or pattern over and over for it to become unconscious.

Most people see some progress in 6-8 weeks. But this takes lots of focuses practice and dedication. People who study accent reduction are usually highly motivated and goal oriented so they are willing to practice daily.

Remember, there is nothing wrong with speaking American English with an accent. You accent is part of your identity and it makes you sound unique. However, if your accent is so strong that it causes listeners to struggle to hear what you are saying it is time to take action and solve this problem.

Susan Ryan is an American English pronunciation and accent reduction teacher in Washington, D.C. Visit her Accent Reduction Classroom http://accentreductionclassroom.com/ to find out many ways to improve the way you speak American English.

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