Tips for Changing Accents (And how Karaoke helped me with Spanish)
First off, I must say that everyone has an accent. Yes, including you. Just because you cannot hear your own accent does not mean you do not have one. Accents vary based on a many different factors, including geographical location and who is in your social circle. Everyone has an accent; in fact, even people who speak in sign language have accents. Slight deviations in how different words are signed are even enough to indicate whether or not the person signing can speak or is mute. Heck, even cows have accents. Their mooing varies depending upon what region they come from.

This article is geared towards offering a few brief tips to people who wish to change their accent. You may wish to do this for a variety of reasons. But again, I stress that everyone has an accent. If you wish to change your accent simply because you believe that another accent sounds better, please remember this simple fact. Everyone has an accent; everyone thinks the grass is greener on the other side. I would personally recommend only considering an accent change if your accent is currently inhibiting your ability to be understood by others.

As a final caveat, I must say that unlearning an accent is a difficult and long process that may require professional help. A speech-language pathologist is one such professional who can help you with this process. He or she will minutely examine how you pronounce various consonants and vowels. He or she will also consider such elements as stress, rhythm of speech, etc.

There are, of course, measures you can take on your own to begin to change your accent. What follows is a few of those tips. In general, you want to practice verbal speaking as much as possible. If you want to see slow, gradual improvement, you really need to practice at a minimum around thirty minutes per day.

  • Find recordings of single words or phrases. Listen to these over and over again. After each repetition try your best to sound out the words in question.

  • Practice specific sounds repeatedly. It is often important to focus on specific parts of words rather than the entire words themselves. Practice enunciating difficult consonants, vowels, etc.

  • Watch as much television as you can in your accent of choice. It is important to say, however, that passive listening will not cut it. To make improvement you will need to mimic the actors as they speak. Here is another important part: practice speaking in different tones of voice. Mimic the actors when they are excited, when they are angry, when they are surprised, etc. You will need to practice all of the various emotional tones to be able to get a grasp on the language.

  • Read out loud in your desired accent as much as possible. If you have kids, a great way to practice your accent is by reading to them. They will both enjoy listening to stories and find the new accent hilarious and entertaining.

  • This is going to sound crazy, but I personally believe that one of the most effective ways to learn a new accent (and to have a little fun at the same time) is to do karaoke. Your first step is to find a series of artists who sing in your desired accent. I decided to listen to songs by Hector Lavoe, Juan luis Guerra, and Los Tigres Del Norte. Then all you have to do is just jam right along with them. Sing their songs constantly: while you are doing laundry, while you are driving to work, while you are on the computer. This was the only way I was able to make any progress in improving my abysmal Spanish accent.


Photo Credit: Eden, Janine and Jim

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