Accent is made up of two main components: pronunciation and prosody (or rhythm). Working on getting your pronunciation and prosody good in the beginning is essential as these tend to be difficult to correct once you’ve already gotten used to speaking in a particular way in the language.
1. When you first start with a new language, it is important to familiarize yourself with the particular sounds and rhythm of the language. I recommend listening to a lot of the language in its natural form (film, TV, podcasts, music, radio etc.) even if you don’t understand much in order to get some exposure to the prosody of the new language. You can even do this by having the language play in the background while you focus on other tasks.
2. There are likely to be many sounds that your ear will not be able to recognize as you will not have come across them in your native language. Moreover, this also means that the muscles your mouth are not used to making the correct movements. Here I recommended a combination of training your mouth with the IPA alphabet (see link) and working with a native speaker (friend or teacher) to identify all the sounds in the new language before you begin reading a lot. This way you will get a good feeling for the various sound combinations and stress patterns in your new language.
3. The written word is simply a graphical representation of the sounds we use to communicate information. Unfortunately, different languages represent the same sound combinations with different letters when using similar alphabets. This makes reading out loud correctly extremely tricky when you start out with a new language even if you are using the same alphabet as your native tongue. For example, ‘e’ in English represents a sound that is made at the front of the mouth but in French the sound represented by ‘e’ is made at the back. Therefore, reading a French text and using a native English interpretation of the script will result in completely the wrong sound and one that is closer to the ‘i’ letter in French. Quite simply, native speakers will not understand you so it is important not to fall into this trap.
In these pages, I will briefly outline the fundamentals of my language learning routine. A more indepth description of these principles and their application to language learning will be published in a forthcoming eBook. So please subscribe to my mailing list (below) if you are interested in being notified of when this will be published and other important developments at Language Tsar before they are announced on my website or YouTube channel.