10 tips to improve the way you speak English

Part I: Want to ‘neutralise’ your accent?

Many deserving candidates lose out on job opportunities because of their vernacular accent.

Can I ‘neutralise’ my accent?

Yes, you can. All you need to do is train yourself to speak English as comfortably and perfectly as you speak your mother tongue.

How do you train yourself? By inculcating certain practices in your daily lifestyle. These will get you closer to sounding like a native English speaker and equip you with a global accent — and you will speak not American or British English, but correct English.

This is the first step to learn any other accent, be it American or British or Australian.

Lisa Mojsin, head trainer, director and founder of the Accurate English Training Company in Los Angeles, offers these tips to help ‘neutralise’ your accent or rather do away with the local twang, as you speak.

i. Observe the mouth movements of those who speak English well and try to imitate them.

When you are watching television, observe the mouth movements of the speakers. Repeat what they are saying, while imitating the intonation and rhythm of their speech.

ii. Until you learn the correct intonation and rhythm of English, slow your speech down.

If you speak too quickly, and with the wrong intonation and rhythm, native speakers will have a hard time understanding you. 

Don’t worry about your listener getting impatient with your slow speech — it is more important that everything you say be understood.

iii. Listen to the ‘music’ of English.

Do not use the ‘music’ of your native language when you speak English. Each language has its own way of ‘singing’. 

iv. Use the dictionary.

Try and familiarise yourself with the phonetic symbols of your dictionary. Look up the correct pronunciation of words that are hard for you to say.

v. Make a list of frequently used words that you find difficult to pronounce and ask someone who speaks the language well to pronounce them for you.

Record these words, listen to them and practice saying them. Listen and read at the same time.   

vi. Buy books on tape.

Record yourself reading some sections of the book. Compare the sound of your English with that of the person reading the book on the tape.

vii. Pronounce the ending of each word.

Pay special attention to ‘S’ and ‘ED’ endings. This will help you strengthen the mouth muscles that you use when you speak English.

viii. Read aloud in English for 15-20 minutes every day. 

Research has shown it takes about three months of daily practice to develop strong mouth muscles for speaking a new language.

ix. Record your own voice and listen for pronunciation mistakes.

Many people hate to hear the sound of their voice and avoid listening to themselves speak. However, this is a very important exercise because doing it will help you become conscious of the mistakes you are making.

x. Be patient.

You can change the way you speak but it won’t happen overnight. People often expect instant results and give up too soon. You can change the way you sound if you are willing to put some effort into it.

Quick tips

Various versions of the English language exist. Begin by identifying the category you fall into and start by improving the clarity of your speech.

~ Focus on removing the mother tongue influence and the ‘Indianisms’ that creep into your English conversations.

~ Watch the English news on television channels like Star World, CNN, BBC and English movies on Star Movies and HBO.

~ Listen to and sing English songs. We’d recommend Westlife, Robbie Williams, Abba, Skeeter Davis and Connie Francis among others.

Books to help you improve your English

  • Essential English Grammar by Murphy (Cambridge)
  • Spoken English by R K Bansal and J B Harrison 
  • Pronounce It Perfectly In English (book and three audio cassettes) by Jean Yates, Barrons Educational Series
  • English Pronunciation For International Students by Paulette Wainless Dale, Lillian Poms

Part I: Want to ‘neutralise’ your accent?

DON’T MISS!

Anita D’Souza is an MBA in Human Resources from the Welingkar’s Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai University. She has 10 years of work experience and is currently a Corporate Trainer and Instructional Designer with Godrej Lawkim ITES division.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

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How to improve your English skills

Learning Skills | Grammar | Vocabulary | Listening | Speaking | Reading | Writing

Other Tips

Our most important piece of advice is: “Do something (anything).

If you don’t do anything, you won’t get anywhere.

Make it your hobby, not a chore.

Above all have fun!

