Pronunciation of Vowels and Consonants
Your lips, teeth, tongue, cheeks, nasal cavity, throat, breath, and yes, even over all body posture, work together to create an incredible array of sounds. When we’re learning a new accent, we have to train our muscles to work in different ways to produce sounds they’re not used to making, much like we do when learning a new sport.
We also have to train our ears to recognize the differences in the sounds we’re making versus that of a native speaker, so we can learn to mimic those sounds.
The phonetics of an accent are often a good place to start, but they’re only one aspect of speech. Many accent books start and end with phonetics, but they can be helpful in showing how to differentiate between sounds that look the same on the page.
2. Rhythm and Stress
The general cadence of speech, and patterns of choosing which words are emphasized.
In North American English, for example, we tend to emphasize the nouns and verbs that are the most important for the listener to understand. We have a way of grouping words by using emphasis that ends up sounding like jazz, or basket ball. It’s Music! Learn more here…
Geography often influences our speech patterns as well. An example is the tendency to slow the speech in warmer climates. Even time periods have characteristic accents and pacing. With globalization, however, we find more and more people who have a “neutral or standard” accent in metropolises all over the US, for example.
The song of emotional meaning.
We use recognizable melodic patterns to carry meaning, such as a rise or drop in pitch to indicate a question. More than that, they carry a common Song of a collective entity (country/area) and can convey emotion through the vowel notes.
Some melodic intervals are so particular that if you’re half-a-step off, you’re in another country.
4. Grammar and Word Choice
The structural bones of a language.
Foreign languages structure their grammar very differently than we do in English.As a result, grammar can be miss-matched unintentionally.
Study of the actual Language of the accent you’re learning is essential. It will teach you how they’re used to structuring grammar in their native tongue.
Education is also a factor, as there is a wide variance in rules and methods taught in schools.
Slang/Jargon/Colloquialisms: Language is always evolving. It’s alive! Different cultures and sub-cultures develop their own internal short-hand to convey complex concepts with a shared meaning. For example, “I messaged him.” We used to say “I sent him a message”, but since “I messaged him” is shorter, we simply transformed “message” from a noun into a verb.
In fact, in many circles, if you say, “I sent him a message”, others will assume you must have used an archaic form of communication, rather than any of the numerous applications that send Instant Messages. If you had sent an instant message, they reason, you would have used the simple verb “messaged.”
5. The Vibe
To Express it, you have to FEEL IT!
Your accent is a characteristic of your Voice, which is entirely linked to your identity and your being. Speech is an expression of who you think you are, who you want others to think you are, what you’re feeling, what you want… The same is true of everyone.
If you want to truly embody a different expression of energy (a different “accent”), you have to Believe you Are that energy. This will transform the way you hold and move your body and mouth, therefore changing the sound you produce. *hint: it’s FUN!