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  1. #1
    emka's Avatar
    emka is offline Junior Member
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    Accent reduction (aiming at standard BE/RP)

    Trying to pick your brains...


    I want to soften/reduce my foreign accent (L1 is German). How realistic is this given the fact that I don’t live in the country of my target language, i.e. I am not exposed to English on an everyday basis?

    Also, if I were to succeed making any discernable progress, would it last or would it just fade away for the above-mentioned reason?

    What realistic options are there given the fact that I can’t afford to hire a voice and accent training coach like Hollywood actors or high-flying VIPs who need to alter their accents and who don’t worry about the money side of it?

    I have been looking for accent reduction options online, searching for a deal along the line of language exchange via Skype (accent training for German conversation), but to no avail.

    I have also been looking for accent reduction coaches on the internet. Most train/coach AE or the Canadian variety. The few who do BE accent coaching are simply out of my financial range. And of course you don’t know what skills and quality you get unless you try a coach for a couple of hours – money that might be wasted.

    I have also been considering a home-stay holiday in the UK with a host who is an ESL teacher as well. But then being an ESL teacher does not necessarily mean that this person also knows how to do accent reduction training. This is a special training area; yet ESL teachers usually focus on the four skills (reading, listening, writing, speaking, often training for IELTS or Cambridge exams), improving their students’ grammar and fluency rather than working on the finer points of pronunciation, i.e. awareness of the vocal tract and voice production, intonation, word and sentence stress, pitch, pace etc. Identifying a person’s individual weaknesses and training them to improve these aspects specifically requires a certain skill set I don’t think I would find with the “normal” ESL teacher.

    Can anybody give me some useful hints how I can proceed with this? I really want to do something about my accent – if it is feasible at all.

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Accent reduction (aiming at standard BE/RP)

    You can expose yourself to English in a daily basis, and that would be a good starting point- the more familiar you become with the ins and outs and intricacies of the pronunciation, the better you will become.

    An ESL teacher should have a reasonable knowledge of teaching pronuciation, and if you explain your purpose, they should be able to design stuff that would help you, and in a home-stay environment, the contact with the language will be much closer than in a classroom. Make it clear what you want, and deal openly with the teacher and it may be a cost effective start for you.

  3. #3
    Whoknows is offline Newbie
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    Smile Re: Accent reduction (aiming at standard BE/RP)

    Emka,
    Congrats on your written English. It reads as if it were your first language. It is probably written better than a lot of native speakers could do.

    As an English (retired) teacher, I tried to teach myself Spanish. I can read and write a lot better than I can speak it, as I had no one with whom to practise. If you can understand the language as you hear it, you can watch TV, YouTube, or videos online and listen to the correct pronunciation. I bought CD's and used a microphone on my computer to say the word and the program told me if it understood my pronunciation. At the end, I did take a few classes while in Florida for the winter and got some practice there. I tried to think of how native Spanish speakers would pronounce each word instead if how it is pronounced in English.

    However, I never did come close to being fluent in Spanish. As long as they understood me while I spent the winter in Mexico this past year, my accent did not matter.

    Why do you want so desperately to improve your pronunciation? Is it for business purposes?

    And what is wrong with Canadian pronunciation? -:). -:)

  4. #4
    Whoknows is offline Newbie
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    Re: Accent reduction (aiming at standard BE/RP)

    Addendum


    Staying with a native BE family, whether ESL teacher or not will, definitely improve all language skills. We learn by doing and hearing.

  5. #5
    emka's Avatar
    emka is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Accent reduction (aiming at standard BE/RP)

    Hi Whoknows,

    thanks for your compliments on my written English.

    Your question regarding what’s wrong with Canadian English put a wide grin on my face. Nothing. In fact: I love it, just as I love American English. Actually, I prefer the rhotic English variants to the non-rhotic ones. But it’s not about my preferences, it’s about practical aspects.

    This brings me to your second question why I want so desperately to improve my pronunciation, which does not interfere with my being understood in any way. I am planning to live in New Zealand in a few years. Having already lived there in the past and knowing how much a “wrong” accent matters, especially if you need to get a job, it is a critical prerequisite for me to sound as “right” as possible. Kiwi English is a very special accent and one I am not aiming to acquire. The “neutral”, standard British accent is probably the most widely accepted “right” variant if you don’t have a Kiwi accent and if you are a foreigner. So that’s the simple reason for my choice. If I were free to choose, I would go for American or Canadian English


    The added problem (on top of my L1 German accent) is that having lived in the States at some point and having spent some time in New Zealand, I have picked up pronunciation aspects from both variants. This causes interferences from these two sources. Therefore my English sounds somewhat mish-mashy. It affects my vowels, in particular “a” (e.g. in the word transcript).

    I am now zeroing in on finding a UK home-stay host who would be able to provide the specialised pronunciation training I need. The proof will be in the pudding – potentially an expensive proof, as I am unable to check any credentials.

