Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. I’m your English coach Christina, and you know what?
A lot of you ask me questions about how to improve your accent. Christina, how can I make my accent better? Can you teach me to speak like you? And even messages like “I’m embarrassed by my accent, and I don’t like speaking because of this.”
Those messages make me sad, because you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about your accent. Speaking with an accent means that you speak more than one language, and that’s pretty awesome.
But sure, maybe you want to improve the way you sound, and today, you’ll learn how to do just that!
First, let me tell you a secret
Your accent is probably not your biggest problem when you speak English. Sure, you may think “I need to improve my accent”, and maybe other people have even said something about your accent, like “Your accent is so cute”, or asking “Where are you from?” after you say one sentence in English. This happens to me all the time when I speak French!
Yes, your accent is there, but it’s probably not the problem. Lots of successful people have accents when they speak English! Like Jackie Chan or Salma Hayek.
Clearly they’re not native speakers, but that didn’t stop them from becoming super successful Hollywood stars! So, don’t focus on your accent. Instead, focus on this:
The music of English
Do you know why songs in English are so popular all over the world? Probably because American groups export their music to every possible market on the planet in a conspiracy to take over the world.
No, that’s probably not the reason…
Anyway, it’s also because English is a very musical language. It has rhythm, it has a beat, it has accentuations and lots of up and down intonation. The English language is just like music. And this music is what makes you sound better, more natural when you speak.
How do you get this “music” when you speak? I have an entire video dedicated to this subject, “How to get the rhythm of English.” It’ll give you some exercises to help you!
But let me just give you one example so you understand what I mean by “music of English.” Take the word “university” it’s similar in a lot of languages. In your language, maybe this words sounds like “university”. duh-duh-duh-duh-duh. (Watch the episode for this part. It’ll make a lot more sense!)
There’s not a lot of variation in the syllables. But in English, it’s like u – ni – VER – si -ty. That 3rd syllable is stronger and a little longer.
If we exaggerate: u – ni – VERRRR – si – ty. Un – ni – VER – si – ty.
And if we put it in a question: Where’d you go to university? DUH-duh-DUH duh duh-duh-DUH-duh-duh? LA la LA la la-la-LA-la-la? Like a song: (sing it) Where’d you go to university?
Speak in chunks
Here’s a secret that’s not so secret probably, if you’ve ever listened to Americans talking to each other. We don’t articulate every word equally. I know, BIG surprise, or not.
Spoken English is messy. The sounds blend together and what you hear is nothing like what you read. It’s because we speak in chunks, like bricks of language.
We don’t say “What do you want to do?” but /whudduhyuh wanna do/?
This is a chunk, or we also call it a sound unit, because it’s like all the sounds are one unit. And speaking with these chunks, or sound units is the key to sounding natural.
Probably in school, you learned English by reading and writing a lot more than by speaking and listening. So you learned to separate the units of the language by words. You see each word on the page, with space between each word. And it’s easier to understand.
But when you speak and hear English, these spaces disappear, the sounds run together fluidly. So if you’re speaking English the way you see it on the page, you won’t sound natural at all!
And that’s why there’s sometimes a big gap between the English you learned in school, and the English you experience in the real world. But I’m here to help you bridge that gap, like with the American Accent Survival Kit.
How can you improve your pronunciation now?
First, let’s be clear, you cannot improve your pronunciation in 3 days. This takes regular, consistent practice, but the good news is, you can start immediately.
Here’s an exercise for you: Listen to very short extracts of this week’s episode, like 3 to 5 seconds. Focus on the sounds of how I speak, the music of my English, the intonation and syllable stress.
Don’t look at the subtitles. Just cover them with paper, or close your eyes. And listen and repeat, trying to imitate the music of my English. And really exaggerate it!
You need to train your mouth, your tongue, and your voice to make this music and to speak in sound units, or chunks.
Try that, really. You’ll see it can make a big difference!
Improve with poems
Listen to the musicality of the poem, read along with the audio, and try to make the same rhythm, accentuation, and intonations.
One of my favorite collection of poems is “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, which was the inspiration for the Broadway musical “Cats”.
But first, watch this week’s episode and practice with me!
Now, what about you?
What pronunciation difficulties do you have when speaking English? There’s no shame, because everyone struggles with this! Let me know in the comments, so I can help you!
Want to immediately understand 12 everyday expressions that Americans say fast?
Get my free pronunciation and comprehension lesson with exercises. Just click here.
And of course subscribe to my channel, so you get a new English lesson each week! Thanks for watching Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!
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