Proven ways to get a native-like accent

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Re: Proven ways to get a native-like accent

Postby tastyonions » Sun Feb 21, 2016 10:49 am

I speak online sometimes with a woman from Morocco who has a very good but not quite native accent when she speaks English. The funny thing is that she has a noticeable Texas twang to her English, despite never having been to the United States: apparently when she started learning the language she spent tons of time practicing with a guy from Texas. :-)
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Re: Proven ways to get a native-like accent

Postby Alphathon » Sun Feb 21, 2016 1:48 pm

Serpent wrote:I'm actually much more used to the British RP than any other accent, but wouldn't it make me a very obvious non-native? Unless I passed as royal :mrgreen:
Not really. Bear in mind that RP isn't a single accent - RP as used by newsreaders etc is not the same as the pronunciation used by the Queen, but both are considered to be RP. The general form used by newsreaders is seen as the neutral standard accent of English English and is fairly common throughout England (particularly southern England) and not uncommon in other parts of the UK. It generally doesn't stand out except when contrasted with strong regional accents. Still, whether you want to use it is up to you and I wouldn't say it's any better or worse than having a mild foreign accent. The only thing to really be aware of is that RP is generally seen as the accent of the middle and upper classes (working class people are far more likely to have a regional accent) whereas a slight foreign accent carries no such connotation (although may of course carry others, particularly by the xenophobic).
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Re: Proven ways to get a native-like accent

Postby Serpent » Sun Feb 21, 2016 2:49 pm

Indeed, the fact that any British accent has some class correlation is off-putting for me. Besides, afaiu RP requires being closer to perfection, otherwise you're just a very good foreigner.
I would mostly just like to sound generally European rather than Russian/Slavic. My Canadian friend said I sound Iberian :D And well, I did have English (and general) phonetics classes at uni 8-) Though tbh I think sometimes I'm harder to understand than someone who isn't too concerned about the fluidity and minor details.
Oh and one problem with the idea that you work until you develop the best possible accent is that it takes time, and the returns diminish as soon as your speech is intelligible. I still care about improving my English (especially the vocab and the pronunciation of the* words I've only seen/used in writing), but it's obviously not the highest priority language for me.
*and accepting that if "the" is needed, it's needed, no matter how clumsy it looks to me :P
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Re: Proven ways to get a native-like accent

Postby tarvos » Sun Feb 21, 2016 4:12 pm

The thing is, though, that if you misuse "the", it will look clumsy to native speakers.
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Re: Proven ways to get a native-like accent

Postby Montmorency » Sun Feb 21, 2016 8:59 pm

Serpent wrote:Indeed, the fact that any British accent has some class correlation is off-putting for me. Besides, afaiu RP requires being closer to perfection, otherwise you're just a very good foreigner.
I would mostly just like to sound generally European rather than Russian/Slavic. My Canadian friend said I sound Iberian :D And well, I did have English (and general) phonetics classes at uni 8-) Though tbh I think sometimes I'm harder to understand than someone who isn't too concerned about the fluidity and minor details.
Oh and one problem with the idea that you work until you develop the best possible accent is that it takes time, and the returns diminish as soon as your speech is intelligible. I still care about improving my English (especially the vocab and the pronunciation of the* words I've only seen/used in writing), but it's obviously not the highest priority language for me.
*and accepting that if "the" is needed, it's needed, no matter how clumsy it looks to me :P


Just to make it clear: I was not saying that you should try to imitate RP (or anything else), but that if you wanted to imitate an English accent, then the two I mentioned were the only realistic choices, and I stand by that. (We can go into why, if you like, but I won't do so here).

However, while admitting that there is a class issue with British accents, that's much more to do with British society, and needn't worry you in the slightest unless you decide to come to live here. George Bernard Shaw wrote
It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.

http://www.bartleby.com/138/0.html

If that was ever true, it is much less true nowadays, although there is a grain of truth in it. But as has been said, RP is more like a spectrum, and most RP speakers sound nothing like the queen. Some have obviously "public school" accents, and examples of this would be Jeremy Paxman (BBC), Jon Snow (Channel 4), or perhaps Jeremy Irons.

