It fascinates me to listen to interviews with actors whose real-life accents are different from the roles they play. For example, Hugh Laurie’s British accent is not evident in his character Dr. Gregory House on House M.D. Nicole Kidman sounds like a native speaker of American English, despite her Australian roots. And Renee Zellweger is on point with her British accent in Bridget Jones’s Diary, despite that she is an American from Texas.
(To hear these actors and others: http://www.backstage.com/news/15-actors-who-masterfully-hide-their-natural-accents/)
How do they do it? Please, don’t cringe…you’ve heard this before: practice, practice, practice!
You may be thinking, Of course they practice. It’s part of their job, and they get paid to do it.
But let’s consider this: In any professional setting, speaking clearly is part of the job, too! Individuals who communicate accurately and efficiently maximize opportunities for success.
If you are striving to improve the clarity and accuracy of your spoken American English, by modifying a foreign accent or regional dialect, then practice you must!
3 Tips for Daily Practice
- Listen: Often my clients are so focused on pronunciation, they forget to listen. Spend time listening to the speech you want to emulate—without speaking yourself. If possible, use headphones, close your eyes, and concentrate on the sound, rhythm, and intonation patterns you hear. Pronunciation will be easier as a result.
- Pronounce: List keywords specific to your profession. These are the most important words to pronounce clearly and precisely. You can ask a colleague or use an online dictionary to check pronunciation. Enlist the help of a speech professional to ensure correct sound production and intonation. Perfect practice is important to developing new speech habits.
- Repeat: Repetition is a crucial component for developing new habits and skills, and speech pronunciation is no exception. Practice for short intervals throughout the day to maximize transfer of new pronunciation in daily activities. More practice will result in more noticeable results.
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Think of your next presentation or phone call with a client as a performance that will be viewed, reviewed, and rewarded if successful. Practice and rehearsal are the keys to rave reviews!
Image credit: Eva Rinaldi