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It's said, native accent builds audience confidence. After recording of my own shadowing, I found some typical local accent in it(I'm a Chinese), although I myself cannot tell it very clearly at current stage.

I want to improve this one, can any senior tell me the feature of English accent (either British, American, or other major genre)? And,

1) What forms a certain accent? 2) Is there any resources for imitating/ training of accent?

Thanks in advance.

asked 04 Sep '12, 23:58

Paris%20Si%20de%20Chine's gravatar image

Paris Si de ...

edited 05 Sep '12, 02:53

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Dear Paris,

I find a good way to practice proper pronunciation and intonation, rhythm and speed (!) - apart from the valid hints given by msr - is to listen to audiobooks read by native speakers - if possible by actors and try to shadow them! (Authors reading their own books are sometimes not as good as actors).

If you listen to the original over headphones,

try to reapeat what you hear,

record your version,

relisten to it and

compare it to the original,

you will notice which sounds tend to be a problem. It is also good to practice with audiobooks because you will be able to practice intonation when the speaker intends to use irony for example - also our audiences must be able to notice which remarks were meant to be ironical, funny or even expressing other feeling such as sadness. I sometimes enjoy listening and practicing with audiobooks when I have to travel long distances by car. Somehow drinving then seems less of a waste of time.

MSR's comment that you need not sound like a complete native (unless it is your A-language) is extremely valid and important - because as non-native speakers we, being mere mortals, do make the occasional grammatical mistake or use the wrong idiom or collocation for example - and it would really puzzle our audience if we sounded like native speakers but made such mistakes.

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answered 06 Sep '12, 07:29

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edited 06 Sep '12, 08:12

Dear Almute:

Thanks for your practical advice and experience sharing. I am really fond of this online community, because I get real guidance from respectable seniors as you, MSR, Nacho and many others.

Yes, I ever listened and mimicked to the movie speechs from, yet not discovered the differences existing between normal person and actors. Thanks for pointing it out for me.

But listening while driving may not be a good idea, because being absent-minded in this situation is not good for safety. :) To learn to be native is not easy, haha, for sure, one cannot achieve this status in a short period. I will remember your words. Thanks.:)

Best regards


(06 Sep '12, 08:48) Paris Si de ...

Of course you must never take risks when driving! In my original answer I actually wanted to write that listening to audiobooks tends to slow me down because you cannot drive too fast AND listen to audiobooks without getting distracted and losing some of the content. But I didn't want to sound as if I am a speeding road maniac when not listeing to audiobooks... ;-)

(06 Sep '12, 09:07) AlmuteL

OK, your answer is quite reassuring and reminding me another sense of speaking, i.e.the impression which may possibly be created. :)

(06 Sep '12, 19:43) Paris Si de ...

Dear Paris,

Having read what MSR and Nacho have said regarding your concerns with "English" pronunciation, let me get my two bits in. As an American who has lived most of her life in Europe, married to an Englishman, surrounded by worthy members of the local British community, people whom I meet for the first time find it difficult to place my accent. Americans immediately notice the British whilst English people notice the American. In other words, over the years, I have lost all traces of a "local" or "national" accent. The moral of that story is that no matter what your roots are, if you live for long periods outside a country where a given language is spoken, your pronounciation and vocabulary will become less "native", so-to-speak. This is especially true of conference interpreters whose work brings them into contact with speakers of a given language, English in this case, from all over the world. As you concentrate on their presentations, you should forget all thoughts of pronounciation on your part and concentrate on your interpretation of their message. Nobody who listens to you will complain whether you sound more British or more American - what they will complain about is the misuse of prepositions (a far too common weak point with non-native speakers), poor preparation of the subject matter, lack of technical vocabulary, incomplete interpretation, etc., etc., all of which you can control. If you have done a particularly good job - and all our work is word perfect, isn't it? ;- - what they might do is refer to "that excellent interpreter, you know, the American/the Englishman" as the only means to identify the nameless person they are praising.

As a native speaker of English, there is nothing I dislike more than the non-native speaker who speaks an absolutely perfect English - a kind of parody of what used to be called the King's English - yet consistently gets 'to', 'in', 'at', 'for', etc. wrong! Concentrate on your output first - audio tapes, extended visits to an English-speaking country, books, all are good aides, but they are just supplementary. Oh, and by the way, if you are thinking of travelling to an English-speaking country, keep local linguistic idiosynchrasies in mind such as those you hear in Belize (British Honduras) where the locals will proudly tell you "We is the British"!

