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Is it always true that changing our accents will help improve our socio-cultural interactions in a multi-cultural world? That is not the case. All heads of states around the world will not be able to run their countries if they spend time worrying about their accent when they speak in a foreign language. Accent is a part of speech development, and therefore it is an acquired process not a technical skill that we learn overtime. By that I mean you cannot eliminate it, but you can certainly become more aware why people do not seem to understand you when you speak. After that you can take conscious steps to reduce the accent. You cannot eliminate it totally because the natural accent is not born but it develops overtime. You maybe able to use a different accent when the situation demands it, like acting or speaking in public. Once we return to the native self, we will feel most comfortable with our native accent in our day to day conversations.
Nonetheless, you can help yourself by reducing the heavy accent by checking on your diction:
1. Do people understand you when you start speaking?
2. Do you have to repeat yourself more often than you think is necessary?
3. Are you using simple words or bombastic languages which are harder to pronounce and therefore more difficult to be understood?
4. Has anyone outside your family environment understand you?
5. Are you hesitant to use your foreign language on the telephone?
Many public speakers like politicians often have to learn to speak with proper simple sentences so when they address the public at large, they can be understood. They are perhaps one of the best groups of people we need to learn from.
News presenters are a different group of speakers which do not depend on a live audience to test their reading skills. They have time to edit their presentation before going on air. I find politicians have a greater chance of being exposed as bad public speakers, especially when they participate in meet the people sessions at the residential level. They usually do not know beforehand the general profile of the people who attend the sessions until they arrive at the event.
A good diction in speech involves practice in a few aspects of speech:
1. control of speed
2. voice control
3. articulation of words and syllables in words
The accent is like your signature thumbprint; emulating another person’s accent cannot help you improve your command of the foreign language anymore than it can with the way you speak the language. Politicians, actors, and many other professional entrepreneurs make use of their native accent to add personality. An accent, that has been reduced through proper diction training, is a great asset to possess.
If we want to be understood, we must improve on our diction. Trying to emulate another person’s accent will only lead to further destruction to an already developed speech.
Hanifa K. Cook is a language trainer at http://edufire.com/users/9871-languages-other-tutor-annie-cook She speaks 4 languages fluently, specialising in voice intonation and language modulation. For further tips on how to learn foreign languages, visit her website at http://www.childhoodspeech.com