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Why do people have accents?

American English has complex sounds. Many letters have more than one sound. Some letters even have five sounds. Stress also changes the way we speak. Most English classes simplify American English pronunciation. Other reasons why people have accents are:
  • learning British English in the native country
  • having to speak with new sounds--sounds not in your language
  • being from a tonal language--which makes it harder to practice syllable and word stress
  • learning from teachers who have accents

Can people reduce their accents?

Yes! Many people who think they have heavy accents are pronouncing only two or three sounds incorrectly, such as R or TH. To change a sound:

  • learn the correct position
  • practice reading and speaking every day
  • keep practicing until the sound is easy

All of my students have said that family or friends hear their improvement. Test results also show that accents can be reduced. Students that had failed the TOEFL speaking test or the USMLE interview (for medical students) were able to pass after taking private classes.

People with light accents usually need to practice the American accent, the vowels (which are the most complex) as well as studying syllable stress and word stress.

How long does it take to reduce an accent?

Most students need at least 3 months. Because we speak every day, an accent can return if a person does not practice regularly for enough time. The good news is that this website has videos and word lists so that you can practice by yourself. Many people benefit by taking classes because the teacher helps the person become sure of the sounds and positions of the mouth. However, you can take classes and practice by yourself or use this site when your classes are finished to review whenever you need. Continue learning about accents and pronunciation with all the pages below.

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More Accent Facts

Learn the American Accent

What is Standard American?

Prepare to Speak: Warm-up

Articulation: Speak Clearly

Student Questions

More Accent Facts

How to Change Your Speech

Chart of English Language Accents

Choosing Your Voice

Milestones in Pronunciation

Accent Training with Thoughts

Should ESL learners study pronunciation?

Of course! It is unfortunate that many English as a Second Language classes do not stress pronunciation enough. The sooner you learn pronunciation rules, the better.

To study based on your language background, go to Learn by Language. Or
study Business Communication.
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