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I can hear that I have some sort of non-native accent, but I just can't identify what's making me sound different. Is it the intonation and word stress? Are there certain words or sounds that I'm not pronouncing right? How do I reduce or eliminate my accent to sound more "General American" or "Western Canadian" (Vancouver)?

Recording: https://vocaroo.com/i/s1icJPHx5ivT

Recording#2 (better sound quality): https://vocaroo.com/i/s1jgETeeL1ab

Transcription

There was once a poor shepherd boy who used to watch his flocks in the fields next to a dark forest near the foot of a mountain. One hot afternoon, he thought up a good plan to get some company for himself and also have a little fun. Raising his fist in the air, he ran down to the village shouting "Wolf, Wolf." As soon as they heard him, the villagers all rushed from their homes, full of concern for his safety, and two of his cousins even stayed with him for a short while. This gave the boy so much pleasure that a few days later he tried exactly the same trick again, and once more he was successful. However, not long after, a wolf that had just escaped from the zoo was looking for a change from its usual diet of chicken and duck. So, overcoming its fear of being shot, it actually did come out from the forest and began to threaten the sheep. Racing down to the village, the boy of course cried out even louder than before. Unfortunately, as all the villagers were convinced that he was trying to fool them a third time, they told him, "Go away and don’t bother us again." And so the wolf had a feast.

  • Very good, yes. Vowels are a bit short for an English speaker. Are you a native speaker of Mandarin, for example? Knowing your native language is helpful because different languages bring different issues. Also, your accent does already sound General American. It's just General American with a slight accent :) You could almost pass for a native speaker who just mumbles a bit (I mean this as a complement). – AML Sep 23 '18 at 13:09
  • Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it. A little background of myself: I was raised bilingual in Cantonese and the "Hong Kong English" dialect until I was 4. Thereafter, I was enrolled in an international school, where the majority of teachers were British. At 11, I moved to Vancouver, and I've been living here since. As a result of all this moving around, my accent sounds like a bit of everything. Hopefully, this clears things up a bit. – Kyred Sep 24 '18 at 2:54
  • Could you please add to the question which accent you want to acquire? I assume it's either Canadian or American English, not British English. – IkWeetHetOokNiet Sep 24 '18 at 18:26
  • Ideally, a Vancouver accent, because that's where I live. But I guess a General American accent is close enough. I've added the details to my question. – Kyred Sep 25 '18 at 3:30
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Your pronunciation is really good and you sound near-native so firstly you shouldn't worry! In saying that I do understand the desire to perfect your pronunciation and get a native sounding accent.


What I suggest you do is get a native speaker (who has the accent you want) to read the passage - ideally line by line or sentence by sentence. You listen to them closely, repeat after them and then they give you feedback on how you can improve. Repeat the sentence again with the feedback in mind, and keep doing this until you get it right. This is the method I used to improve my pronunciation in Spanish when I could feel it wasn't quite right.


Good luck!

  • One thing I did once was to try to speak in unison with the recording of a native. It sounds simple but it was really revealing. – tripleee Oct 4 '18 at 4:31
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I can hear the Britishness in your accent (as a British English speaker myself). I'll tell you what sounds different to a General American/Vancouver Canadian accent:

  • Your uː's, as in "to" and "zoo", are quite high (the mouth and tongue are more closed), as in British. Try loosening them to get the more rounded American "oo".
  • You occasionally don't pronounce the r's after vowels, as in "shepherd", as in British. If American/Canadian is what you're going for, you'll want to make sure you pronounce them always.
  • You sometimes pronounce the "th" in "the" or "their" as a "d", which I'd put down to the Hong Kong influence. Be sure to articulate the ð sound always.
  • You often pronounce the word "the" with an "ee" vowel (iː) where a normal English speaker wouldn't. Be sure to only pronounce "the" with "ee" before words starting with a vowel sound.
  • Great observation, thanks. Now that you mention it, I also notice I haven't been pronouncing my /ð/ properly after /n/, so oftentimes "in the" ends up like "inne." Would you mind elaborating more on the vowel in "to" and "zoo," though? – Kyred Oct 1 '18 at 22:21
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    It's hard to relay in text only, but British English has a very high uː sound, essentially a [ʉ]. On the other hand, American English's is very slightly lower, almost a [ʊ̈]. There's also some diphthongisation in American, where it sounds more like [ʊ̈͡ʉ]. I wouldn't worry about the technical details too much. Just play videos of British and American accents of English speaking words with "oo" in them and hear the difference for yourself. I will say that yours were sometimes high enough to sound Scottish. But, overall you have perfect command of English, and these are very minor issues. – SUM1 Oct 1 '18 at 23:36
  • You can clearly hear the difference in "u" in this video: youtu.be/hS2fdP1bNV0?t=2m56s – SUM1 Oct 1 '18 at 23:38
  • Thank you for your answer and your comments. Could you work those comments into your answer? This would ensure that their content is preserved, whereas comments are not intended for answering question and may get deleted at some point. – IkWeetHetOokNiet Oct 2 '18 at 9:54

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