All the best, MGG

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answered 21 Feb '13, 17:49

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Dear MGG: thanks a lot for your kind advice and insight. I agree with you esp. for the "prepositions part". Sometimes I found my sentence stumbled at such words "to","in","at","for". This reminds me that I should build a more solid basis for English. Thank you again. :-)

(21 Feb '13, 19:43) Paris Si de ...

... un vaste programme indeed :-)!

So much goes into accent and it is such a minefield in certain cultures - eg British, where as soon as one opens one's mouth assumptions are made about one's origins, background, academic path and future prospects... so much so that one wonders how orality survived :-) - that there really isn't much I can say by way of replying to your question, other than of course LISTEN to native (the more and more diverse the merrier) speech patterns, accents, intonations... the music of the language, as it were... and my reference to music is not idle, if that's not already the case by all means "get musical" it'll do wonders for your "ear"...and if singing proves to be your thing, for your voice and breathing as well :-).

Cultivate your native friends so that they'll kindly not only let you learn by example but also correct you... and if at all possible, look for specialised guidance, there are experts in these matters that teach elocution, diction, etc.

Do not however allow yourself to get blocked by the feeling that you'll never sound completely native... that's alright because you're NOT :-) nor is that necessarily a hindrance, provided a certain level has been achieved... plus linguists at large and interpreters in particular attach far more importance to these matters than audiences... good luck! :-)

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answered 05 Sep '12, 00:54

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edited 05 Sep '12, 14:33

Hi, MSR:

Thanks for your kind answer. Thanks to your vast knowledge/experience and kindness, I benefit a lot as always from your all-round reply.

I understand, the language/ accent is so particular, that one's identity either geographical or hierachical/ social class can be revealed directly. It works like coordinates.

1)I have a question, by "music of the language", do you mean the songs or rhythm of sentences? 2) Yes, I will shift my emphasis to basic skills of conf-interpreting. Thank you.

Kindest regards


(05 Sep '12, 01:29) Paris Si de ...

;-) although one can indeed learn a great deal from songs and pop music in general, I did mean the ebb and flow of phonemes within words - ie which are stressed and which aren't - words within sentences and sentences within paragraphs; listening to a language you don't understand at all illustrates what I mean: albeit sometimes left with quite the wrong impression, you are left with AN impression of what's being said (and an opinion as to the "likeability" of said language) based on the "music of the language"... and quite irrespective of actual meaning, those patterns are very often more distinctive of a given language than, say, the "actual" value of "o" in scone ;-)

(05 Sep '12, 14:42) msr

Yes, MSR, thank you for your insightful reply. Sorry, I nearly missed it. I agree with your idea/ theory. So, the predictable elements of original speech (any language in question) include flow of phoneme (rhythm and speed as mentioned by Almute), besides logic and habitual collocation.If one obtains enough background knowledge, the contents are absolutely predictable, from aspects either sound, meaning, logic, structure, emotion. What varies is only the specific wording. And after one is fully equipped with the basic caliber of those mentioned above, the performance only can be differentiated through wording. Am I right? :) Thank you. Paris

(06 Sep '12, 19:56) Paris Si de ...

Dear Paris,

I discovered many usefull features of the English language with this book:

English Pronunciation in Use Advanced

Book with Answers, 5 Audio CDs and CD-ROM

Martin Hewings (Author)

ISBN-10: 0521693764

ISBN-13: 978-0521693769

amazon link

Many of the things described here I hadn't known for many years.

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answered 05 Sep '12, 04:48

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Dear Nacho:

Thanks for your nice answer.

I just found the book as advised by you (ONLY FYI, on the same page, another book named "Get Rid of Your Accent, 3ed, 2006 " is also listed, just in case you may be interested), and will read it a bit later. I'm sure it's going to be very helpful. Thanks again. :)

Have a nice day!

Best regards Paris Si

(05 Sep '12, 06:52) Paris Si de ...
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question asked: 04 Sep '12, 23:58

question was seen: 7,422 times

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