I don't think aiming for a version of RP would involve aiming for perfection, but more like neutrality. I was trying to think of a more "neutral" sounding RP speaker, and first thought of Alan Rickman, but then I noticed a London (not-quite cockney)-ish twang, so I wouldn't call that neutral either, but in this piece with Kate Winslet, Kate actually sounds like my idea of "neutral" RP:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfGrSRcrj84

The main danger of aiming for a neutral accent (and it would be similar with General American I think) is that it might end up sounding a bit bland. However, that is still a lot safer than learning some more obscure regional accent, with all the risks that entails, and I don't think I need to spell them out.
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Re: Proven ways to get a native-like accent

Postby Serpent » Sun Feb 21, 2016 9:23 pm

tarvos wrote:The thing is, though, that if you misuse "the", it will look clumsy to native speakers.
I know, it's just that my issue has always been not using the articles enough. BTW I'm always happy to get corrections :)
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Re: Proven ways to get a native-like accent

Postby Adrianslont » Sun Feb 21, 2016 9:36 pm

Montmorency wrote:Just to make it clear: I was not saying that you should try to imitate RP (or anything else), but that if you wanted to imitate an English accent, then the two I mentioned were the only realistic choices, and I stand by that. (We can go into why, if you like, but I won't do so here.)


I would love to hear why.
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Re: Proven ways to get a native-like accent

Postby reineke » Sun Feb 21, 2016 10:24 pm

The overwhelming majority of ESL learners will default to standard British English or American English. Someone in Greece or Egypt is not likely to pick up Australian or Scottish accent. A handful of people may try, most will fail. It's a simple matter of numbers.

"Australia produced nearly 400 films between 1970 and 1985 - more than had been made in the history of the Australian film industry."

UK may produce as many movies in about three years, US in a single year. There's also a small matter of geography. I can only see someone with a satellite antenna in Southeast Asia successfully developing an Australian accent. Australian immigrants too, obviously.
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Re: Proven ways to get a native-like accent

Postby AlexTG » Sun Feb 21, 2016 10:47 pm

reineke wrote:The overwhelming majority of ESL learners will default to British English or American English. Someone in Greece or Egypt is not likely to pick up Australian or Scottish accent. A handful of people may try, most will fail. It's a simple matter of numbers.

"Australia produced nearly 400 films between 1970 and 1985 - more than had been made in the history of the Australian film industry."

UK may produce as many movies in about three years, US in a single year. There's also a small matter of geography. I can only see someone with a satellite antenna in Southeast Asia successfully developing an Australian accent. Australian immigrants too, obviously.

We produce far more television than film and that's available on the various TV stations' online streaming platforms. All a learner would need is an Australian VPN or a subscription to a DNS solution like UnoTelly. Australian-dialect media is very accessible and very voluminous compared to most non-English languages. (I'm just saying it's totally possible. I wouldn't recommend a learner go out of their way to pick up an Australian accent unless they have a special connection to us or a love of our culture)
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Re: Proven ways to get a native-like accent

Postby reineke » Sun Feb 21, 2016 11:05 pm

AlexTG wrote:
reineke wrote:The overwhelming majority of ESL learners will default to British English or American English. Someone in Greece or Egypt is not likely to pick up Australian or Scottish accent. A handful of people may try, most will fail. It's a simple matter of numbers.

"Australia produced nearly 400 films between 1970 and 1985 - more than had been made in the history of the Australian film industry."

UK may produce as many movies in about three years, US in a single year. There's also a small matter of geography. I can only see someone with a satellite antenna in Southeast Asia successfully developing an Australian accent. Australian immigrants too, obviously.

We produce far more television than film and that's available on the various TV stations' online streaming platforms. All a learner would need is an Australian VPN or a subscription to a DNS solution like UnoTelly. Australian-dialect media is very accessible and very voluminous compared to most non-English languages.


I am fond of some old Australian TV shows. However, US and UK TV production by far outweigh the Australian TV production. Your VPN-only hypothetical learner would be streaming many US and UK TV shows straight from Australia:

Aussies love US TV shows
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/aussies-love-us-tv-shows/story-e6frg996-1226141929983

I don't see (m)any overseas learners consciously blocking the US/UK juggernaut in favor of Australian programming.
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