Do you want to sound like a native English speaker?
This is one of the most common goals for students when they are studying English.
Maybe you feel embarrassed because when you go out and socialize or talk with people at work, your accent is obvious and you just want to blend in and sound like everyone else.
This is a good overall goal to have but it's too broad.
What does it really mean to "sound like a native speaker"?
Today I'll give you a few tips on how to accomplish your goal.
#1) Break it down into small objectives
If you say "I want to speak like a native speaker" how will you measure your goal? Instead, work with your tutor to determine what that means.
- Which vowel sounds do you want to master?
- Do you want to be able to use the correct intonation in a sentence to express your thoughts and feelings?
- Do you want to be know which words to emphasize in a sentence?
- In what situations do you want to be apply your pronunciation skills? This could be a job interview, a networking event, or a social gathering.
#2) Be patient
You are already frustrated that you sound so different from everyone else so you want to improve fast but learning American English pronunciation takes time.
It is not something that you will master after one or two sessions with a tutor. Keep working at it and be sure that you are using your new skills outside of your class.
#3) Chunk parts of your sentence together
Sometimes you can get the most improvement by focusing on chunking important pieces of your sentence together rather than perfecting every sound.
This will make it easier for people to understand you and you will be more interesting to them because there will be more feeling in your voice.
#4) Slow down
Speaking like a native speaker doesn't mean speaking fast until you have learned to pronounce the sounds and the rhythm of the language correctly.
If you are rushing through your sentences try slowing down and spacing your words out.
#5) Get emotionally involved with the language for better pronunciation
Do you study English as a student with a textbook in a class or do you have a more emotional connection to the language and the culture?
Do you have friends or a partner who speaks English as a native?
This is the key to getting better pronunciation.
You will absorb and use the correct sounds of English when you are involved with the language on a level that goes deeper than just your conceptual mind.
How long will it take to sound like a native?
It's hard to answer this question.
It depends on the ways in which you engage with English, how much you immerse yourself in the language, and how focused you are on specific pronunciation goals.
Keep working on setting specific pronunciation goals and get involved with the language outside of your class and you will start improving before you know it.
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Photo credits: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosimoes7/, https://www.flickr.com/photos/rusty_clark/