    Maybe a set of CDs would indeed be a good idea. Are there any specific BE pronunciation CDs you or any other forumite can recommend? I know that there are graphical ways of displaying on screen whether a sound reproduced matches the original. However, I would need something that’s plug and play, i.e. not requiring any installation or configuration on my computer. While my English is fairly good, my IT skills aren’t…

  6. #6
    Whoknows is offline Newbie
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    Re: Accent reduction (aiming at standard BE/RP)

    Hi EMKA,

    I googled British English CD and came up with lots of websites. I copied a couple but the Forum will not let me send links yet. Here is the name of a CD I copied. Maybe it will let me send that.





    5. British English: English Pronunciation in Use, Book and Audio CD, by Mark Hancock; Paperback 200 pages, Publisher: Cambridge University Press 2003

    English Pronunciation in Use is a comprehensive reference and practice book for learners of intermediate level and above and can be used by individual learners working alone, or in class. The book focuses on pronunciation for listening as well as speaking and includes both receptive and productive practice. There are 60 easy-to use units with key pronunciation points presented on the left-hand page with a range of exercises on the facing right-hand page. All units are supported with audio material which is available in cassette or CD format. The audio material uses a clear model of a standard British accent for presentation and repetition exercises. In receptive exercises different accents used to give learners the opportunity to listen to a range of English accents. There is a useful reference section including phonemic symbols and sound pairs, a self-diagnostic test, a guide for speakers of specific languages and glossary.

    The first is a school. The second looks as if it would have audio support and be a CD that you just play on your computer as my Spanish ones were. I am not much good with electronics either but love my iPad2.

    I always have my husband or son to help when I run into trouble. (Or the Apple Store!)

    Good luck. It would be a daunting task for me to learn British accents!! I had enough trying to understand my husband's Scottish family even though they came to Canada as teenagers.

  7. #7
    emka's Avatar
    emka is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Accent reduction (aiming at standard BE/RP)

    Thanks a lot for your book tip. I googled it and the audio book is available from various online book sellers at around 43 EUR. It’s worth the investment. And with a CD-ROM it should be fool-proof from a technical point of view.

    Maybe I should make a habit of listening to BBC online on a regular basis before I go to sleep just to get the “music” engraved in my auditory memory. When I lived in the States, I had a friend with whom I spent a lot of time. Her pronunciation became my speech model. Even years after I had left I resorted to these stored auditory memories when I felt unsure, e.g. whether I should use a continuous or a simple verb form. I asked myself “How would M. have put it?”- and up from the depths of my memory came some bits and pieces of our conversations based on which I formed an analogous form. In most cases it worked. That’s what I wish for again, but this time with British English. Yet it would require an ongoing, intensive exposure to a new model speaker whom I don’t have. So the next best thing is probably CDs and listening to the BBC.

    It’s good luck and, above all, perseverance I need, but I’m determined to make progress!

  8. #8
    Whoknows is offline Newbie
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    Re: Accent reduction (aiming at standard BE/RP)

    BBC online is a great idea. Too bad you can not get British TV. We watch a lot of it here - their comedies such as As Time Goes By with Judi Dench and Jeffery Palmer are hilarious. Hey - how about buying the complete set of CDs for that series? Would that be available to you somehow?
    We also watch a lot of British detective series such as Masterpiece on PBS. Right now it is the Detective Lewis series.
    If you could somehow latch onto stories it would be a lot more fun than dry books and CDs on pronunciation.

    Keep me posted how it goes.

    PS Would love to visit down under but will probably never get there.

  9. #9
    Whoknows is offline Newbie
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    Re: Accent reduction (aiming at standard BE/RP)

    You probably figured out I meant DVDs. Just googled As Time Goes By Judi Dench and got several YouTube hits. Made me want to get my collection out to watch again. Can you get YouTube?

    Did you know my husband's home town, Kitchener, Ontario, was called Berlin until WWW Two? There were a lot of German as well as Scottish people there. Our neighbors years ago, who did a lot of babysitting for us, were a lovely German family.

    Except for winter, I would tell you to come to Canada -the best country in the world in which to live. [We leave for the winters. -:)]

    Ta ta for now.

  10. #10
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    emka is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Accent reduction (aiming at standard BE/RP)

    I could get hold of a set of As Time Goes By DVDs, and it seems to be an easily digestible plot, thus enabling viewers to focus on other things as well, such as pronunciation, while following the trials and tribulations of its protagonists. Unfortunately I don’t have a DVD player at the moment, only a CD player as part of my stereo unit. I might get one sometime in the future though. But thanks for the tip.

    I can view Youtube clips but haven’t found anything suitable yet. Most of the pronunciation clips are for American English. Or if it is British, it focuses on only one aspect that seems to be particularly difficult for most ESL learners, such as the “th” sound, the “wh” at the beginning of a word, or final consonants, which many Asian L1 speakers tend to omit – all things I have no problems with. (By the way I remember flying Korean Air and the friendly air hostess asking me: “Would you like me for lunch? [rather than meat] Keeping a straight face, I said yes, and then she informed me that they had a choice of chicken or bee [instead of beef] ). It’s more the intonation and probably sentence stress/melody I find hard to adopt and which gives me away as a German L1 speaker the very moment I open my mouth. I guess you know what I mean if you had German neighbours.

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