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Sometimes, an accent just doesn't go well with a language you are trying to speak. This means that the accent is probably going to go bye-bye. Except losing an accent is really hard. Gaining one is easier but losing one takes lots and lots of time with complicated techniques along the way to remove the accent. This is treacherous work and sometimes people don't even know how.

So how can I remove my accent as much as possible, if not all? This is not a duplicate as this asks the complete opposite question of the linked question.

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  • Could you narrow this down to specific language pairs? Otherwise this is going to be too broad to answer. Also you might differentiate between accent and tonal languages (for example European languages vs. Vietnamese or Chinese).
    – user3169
    Apr 6, 2016 at 4:36
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    Possible duplicate of How can I develop an accent in a foreign language?
    – Flimzy
    Apr 6, 2016 at 6:20
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    @Flimzy Acquiring and losing an accent are two different things that require different techniques. Apr 8, 2016 at 3:41
  • @callyalater What do you mean by "losing an accent" (without acquiring any other)? There is no such thing as "no accent".
    – michau
    Oct 17, 2016 at 11:27
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    It likely depends on the target language - anecdotal evidence: during their university study, (Slovak) students of Mandarin often reach pronunciation (but not grammar) level fooling native speakers. Since there are something like just 800 syllables in Mandarin, much of the university course is focused on training the pronunciation syllable by syllable, again and again. Clearly, this would not quite work for other languages. Oct 17, 2016 at 12:35

4 Answers 4

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Have a native speaker coach you on your pronunciation.

Your best bet as far as identifying certain sounds you make and training yourself to speak more like a native would be one on one training with a native speaker. The native speaker can easily recognize what sounds you make incorrectly and even demonstrate how to say them right. This is especially effective if you're friends with the native speaker and over time he or she makes a note of what sounds you consistently say incorrectly. Having an independent third party identify what you need to work on and focusing on that will be much more effective than approaching the problem yourself.

If possible, try to immerse yourself in the language as well. Doing so will help you subconsciously pick up how to speak and give you plenty of examples of how to say things correctly.

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    According to my experience, if what you say is understandable, most native speakers aren't going to correct you just because you don't sound like a native speaker. Even when I specifically ask them to do that, they do it very rarely.
    – michau
    Oct 17, 2016 at 11:23
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    In US a speech pathologist could be qualified to help loosing an accent, while speaking English. It's a native speaker with skills and tools for the job.
    – Vitaly
    Jan 25, 2018 at 17:56
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In my experience, there are two types of "accents." That is the "lack" of a local accent, and the presence of a "positive" or "foreign" accent.

My greater problem is the "lack" of a local accent. That is, if an "r" or a vowel is pronounced a certain way locally, it takes a lot of time for me to pick it up. It may sometimes be years before I pronounce things a certain way.

"Losing" an accent is easier for me. That is, if I can distinguish what is present in my speech and not present in the language. For instance, if I'm pronouncing vowels "gutterally" and there are no such sounds in the local language, then I can suppress my gutteral tendencies. Or I can forget to trill my tongue on an r. This usually takes me a couple months.

I find "suppression" of an "improper" sound easier than the positive learning of a "proper" sound.

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A foreign accent is caused by "sound blindness" in terms of:

  1. automatic pronunciation patterns you add from your native language
  2. the sounds you "don't hear" in the foreign language

To handle #1 you would could try to study, dissect and deconstruct the pronunciation patterns of your native language to the point where you can hear and speak it the way a foreigner would. This implies re-learning to do consciously what you normally do unconsciously, so in a way it might feel like going back to the moment when you started to say your first words in your native language.

To handle #2 listen and reproduce the speech of native speakers (of the language you are learning) talking in your native language with a strong accent. This can help you reverse engineer the sounds of the language you want to master and can help identify the sounds that you are 'blind' to. As an exercise you could try speaking your native language with the specific foreign accent - it can be challenging but might help rewire your brain. It can be fun! (But make sure you don't offend anyone.)

Some general tips:

  1. Increase the input to the maximum, ie get exposed to as much live material as possible without any commitment to understand or reproduce the meaning; the input doesn't necessarily have to make sense, but meaningful context helps, especially when the topics are related to your areas of interest beyond language learning. What works best are topics that you are truly passionate about.

  2. Watch closely the lips and mouth of native speakers (slow motion video might also help), and identify how it differs from the way you do it.

  3. Record yourself speaking the target language, and listen to it repeatedly until you feel you've identified the sounds that are off. A variation of this approach would be recording yourself saying the same text as a recording of a native speaker and then find the differences.

  4. Ask a native speaker, preferably a trained teacher, to identify which sounds they perceive as foreign, and let them drill you in repeating the problematic sounds, words and sentences until they are happy. (Help from native speakers might be overestimated since in most cases they are not professional linguists, and even if they are capable of detecting speech defects often they might not be able or have the patience to properly explain how to fix it or understand the deep origins of your problem.)

  5. Accent is something that comes from the gut and not from the head. The trick is to trigger and train the subconscious machinery that is involved in the act speech. It is not an intellectual process, and therefore, similar to training a dog, quantity counts a lot more than quality.

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Live in the country[ies] that the language is spoken in

This is similar to having a native speaker coach you, but having many of them assisting you one way or another and being able to hear and replicate their accents. I have had personal experience with ESL-like people who have lived in the US long enough to basically remove most of their accents.

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