How do you get rid of strong foreign accent?

Can you share some tips for those language learners who would like to get rid of their strong accents? How stressful experience is it if every second guy or girl tells you to repeat yourself. First let me know how come students have strong accents in the first place? is it something to do with a lack of knowledge regrading phonetics or do they have a bad ear for mimicking sounds? or do you think they have not lived enough in that target language enviornment, in other words, in a target country where that language is spoken?

I’m no expert on this, but I can say that I notice whenever I speak more quickly I tend to mispronounce words more often. Slowing down my speech to give my tongue time to catch up usually helps. In addition, I can also more easily notice which words and phrases I need to practice on more.

This is a complicated thing. I haven’t heard you speak and don’t want to generalize, but I also want to help if possible. If I may take a guess based on many assumptions, I’d guess that your accent stems from the differences in sounds between Urdu and English. In my experience, many Hindi speakers substitute the nearest approximation in the Hindi sound system instead of learning new sounds. I don’t think this is wrong in any real sense, but if you want to reduce your accent then this is something I think it would be helpful to think about.

As someone that is an American learning Hindi-Urdu, I’ve found it very difficult to understand and replicate the new sounds. So I may have some insight from the reverse direction. The first step is to realize that the different sounds actually are different. In my case, I can’t always hear the differences in the first place, so I need to know how the sound is produced physically.

For me, I’ve had to pay very close attention to tongue placement and direction of air flow while speaking. For example, in English the ‘d’ sound is different than all four versions of ‘d’ found in Hindi-Urdu (d, dh, D, DH). In the English that is spoken in India and Pakistan the standard seems to be to pronounce the English ‘d’ as a ‘D’. This variation is seen as correct on the subcontinent and from that perspective it is correct. But if you want to be understood by the average English speaker in other parts of the world, then it’s important to try for a sound closer to the ‘d’ used in other English-speaking countries.

When I first began learning Hindi, the four 'd’s (in isolation) sounded identical to me. As it relates to understanding the English of Hindi-speakers, this may seem strange. Why can’t people understand you then? Well, I think that combining this slightly different ‘d’ sound with other slightly different sounds for many other letters results in an accent that is difficult to understand.

The same thing happens with the ‘t’ sound. There’s a reason the English word, ticket, is spelled टिकट (TikaT) in Hindi (sorry, I haven’t learned the script for Urdu yet). This is because this is how it is said by most Hindi-speakers. This is not the way it is normally said in American English. Switching the T for a t (त) doesn’t ‘fix’ the problem either since that’s a different sound as well.

If you want to change your accent to be more neutral then I think you should focus on these new sounds. Try to distinguish them, but more importantly try to approach them as entirely new sounds. This is very hard to do, but I know people who have done it successfully.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you want more details.

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“A bad ear”? Sometimes it can be difficult for older people, but in most cases that is just a lack of work. Researches show that 98 percent of Europeans achieve an absolute pitch in 3 months when they work on it for the purpose of learning a TONAL language. So, could be there an excuse for not having a good pronunciation in a language like English?

In fact, phonetics is a part of any language just as everything else is. The reason why so many people have problems with it is that they just think it is not as important as every other part is and don’t work on it at all. That is a real mistake, I believe. An awful pronunciation can annoy much more than a bad grammar! (even though people could find that some accents sound nice in their language)

One thing that is more important than phonetics (but is often easier to work on) are intonations. While bad pronunciation normally just annoys people, but it’s still possible to understand you, understanding those with intonations inadequate for a particular language can be a real struggle for a native speaker’s brain!

You can always find a special phonetic course unless you work on a minor language. Just never ignore this part of language learning! And like in everything else: more you do it, better you get at it.

Informative replies so far from all of you guys. It is hard to disagree with either one of you. In the end, it all comes down to practice individual sounds and to produce them correctly at the same time in a real life scenario. Since I start traveling outside my country and English is used as a main language for communication so I notice that I need to work on my pronunciation or accent a lot. Because of traveling I was able to get this real time feedback fron native speakers. If a Chinese, Thai, Arab, Filipino, Malaysian, Japanese could produce correct sounds in the language so could I (This was specially the case in Malaysia, every guy or gal from any country spoke good English). This has definitely got to do with how a particular language works and how you nail its basics. It is time to go back to the basics and try to learn individual sounds from scratch. Now I feel that this so called unimportant part is the most important part of learning a language. Now I realize that how stressful it is if you have a bad pronunciation.

@kcb. I used to pronounce “Th” sound in “Thai food” or “Thailand” in a typical Indian/Pakistani way until I heard how it was pronounced by a native Thai. It sounds more like “Tai food” or “Tai-land”. There was no real “h” sound.

Akon, American singer, who was recording a song for a hindhi film “Ra one.” I noticed the same thing he had a problem with “Th” sound in hindhi language because he was pronouncing it in his American way.
Your explanation makes a lot of sense.

Ignoring the phonology and prosody of the target language doesn’t really help you achieving a good (or even passable) accent.

Sadly, I’m usually not that impressed by any nationality I hear. I don’t think it’s as easy as shared phoneme inventory, or even being vaguely related linguistically (sometimes you hear all kinds of claims). While people from some regions seem to have more trouble, there are bad examples even in countries where English is “everywhere”. Accent in a foreign language is something that Swedes, Norwegians, Germans (and basically any nationality) aren’t that good at. Out of 100 learners I’d say a handful actually try to sound English/French/whatever and the rest just apply the phonology and prosody of their native language. Yes. Really. And we (up here in the North) even have access to the English language everyday through TV, radio and so on, and a fair share of other languages since we never dub movies.

