Going to the U.S.A. to study is an incredible experience for anyone who gets the opportunity. The openness of the culture, along with the amazing international flavor, makes it a temporary home that is welcoming and exciting. There is one thing that has often gotten lost in the shuffle of the excitement and it's very important: the difference between speaking English in a classroom and actually speaking like a North American once you arrive.
Just imagine yourself in this scenario. You know you are speaking the English language you worked so hard on perfecting in the classroom. Many people - maybe even you - have taken those classes for years and earned very high marks. You assume that communicating in the English language will not be a problem. Then, you arrive in the U.S.A. excited for your experience, but people have trouble understanding you. Your grammar may be perfect and you've memorized the vocabulary, but your accent is just not there yet.
The U.S.A. is a melting pot of cultures, and it has affected the dynamics of the way most Americans talk. Not everything is formal and structured. Many young people get frustrated and annoyed at the language barrier that is present when they are speaking English. Your experience doesn't have to be that way.
I've been in your shoes before
I am no stranger to moving to a different country and finding that communication barriers exist. It could be the way you refer to something, your style of humor, or the rhythm of your speech. It feels awkward and can often cause the non-native speaker to shy away from communicating, rather than express themselves or their needs. It is a great feeling to learn how to express yourself in new ways, after all that's part of the reason you came to the U.S.A.
Every person with an accent who wants to have an amazing American experience can do so. Minimizing your accent takes away the awkward pauses that exist when people try to interpret words spoken with a heavy accent. The result is that everyone can have a more interactive conversation, where everyone's message is communicated clearly and with understanding. There will be no more, "Pardon me?" You'll be heard and you'll fall more in love with your American experience. After all, your education is more than just a classroom. It's also making friends and experiencing the culture.
People who use my accent reduction method will find that they have the potential to significantly reduce their accents quickly and start speaking as if they've been here for years.
The best advice on speaking like a North American
If you don't have confidence in your American accent it may seem like an impossible hurdle to overcome. It is not impossible. The confidence to do so can come from some basic techniques that make it an achievable goal in a short amount of time. You could be set to leave for the United States in two weeks and have enough time to learn to speak like an American. You'd sound just as good as anybody that's been in the country for years.
I have strategies and tips for somebody who wants to develop a North American accent. I want to share a few of those strategies with you to make the most out of your student experience.
The simplest technique: Slow down
One thing that you'll absolutely have to do to lose your current accent is to speak slowly. Your native tongue may be very fast paced or you may think the English language is spoken in a fast pace as well. In either case, slowing down your words will make all the difference. This will help you enunciate your words.
Remember, when you talk it isn't a race to the finish line. Everything doesn't have to be fast and furious. It can be slow and deliberate. Think of each word individually. For example, think of saying the sentence, "If I knew why you did that" this way:
If / I / knew / why / you / did / that.
If you think of that slight pause between each word it will come out more clearly .
Say every syllable clearly. Otherwise your accent will be very visible and cause a roadblock in conversations.
Express yourself: Don't be monotonous. Many languages are spoken on an "even keel." That means that you're never overly expressive nor under expressive. Basically, everything sounds the same. North American English is meant to be full of different influxes and tones. The energy level and excitement you put into each word affects the way your sentence is understood.
Think of different American comedians or actors. Some are known for being completely monotone and drab, this is their style. Others are known for flying across the stage and being more animated than a cartoon in their storytelling. Think about how you'd like to interact with your new teachers and friends. How do you want your personality to come through when you speak? Do you want to be expressive and energetic when you speak or do you want to lull people to sleep? Don't be afraid to express yourself and let your personality show through when you talk.
Take advantage of your adventure
Removing the language barrier will make a great difference in your experience here in the states. When you learn to speak North American English and reduce your accent, people will want to hear your story and what you have to say. Having the ability to communicate and initiate a conversation will be one of the greatest gifts you'll ever give yourself and will help you achieve your personal and professional goals.
As you prepare for your American adventure make sure you look into accent reduction. It will make your American experience more amazing and less awkward. Soon after, you'll become the star of your own American story!
By Andy Krieger Andy Krieger is a speaking coach who has taught over 9,000 students. To learn more about his"K Method," visit www.testden.com/accent-reduction.