How Public Speakers Can Minimize Their Accent

by drjim on July 28, 2015

Don't let your accent hold back your pubic speaking

Don’t let your accent hold back your pubic speaking

Image Credit: Satish Krishnamurthy

I just happen to speak English. I’d like to be able to tell you that I speak it very well; however, that’s really up to other people to decide. What I can tell you is that it is the only language that I speak fluently and it’s the language that I’ve always spoken. This provides me with an unfair advantage over many other speakers – they have accents that can distract an audience when they are speaking in English. What can they do in order to become more effective speakers?

It Turns Out That Your Accent Is Not A Problem

So what is it going to take in order to allow someone who grew up speaking a language that was not English to maximize the importance of public speaking andeffectively communicate with an audience in English? It turns out, somewhat surprisingly, your accent is not going to be a problem.

There are a lot of great examples of successful famous people who speak with a heavy accent. Antonio Banderas is the one that pops into my mind first. Yes, these people have an accent, but it really makes them memorable – it’s not a distraction. How have they managed to accomplish this? It turns out that they’ve discovered the secret to speaking good English: mastering the sounds of English.

It turns out that the English that everyone wants to hear has a pattern to it. This pattern is made up of specific “pitch” and “rhythms”. Speakers who’s native language is not English can still speak in a way that will connect with their audience if they can learn to deliver their words in a manner that will be harmonious to the ear of their English-speaking audience.

It’s All About How You Say It

One of reasons that non-native speakers of English have such a problem with the language is because their ears have not been trained to hear the basic sound patterns that make up the English language. What is going to have to be learned is how to place stress within a sentence and then how to manage both the beats and the rhythms of the English language.

A lot of the difficulties that non-native speaker of English run into starts in the classroom. There they are taught each word of English individually. However, in the real world when we are speaking English, we don’t pronounce each word separately. Rather, we tend to run them together. One way to describe how English is spoken is to describe what we do as using melodic sound units.

What this all means for a non-native English speaker is that in order to speak English well, they need to retrain their ears. They need to find ways to listen to the melody of the sound units and then hear the words within. Native English speakers tend to shorten and contract words so that they can slide them together in order to create melodies.

What All Of This Means For You

If you didn’t grow up speaking English, then learning to speak English later on in life can be quite a challenge. However, even if you do learn all of the words that make up the English language, you still have a big challenge ahead of you: minimizing your accent. What you need to realize is that you don’t have to eliminate your accent, you just need to learn how to match how other people speak English in order to gain the benefits of public speaking.

It turns out that the secret to speaking English even if you do have an accent, is to discover the melody of English. When native speakers speak English, they use a specific pitch and rhythm. Words are shortened and contracted in order to slide them together. Mastering this technique will allow speakers with accents to be understood by their audience.

When we give a speech, we work hard to deliver the best speech possible. We don’t want something like an accent to stand in our way. We want to be able to connect with our audience. Learning how English “sounds” to an audience and then taking steps to match this sound is the key to minimizing the impact of our accent. Follow these suggestions and you’ll permit your next audience to focus on your speech, not your accent.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: What do you think is the best way to master the rhythm and flow of the English language?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

You can attend all of the fancy speaking classes that you want, but there is a very good chance that they are not going to teach you what you really need to know. The reason that they won’t is because despite the importance of public speaking, they don’t know what you are really looking for. However, I do. What you want most as a pubic speaker is for your next audience to fall in love with you. To treasure your every word. To not only understand what you are saying, but also to come to believe what you are saying. In order to make this happen, you need to become more like your audience.

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