Improve Your English Accent with A Professional Actress and English Teacher
Can you change your accent?
Let’s face it, whatever language you are learning and whatever people say about the importance of accents, we all want to sound like a native speaker. It’s the gold standard and the benchmark for excellence in our ability to speak another language.
Yet whether we are trying to do a different accent in our own language or perfect the accent of our second language, we often say we can’t do it.
I’m here to tell you that an accent is a skill, just like any other. And just like any other skill, it takes practice to master. Practice that anyone can complete.
So yes, you can do a Geordie accent. Yes, you can sound like a southern belle and yes, you can speak like me, with a modern RP accent.
In fact, I am from Manchester, and grew up with a Mancunian accent. I learnt to speak with a Modern RP accent, and I’ll tell you how.
Train your accent like an actor
I changed my accent from the one that I grew up with, to the Modern RP accent that I speak with today, while training as a professional actress.
As language learners, we often debate the ability to improve our accents and our next conversation could be about how amazing an actor’s accent is in a hit new film. Why we don’t connect these two situations together, I don’t know.
We should feel empowered by the examples of amazing, transformational and realistic character accents. We should also ask ourselves what we can learn from their methods and how we can use them to improve our own language skills.
How to Improve Your English Accent
There are five key techniques and tools that you can use to improve your English accent. These can also apply to any other language you are learning.
1. Learn the international phonetic alphabet
English spelling is not phonetic. Which is why “would” and “wood” sound the same. The best way to master your pronunciation is to make sure that you understand what the phonetic pronunciation is. You can do that using the international phonetic alphabet.
2. Complete a pronunciation course
Pronunciation is a lifelong process and the sooner you put yourself on the right track the better. You don’t need to spend thousands on a 1-2-1 trainer, however, you can learn everything you need on a high quality pronunciation course online and even get a pronunciation assessment to ensure you make the fastest possible progress.
3. Use shadowing to perfect your intonation
Shadowing is one of the most helpful and underrated techniques to perfect your pronunciation and ensure that your accent is as genuine as possible. You will have heard actors talking about how they spent time with the legends they are playing the role of. During this process, the actors often repeat back what is said. They will find old recordings and film of the person they are playing and try to mimic exactly what they do, what they say and the way they act.
You should find your pronunciation idol, it may be a teacher, it may be a movie star. Just find someone you’d love to sound like and copy everything they do when they speak. You’ll soon sound exactly how you want to!
4. Use method acting
One of the great things about learning another language is the ability it gives you to be somebody else. If you love everything about Italy and Italians, when you speak Italian, why not try to really live your Italian fantasy. It’s not too much to say to be the romantic stereotype you have in your head. Believe me, there is not a fine line between charisma and over-acting. For most people, even when you think you’re overdoing it, you’re really only just getting interesting!
So if you think that Boris Johnson represents everything you love about being British, then find your inner Boris. If you think Lady Gaga is the American dream, then find your inner Gaga and start to bring her to the surface. You’ll love the opportunity to practice and the fun you’ll have in the process will ensure that your language skills really take off.
5. Practice, Practice, PRACTICE!
As useful as all of these tips and tricks are, there is no replacement for genuine language practice. You must exercise the connectivity between your brain and your mouth and build your ability to speak as you think. The great thing is that if you follow tips one to four, you’ll feel confident and enthusiastic about speaking and relish every opportunity to speak that you can get.
Feel free to join my Conversation Club, where you will find a safe space to exercise your Boris or Gaga with supportive students and teachers from all over the world.
I hope to see you there!
We’re often asked: is English hard to learn? Well, not if you enjoy the learning process! That’s why there’s LingQ, which allows you to learn English from content you love! This means you can catch up on your favourite English Netflix series or podcasts while furthering your language skills. Check out LingQ today to get started!
Anna Tyrie is a professionally trained actress, pronunciation coach and head teacher for English Like A Native. You can also find her on YouTube, Instagram and Tiktok to help you improve your English accent.