How to get rid of your German accent in English in 4 easy steps
An accent is learned while learning a language. The German accent of the English teacher, for example, is imitated and internalized. Once learned, an accent is hard to get away again.
It is important to choose one from the many different English accents. A mishmash of different accents otherwise leads to the fact that one does not keep to a certain pronunciation any more.
In addition to classical courses and exchanges with native speakers, it can be very helpful to constantly surround yourself with the language – even without actively learning it.
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How to recognize a German tourist or expat abroad? White socks and sandals? Rather not. Most of the time it is the German accent that reveals where you really come from. Some Germans are not bothered by their own accent in English and blithely chatter away. Others are downright ashamed when a German soccer player shows off his German accent on TV.
An accent is not a bad thing, and it does not necessarily say anything about the language level. But if you can express yourself without an accent, you give the impression that your English is on a par with that of a native speaker. Unfortunately, getting rid of an accent is not as easy as getting rid of white tennis socks. So if you are determined to get rid of your German accent in English and take the time to do so, you should consider the following tips:
How an accent is formed in the first place
German is spoken in the middle of the tongue and English in the back of the throat. When you learn a foreign language, you automatically pronounce words as if they were your own mother tongue. When learning a language, it is therefore very important to master the correct tongue technique. But this one is not paid too much attention at many schools. Knowing the phonetic spelling of a word is also essential – as the normal spelling of a word is pronounced as usual in the mother tongue methodology.
An accent is learned while learning a language. The German accent of the English teacher is automatically repeated and internalized again and again during school lessons. Once learned, an accent is hard to get rid of again. The fastest and most error-free way to learn a language is usually in a native-speaker country. With a few tricks, however, you can pretend that you are right there in the native-speaker country and that the language is all-encompassing.
Being ashamed of your accent does not help anyone
If you don’t really like your own accent, or are even ashamed of it, you should be aware that it is a great hindrance to your language development. If you hardly ever speak for fear of making mistakes or mispronunciation, you are only giving yourself a leg up. Learning a language also means making mistakes and learning from them. The more self-confident you are when speaking a language, the easier it will be to pronounce it in the end.
Why you should never be ashamed of your accent is also shown by many Hollywood celebrities. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Austrian accent is what really made him famous in English. The accent makes him unmistakable and has become his trademark.
These four simple steps will take you one step closer to your goal of speaking English without an accent:
Step 1: Decide on a particular accent
In English itself there are different accents and dialects. A mishmash of different accents inevitably leads to the fact that one no longer adheres to any particular pronunciation oneself. Here you should proceed strategically. Even if you like the Australian accent very much, learning it won’t do you much good if you only want to communicate with your English in the UK.
So you have to decide for yourself what you want to use your English for the most. Within Europe, British English is the closest. For the American continent, of course, the American English. Trying to learn all the accents when you haven’t mastered one yet can backfire and lead to confusion.
Step 2: Surround yourself with the language and also become subconsciously familiar with it
It is well known that you learn a flawless pronunciation directly in the respective country. But since this isn’t always possible, here’s where you can do a little trickery. Search for an online radio station from the country whose accent you want to imitate and listen to it regularly. This is also a way of subconsciously familiarizing oneself with the accent in question.
If radio is too boring for you, you can also look for a suitable audio book or podcast. In the meantime, the selection of audio books and podcasts from all over the world and the most diverse categories is enormous, so that no wish remains unfulfilled. The more you are interested in the topic of the audio book or podcast, the easier it will be to listen to it and thus to learn it.
Watch also series and movies in the original version. The difference with spoken language is that you can engage multiple senses when watching a movie. You not only listen to a dialogue, but also see what is happening in the film, can read along with the subtitles and even repeat what is said.
Step 3: Follow the actors’ lead and take language training
In the film industry, learning an accent is no longer a novelty. The American actress Renee Zellweger learned a British accent for her role in "Bridget Jones" and Leonardo DiCaprio taught himself a Rhodesian accent for the movie "Blood Diamond".
Actors naturally receive professional language training from the best language coaches. In the meantime there are language trainings and pronunciation courses but also for self-learning. An online course to learn the British or American accent teaches the necessary tongue techniques that you need to master for the accent.
Whereas with a private language trainer you first have to create a concept according to which you divide up your learning units, prefabricated online courses are based on a tried and tested learning concept. The training sessions also contain countless examples – and here the most important thing is to take time for the debate and also to stay on the ball. Within one to two weeks with daily exercises you can already notice significant progress.
Step 4: Exchange ideas with native speakers
But a language must also be spoken. This can be done at home in the quiet closet. But if no one listens to you, mistakes can creep in again, and it is difficult to forget them.
Various portals on the net provide language teachers and language students from all over the world. Language teachers are paid by the hour, and since there are so many different language teachers, a suitable language teacher can usually be found quickly for any budget. The lessons then take place according to agreed dates via Skype.
The tandem principle can also work well to exchange with a native speaker. You don’t pay your tandem partner, however, and in return you have to teach them your own native language. For pupils and students this principle is optimal, while for professionals it is more difficult to arrange appointments.
The exchange with a native speaker is there to ensure that the "aha" moments from the language training also find application and enter the long-term memory. As everywhere, however, the same applies here: Practice makes perfect.
Marlene Schimanski is the founder of Auslandskarriere. She was sworn in as a translator and interpreter for the English language in 2012 and has been working as a career coach for the English Career Factory since 2013.