Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Pick an accent in English that sounds very extreme to you. Learn to speak that accent. For example, if you live in California learn to speak the difficult words as if you are from Texas or Georgia. Don't aspire to say "there" but go for "thar" instead. Example "can you hand me that book over thar?" Your goal should be to make people think, "this guy speaks good English. When he moved here he probably refined his English in Texas or somewhere in the South."

Once you have learned to mimic one accent you can quickly master another.

Source: I did this myself in Brazil when learning Portuguese. The words that were hard to pronounce I would say like I was from Rio. It was easier to mimic the accent from Rio because it was different from what I was hearing every day. If I were actually in Rio I would have probably found it easier to mimic a Paulistano accent.




Thanks for the answer, it's an interesting method! The main problem (I think) would be that self-study material tends to be heavily skewed toward either West Coast or East Coast accent, and I don't think I have seen anything on Southern accent.

I actually have been thinking about something similar for a while too. In my case, I thought that British accent would be easier for me to mimic. I haven't actually tried that out yet and now seems to be a good time to do so. Would British accent be a good goal? Out of curiosity, has there ever been a case of someone having a "too thick" British accent that would make it hard for American to understand?


Yes, you should mimic a British accent. Your first impression should be correct choice for you. There are different types of accents and some would be considered too strong to be understood, but you probably won't gravitate to those. I recommend you watch all episodes of Peep Show on Hulu. The characters are English with a few Scots. The shots are mostly close ups so you can really study the mouth movements. The characters are very affected and therefore easy to mimic. You should be able to say "right" just like Jeremy or "turkey fucker" like Johnson from the first go.


I find that I have to learn how the phoneme is actually said (where is the tongue, etc.) and then practice it a lot with recording(s) of native speakers (i.e. a recorded TV show) to compare with. Once you can make the right sound, practice it until you can say it easily.

If you have friendly native speakers, you may be able to get them to exaggerate the sound. E.G. the difference between thin and then is that the 'th' in then gets voiced (your throat vibrates) and the vowel is different. 'World' has an extra syllable (wur - ul - d) vs. 'word' (wur - d). I'm less sure about your issues with the others, save that certain sounds probably don't exist in your native language.

And those you just have to study & practice. I know how hard it is, though, having learned such sounds as 'ng', the 'eu' vowel in 'feu' (French - fire), glottal stops (yes, those exists in the English word bookcase, but...), the Japanese 'R'-group sounds (they're not 'R's or 'L's as we know them).


As others have mentioned, there are many different British accents. I wouldn't recommend a Cockney accent. However, a nice neutral British accent, like a BBC newscaster is a very good accent to have. Most Americans perceive people with such accents as being more intelligent and more attractive than people with neutral American accents. As someone who grew up in the Midwest and intentionally made my accent more neutral American while living on the East Coast, I have a pretty neutral American accent. However, now that I'm living in Hong Kong, I'm intentionally trying to pronounce my vowels in a slightly more British manner. However, I'm too attached to my Rs to switch to a non-rhotic British accent.

A slight Southern American accent sometimes does cause many Americans to perceive someone as more trustworthy, and some Americans do find a slight Southern accent to be very attractive. Though, be warned that a Southern accent may cause some Americans to perceive you as more stubborn and slightly less intelligent.


Britain has many incomprehensible accents, but as long as you stay in the realm of comprehensible ones you'll be fine.


Yes, there are plenty of American comedy skits about unintelligible British.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: