I often have students tell me they want to get rid of their accent and speak like a native speaker. Clear pronunciation is definitely important for effective communication but let’s think about whether it is realistic or even necessary to sound like a native.
Is it realistic?
It is possible, with the right training, to change your accent but it’s extremely difficult. I’m British and I can’t do an American accent at all! Some people are better at it than others of course, but even actors sometimes find it hard! I’ve seen films where American actors try to sound British (or vice versa) and do it really badly!
I know people who have lived in England for years and they still have a foreign accent. I have a French friend who has lived here for over fifty years, married to an English man, and she still has a French accent. And she sounds lovely!
Is it necessary?
It has never been necessary for my French friend to change the way she speaks because she is just as easy to understand as a native speaker, possibly even more so in some cases. She is happy with how she sounds. Maybe it’s even a part of her identity. Also, we Brits love a French accent!
Another problem is what does a native speaker actually sound like? I mean that there are many different native English accents. Do you want to sound like a Brit, an American or an Australian? If you say you want to sound British, there are many different accents to choose from even in this country.
Think about why you are learning English and who you are most likely to speak to in the future. There’s a good chance in this modern world that you will want to speak English to people from all over the world and not just British people or Americans. So does it really make sense trying to perfect a British accent?
Unless you want to be an actor or a spy, my advice would be to forget about trying to sound like a native speaker because it isn’t necessary or realistic. Why do you even want to sound like a native speaker when your nationality and accent is part of who you are?
Instead, concentrate on making sure that you can speak clearly and be understood easily. Ask a native speaker friend or a teacher if there is anything about the way you speak that causes the listener problems. Maybe there are one or two sounds that you need to work on. Perhaps you need to think about word stress or intonation. Or possibly you just need to slow down!
You might also like this post on how to improve your pronunciation.
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