Oh, and don’t be in too much of a hurry. You’re setting off on a long journey and there will be delays and frustrations along the way. Sometimes you’ll be in the fast lane and other times you’ll be stuck in traffic, but there will also be lots of interesting things and interesting people along the way. Take your time to really enjoy the experience.

There are many ways to improve your level of English, but only you can find the right way for you. Here are a few tips that might help:-

Improve your Learning Skills

Learning is a skill and it can be improved.

Your path to learning effectively is through knowing

  • yourself
  • your capacity to learn
  • processes you have successfully used in the past
  • your interest, and knowledge of what you wish to learn

Motivate yourself

If you are not motivated to learn English you will become frustrated and give up. Ask yourself the following questions, and be honest:-

  • Why do you need to learn/improve English?
  • Where will you need to use English?
  • What skills do you need to learn/improve? (Reading/Writing/Listening/Speaking)
  • How soon do you need to see results?
  • How much time can you afford to devote to learning English.
  • How much money can you afford to devote to learning English.
  • Do you have a plan or learning strategy?

Set yourself achievable goals

You know how much time you can dedicate to learning English, but a short time each day will produce better, longer-term results than a full day on the weekend and then nothing for two weeks.

Joining a short intensive course could produce better results than joining a course that takes place once a week for six months.

Here are some goals you could set yourself:-

  • Join an English course – a virtual one or a real one (and attend regularly).
  • Do your homework.
  • Read a book or a comic every month.
  • Learn a new word every day.
  • Visit an English speaking forum every day.
  • Read a news article on the net every day.
  • Do 10 minutes listening practice every day.
  • Watch an English film at least once a month.
  • Follow a soap, comedy or radio or TV drama.

A good way to meet your goals is to establish a system of rewards and punishments.

Decide on a reward you will give yourself for fulfilling your goals for a month.

  • A bottle of your favourite drink
  • A meal out / or a nice meal at home
  • A new outfit
  • A manicure or massage

Understanding how you learn best may also help you.

There are different ways to learn. Find out what kind of learner you are in order to better understand how to learn more effectively..

The visual learner

Do you need to see your teacher during lessons in order to fully understand the content of a lesson?

Do you prefer to sit at the front of the classroom to avoid visual obstructions (e.g. people’s heads)?

Do you think in pictures and learn best from visual displays including: diagrams, illustrated text books, overhead transparencies, videos, flashcards, flipcharts and hand-outs?

During a lecture or classroom discussion, do you prefer to take detailed notes to absorb the information?

!Learning Tip – you may benefit from taking part in traditional English lessons, but maybe private lessons would be better.

The auditory learner

Do you learn best through verbal lectures, discussions, talking things through and listening to what others have to say?

Do you interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances?

Does written information have little meaning until you hear it?

!Learning Tip – you may benefit from listening to the radio or listening to text as you read it. You could try reading text aloud and using a tape recorder to play it back to yourself.

The Tactile/Kinesthetic learner

Do you learn best through a hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around you?

Do you find it hard to sit still for long periods?

Do you become distracted easily?

!Learning Tip – you may benefit from taking an active part in role plays or drama activities.

Other English Learning Tips

Travel to an English speaking country:-

  • England, America, Australia, Canada, South Africa, one of them is only a few hours away from you.
  • Specialist holidays are available to improve your English.
  • Take an English speaking tour or activity holiday.

Spend your time on things that interest you. If you like cooking then buy an English-language cookbook or find recipes on the net and practise following the recipes. You’ll soon know if you have made a mistake!

Keep something English on you (book, newspaper or magazine, cd or cassette, set of flashcards) all day and every day, you never know when you might have 5 spare minutes.

If you are too tired to actively practice just relax and listen to a story in English, an English pop song or talk radio station.

Get onto Google Plus, Skype, other social networks, or be really adventurous and start socialising in Virtual Worlds.

Start networking with native speakers / teachers and other learners.

Don’t restrict yourself to seeking out native speakers. Think about it, the likelihood of needing to speak English with non-native speakers is statistically much higher.

Have you got a tip to share?

More English Learning Tips Here

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