What is it? Do you need it?
Are you worried about your accent when you speak another language? Do you want to sound more native? For example, do you want to speak in an English accent like Prince William, or Kate Middleton, or an American one like Meghan Markle or Joe Biden?
This is very difficult indeed. According to the Critical Age Hypothesis, once you reach a certain age, imitating an accent and speaking like a native becomes almost impossible. You need a lot of exposure, a special talent for imitating sounds (can you imitate regional accents in your own language?), and you also have to be willing to take on another identity, which includes speaking with a different voice and even pitch, as well as using new facial expressions and body language.
I said that it’s almost impossible to pass as a native, but three years ago, I met a woman who I thought was English, when in fact she was Spanish! She even fooled me. She’d lived in England for 23 years and had managed to imitate the accent and most of the mannerisms and facial expressions that characterise an English person. I think the Marks and Spencer clothing was the finishing touch that helped to fool me; how many Spanish people would ever wear anything from Marks and Spencer?!
In the Tarentino film, Inglourious Basterds, while in a bar in occupied France in wartime Germany, a character named Bridgit Von Hammersmark refused a drink, and so the group only needed three glasses. A spy at their table, Hicox, a British officer pretending to be a German, ordered the Scotch with a three-finger gesture, which was not the normal German one, and this gave them away. This shows that becoming a “full native” requires mastery of both body language and gestures.
Accent Reduction/ Modification
Even if you can’t sound exactly like a native (if that’s what you want), you can certainly sound more native by getting closer to the sounds, as well as reducing the prominence of your native accent in English, which will make you more intelligible as well.
But remember, it’s not just the pronunciation of phonemes, it’s also the melody of the language, the intonation, pitch and stress patterns.
I see perfecting your accent as polishing a language or putting the icing on the cake after you have mastered the grammar and learned a lot of vocabulary.
The TWO main aspects I aim for in my clients are:
1) Intelligibility – Are you easy to understand? This is the most important aspect. For effective communication people need to understand your message and what you want to communicate.
2) Is it enjoyable to listen to you when you speak? Even if your listener is able to understand you, or most of what you say, the way that you are speaking may require effort and be tiring, irritating or frustrating.
If you want to improve and find your best voice in English, you need a professional voice coach. I can help you make a noticeable difference in a short time.