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What's the best way for me to improve my English pronounciation?

by ChristianKl1 min read2nd Jan 201914 comments



I'm a native German speaker and learned a good portion of my English not in school but by reading English content.

As part of a New Years event we did a Doom Circle and one essential feedback I got was that I have to improve my English accent.

When it comes to my budget I'm willing to invest a few hundred Euro but not thousands.

What would you recommend to me to improve my English pronounciation?

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I've had the idea that someone should write an "AI-based" accent trainer. The idea is to train a ML classifier to recognize some target accent, and then use that to provide the user with rapid feedback on how close they are to that accent. Ah, it looks like someone did it already: https://www.elsanow.io/

I suggest a fast and cheap procedure:

1. Identify a person who you want to sound more like (an English-speaking actor, for example).

2. Listen to them say a phrase.

3. Record yourself while you mimic the way they say the phrase.

4. Check the recording and then return to 3 until you are satisfied.

5. Return to 2.

You don't even really need a recording; you should be able to tell just by listening to yourself speak. A recording will help you understand how other people hear you speak though, and is more precise. I expect you would see significant progress in only a few hours.

I'm not sure how much speech lessons are, but there are people who will help you learn new accents by leading you through guided exercises to help you change the way you produce the phonemes in the target language. I can think of at least a couple people I know who did this and then ended up sounding much more "native" than they originally did, where it was very clear they were second-language speakers and had distinct accents tied to their first language.

A cheap alternative might be using YouTube and material you can find online. You can lead yourself through these kinds of exercises for free; you just don't get the benefit of quick feedback from someone who can hear how well you are progressing and give specific suggestions for things you might try to advance faster.

A wild suggestion: Try voice-acting a variety of characters from TV or books.

As a non-Japanese-native, one thing which helps me shed my "foreigner's accent" is by rehearsing 'Kamehameha' and similar punch lines from Dragon Ball as a kid. Pick some of your best characters in one of their best moments and try your best to sound like them. It helps over time.

If you're willing to invest the equivalent of a few hundred Euro of your time, the Ward Audiobook Project and many others are always looking for volunteer narrators.