So, are people lazy or haven’t they got enough information?

I wonder if “lack of phonetic/prosodical understanding” leads to “lack of effort” or if people just don’t put in any effort regardless of any possible instructions.

There is more to communicating/understanding than pure pronunciation - native speakers understand each other even if the other person has a some kind of speech impediment, thick accent, is chewing gum, has a fat lip, is numb from having been to the dentist’s etc. They know what to listen for, hear if the prosody is right and then fill in the blanks.

Hey Urdu, can i ask why you would get rid of your accent? please tell me it’s not because you think your way of pronouncing English as improper English or as an embarrassment. Indian English, is to my knowledge, considered to be an accepted variant of English, just as American, Australian etc are variants of English. As long as your proficiency in English is Hight you do not need to worry about your accent, as English has your dialect included. So cheer up and embrace it :slight_smile:

I can see the benefit of wanting to be able to speak standardized English, as it is a great tool for so many purposes, like you one mentioned, traveling,

A Tip for loosing your accent; completely break down everything you know about speaking and now try to speak as if you were a mute, that has been granted the gift of speech. then try and imitate the sounds of English, one syllable at a time.
do expect, a lot of tongue twisting, loss of breath and hard work. ~~,

@Klettuer - Everyone had a problem understanding my pronunciation in English. Therefore, I had to repeat myself all the time which was very discouraging. I also carried a small diary in my pocket in case if people could not understand me orally. This repeating thing is too stressful now. It happened to me everywhere be it UAE, Thailand or Malaysia. My accent was way too strong. I was told this by an English tutor from Texas. The only suggestion she gave me was to hear a sentence many times and try to pronounce it several times until I got it perfect in my mouth. She was like, listening was not enough for me, I had to pronounce words correctly as well.

Oh, I didn’t think it was that bad. You’ll really need to work at it then. Sadly i do not know any easy way out.
but I know what you could do to easen the stress, one way is to; mentally focus really hard on many words, one at a time try to pronounce while whisper it ever so slowly, many times over, while closing in on the right pronunciation, and then on to the next word and so on, and so on, gradually speaking lauder and lauder as you get more confident and more accurate pronouncements

By yourself, whispering, is at least a less of stressful a manner than speaking aloud with another person evaluating every word you say, the mere act of speaking is stressful when you’re desperate.
This whispering technique helped me with my English and Danish, I found that you could better manipulate your voice when whispering slowly, than you can, when speaking normally.

Klettur, that’s is ridiculous: since the fall of the Eastern Block English became a more common lingua franca for many Eastern Europeans and Baltains than Russian and/or German. Should we now talk of our distinct norm of English pronunciation as well?


@eugrus No. As for with Indian English I’m not simply talking about huge populations of people speaking, in a common none native language in order to communicate, between themselves as in eastern Europe. but Indian English; as well, as being the major lingua franca in India, there’s a special thing about Indian English, that few accents can credit them selves with, is how large an affect it has had on, that we know to be popular English. the crown jewel of the British empire, India, has enriched the English language with a thousands of words through the centuries. hundred of which, are used by every modern speaker of the English.
Indian English has for the last century now been used more than just a lingua franca in India, it has reached native status. as hundred of thousands of Indians speak English above the same mutual native language of their fellow in Indian.

I would try Elpolaco method. As to come to think of it. I’ used to do that a lot, and so did many of my friends. has a manner of fact. I think that’s De method for Teenagers in Europe to learn speak English. by Imitating quotes and phrases found in pop culture; cinema, TV shows and videogames etc.

Klettur, there is always some enrichment with new vocabulary, relating to local realities wherever a language is used on a new ground or by a new group. Indian English is no difference in that sense.


I agree with elpolaco. You need to listen a lot to the kind of English you want to emulate. You also need to train yourself to notice little things in how the language is pronounced, including intonation and rhythm. You also need to imagine yourself as a member of the “in group” of people who speak that way.

Thanks a lot for your input. Much appreciated.

Hi asad100101, i’m new here and I read all the previous posts. I wanted add that you want to do it’s very difficult because, phonologically speaking, learning a second language is more easily accomplished in very young children because our vocal cords are muscles that take a particular shape as they will strengthen the knowledge of our mother tongue. The brain is training to recognize the meaningful sounds for language training and sensitivity to those who are not, and so learn the vocal cords to produce meaningful sounds while struggling to articulate those who are not. This, among all, the condition is more irreversible when we are adults is very difficult to get used to perceive the sounds say that there are in our mother tongue.

guido, that’s the norm, and you are absolutely right there however my main goal is not have a native like accent but something along the lines where I can be understood by other speakers. I’m sure given the exposure to the language we can make improvements. It is like a bumpy road for us since we do not live in the target enviornment 24/7. If I were to live in a native speaking enviornment, , I’d soften up my accent quite a bit and pick up the language naturally. Some sort of assimilation period might do wonders however that means traveling to another country which equals to expending lots of money.

Anyhow, I really appreciate your honest opinion. Trying different techniques suggested by the aforementioned learners might work in any case it is something better than nothing option unless you can afford to spend time in a foreign country.