How to Sound Like a Native English Speaker: 7 Tips for Better Pronunciation
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt like you were speaking clearly, but native English speakers couldn’t understand you?
This can be frustrating, to say the least.
Because you don’t have a native accent, some English speakers will have trouble understanding your accent and pronunciation. Yet it’s not your fault if you’re speaking clearly, and still aren’t understood.
Often, native speakers just aren’t expecting to hear certain sounds or vocabulary, especially if they think someone is a non-native speaker. Psychological experiments have shown that native brains can block out even obvious things, like cleary-spoken sounds!
But here’s the thing – you can sound like a native English speaker and be understood. With the right approach and effective English-speaking practice, you can sound more natural and achieve lifelong fluency.
Today I’ll show several ways to increase your fluency, decrease your accent, and sound like a native English speaker… and you can do it all by yourself.
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1. Copy a Native English Accent You Like
English includes various accents from around the world.
British English, American English, Australian English, South African English, Singapore English – the list goes on.
The point I’m making is that there isn’t one single “proper” English accent.
English accents can make it difficult for anyone to understand, even native English speakers.
When natives hear a word pronounced differently or a phrase used that they don’t understand, it can make it harder for them to follow a conversation.
One of the ways to sound like a native speaker is to find a native accent you like and copy it.
When you’re choosing a native English accent to copy, remember that you should find a voice right for you. You still want to sound natural. Each voice is unique, and while an Australian accent, for example, is fun to copy, it may not be the right fit for everyone, especially if you’re living in Canada.
Once you’ve found a native English accent that you like and want to copy, immerse yourself in it!
Listen to as many native speakers as you can that sound like that. Watch movies and TV shows in that accent and imitate their pronunciation. Take note of the intonation and rhythm they use as they speak. Your goal is really to find a native voice that fits you, which comes from a mix of all of the native examples you learn with.
2. Master Individual Sounds With Sound Transitioning
English has many sounds, many of which may not exist in your native language. A hallmark of being fluent is being able to master these individual sounds.
When you first learned your native language as a child, you imitated the sounds that the people around you made. You moved your mouth and tongue to match their facial expressions as they slowly said the words you were learning.
This is the way in which many adults are taught to learn English pronunciation – but this method is misguided.
Instead, I developed a technique called Sound Transitioning. It’s a simple way to connect the sounds we make with the right facial motions. Let’s see how it works.
Start with the sound ahhh, like the sound you make after drinking something cold on a hot day. Most languages have this sound, so it might be familiar to you. Try making that sound now.
Ahhh ahhh ahhh.
When we physically make that sound, our mouths are wide open. Next, we’re going to transform that ahhh sound into an ou sound, as in loud or sound, by simply moving our mouths into an O shape.
Try it – make the ahhh sound and move your mouth into the O shape. The key is to keep making the sound as you move your mouth. This helps you hear exactly what mouth shapes make what sounds. And it’s why I call this transitioning; You move from one sound to another.
You did it! We just transformed one sound into another, without any of the complex lessons or diagrams about mouth and tongue positions.
3. Learn How Sounds Blend Together
Native English speakers blend sounds together seamlessly, creating a smooth and connected flow of speech. There are a lot of ways that this can happen, so pay attention to the way native speakers link words together, shorten sounds, and use contractions.
Once you’re comfortable with learning individual sounds, you can practice with phrases, which are a few words together. Frederick is a great tool for practicing both of these!
It’s a university-level listening, pronunciation, and accent-reduction training program that looks and feels like a game! Using step-by-step lessons, Frederick can improve your English intonation and voice almost overnight, without studying any rules.
With Frederick, you can instantly compare letter combinations with scrollable wheels to distinguish English sounds like a native. Practicing this will help you reduce your accent through finely-tuned listening exercises. If you want to be understood the first time, every time, you need to try it.
Then, many sentences will teach you how to connect things naturally, like a native, because the sounds of words often change when spoken together. As an example, “an apple,” is blended naturally as “a-napple.”
4. Learn English Phrases in Context
Next, native English speakers use phrases and words that can have many meanings. The context of those words and phrases helps listeners understand what they’re talking about.
A perfect example of understanding English phrases in context is when you watch a movie from start to finish.
You learn everything there is to know about the characters, where the movie is taking place, and what the plot line is. You understand what is happening in the storyline, even if you don’t understand all the words or phrases, because you’ve learned about the story’s context.
If you were to start the movie in the middle, it may be more difficult to follow the plot because you are unsure of the characters, their motivations, and the storyline.
Learning English phrases is just like this – you need context. So rather than memorizing word or phrase lists, take note of new words or phrases as you hear them. This helps you to understand them deeply because you understand the context.
5. Understand English Idioms
You’ve likely come across idioms in English that are used in everyday conversations – some you may recognize, while others may be new to you.
It’s important to understand English idioms because they’re used all the time in everyday conversations, books, songs, and movies.
An idiom is a group of words or saying that has a figurative meaning, rather than a literal one. The words used may not literally mean what the speaker is saying.
When someone says “This is the last straw!” in an angry tone of voice, they likely aren’t referring to the final drinking straw left in the box.
In this example, the speaker is expressing that they can’t handle it anymore and have reached a breaking point.
“The last straw” comes from another common idiom, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Imagine stacking pieces of straw on top of a camel’s back, piece by piece. Eventually, the weight of the straw will be too much for the camel to hold, and the camel will collapse. The “last straw” was the one that made the camel collapse.
6. Practice Conversations With Many Native English Speakers
Once you’re feeling confident about your vocabulary and grammar, there’s no better way to improve your spoken English and sound like a native speaker than through conversing with native speakers – and lots of them!
The more exposure you have to many different native English speakers, the more opportunities you will have to learn different accents, vocabulary, and speaking styles.
If you don’t have native speakers near you in your everyday life, you can find them online in groups, or through YouTube videos, where people discuss topics that interest you.
7. Speak About Things That Interest You
It’s way easier to practice sounding like a native English speaker when you talk about things that interest YOU.
Your passion and enthusiasm will shine through, and your authenticity will make you sound more like a native English speaker.
Share your thoughts and opinions on subjects that excite you. This might be your hobbies, work, or personal experiences. By speaking about things that interest you, you’ll quickly learn about idiomatic expressions and native-like phrasing in your conversations.
Is cooking something that you are passionate about? If so, you could talk about your favorite recipes, cooking techniques, or experiences in your home kitchen.
Discuss your passions with other native English speakers, or get involved in a cooking class where you can speak with others who share your interests.
Sound Like a Native English Speaker With Fluent For Life
Sounding like a native English speaker can be intimidating at first, but it is entirely possible. Now that you have a few new tools to use, it’s time to learn English as a FIRST language so you speak more like a native!
If you’re worried about making a mistake or people not understanding you, I can help you get the natural practice you need, all by yourself.
Fluent For Life is the ONLY language that teaches you English as a first language, which is why it helps you sound native, and guarantees fluency.