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I have recently moved to Canada and I feel I often end up having to repeat myself because of my typical accent. I am attaching a link to a very short audio and would love to know what can I do to fix my accent. I understand pronunciation differences like t,d and the likes. But keeping those in mind and yet it does not seem to do the trick for me. I try to follow the suggestions with those specific vowel pronunciations and t and d pronunciations but still end up sounding pretty much the same.

Attached a short audio: https://voca.ro/dJbxaNePunb

Would love to know what can I change to sound more native/neutral.

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    Does this answer your question? How to improve or get rid of an Indian English Accent? – ColleenV Apr 22 at 11:23
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    For me personally, it's the cadence and rhythm that gives me the most trouble understanding the typical Indian English accent. It seems the vowel lengths and tonality are different. But I had absolutely no problem understanding your recording! (Midwest Am.E speaker.) – TypeIA Apr 22 at 12:23
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    I would leave your accent as is, and only make sure to make sure to pronounce the V. There is no reason to change one's accent. I am an interpreter and many interepreters have accents. The point is to be clear and you are. I disagree with most of the uninformed opinions expressed in the answers. Many native English speakers have accents and no one is asking them to get rid of them. The point is clarity, not accent. – Lambie Apr 23 at 14:27
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    I have learned other languages as an adult and I think after a point it becomes impossible to get rid of a foreign accent, you just have to embrace it and not get annoyed if people ask you to repeat yourself. As long as you are clear, 90% of people will understand you. – Tom Apr 23 at 14:52
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    Find, if you can, someone whose native language is English and listen to them speak your native tongue. You will hear an English accent. Imitate that when speaking English. – EvilSnack Apr 23 at 15:15

16 Answers 16

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Your speaking voice is really lovely and not difficult for me to understand. However, I live in a part of the United States where there are a lot of immigrants from India and I've had many Indian co-workers over the years. Here are some suggestions for making you accent more understandable to North Americans who are less familiar with hearing an Indian accents:

  • Like many people from India, you speak English a little faster than a native speaker. Your words and sentences also tend to run together.

  • Concentrate on clearly pronouncing all the consonant sounds in each word. Consonants are very important to comprehension for native English speakers. Focusing on consonants will naturally cause the tempo of your speech to slow down. It's easy to run vowel sounds together quickly, but not so easy to run together consonants. That's why English is spoken more slowly than languages like Spanish, which have a lot of vowel sounds and softer consonants.

  • Pause slightly wherever you would put a comma or a period in written English. These little pauses are part of the natural rhythm of spoken English. For example where you say, "I'm off to Canada about 9 months back and so I'm pretty new here and recently I've been feeling like I have to repeat myself several times when I'm speaking..." it all runs together. A native speaker would sound more like, "I'm off to Canada about 9 months back. [pause] So, [pause] I'm pretty new here [pause] and recently [pause] I've been feeling like [pause] I have to repeat myself several times when I'm speaking [pause]..."

  • Also, try to copy how native English speakers put stress on one syllable in each word. When you say "Canada" each syllable has almost the same stress. A native speaker would emphasize the first syllable, "CAN-uh-duh".

I hope this helps! Good luck to you!

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    When I say that your words run together, I mean that you say all your words at the same pace, without the little pauses that native English speakers use to separate sentences and ideas. This a characteristic of spoken English that I think is hard for speakers of languages that are more vowel-driven and have a faster tempo. A lot of it comes from how English speakers pronounce consonants. When I studied Spanish, I had the opposite problem. Consonants in Spanish are soft and the vowels are emphasized and pure. In spoken English, many of the unstressed vowels become a simple "uh" sound ("schwa'). – SarahT Apr 22 at 19:10
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    When I pronounce Spanish correctly, I feel silly, because I am exaggerating the vowels so much beyond what I'm used to. But that's the only way that Spanish speakers will understand me! Similarly, you could practice a North American accent by "over-doing it." Talk more slowly than feels normal to you, pause in a way that feels silly, and practice exaggerating all the consonants in words like "month." – SarahT Apr 22 at 19:22
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    Learning English as a German speaker, one main lesson to improve our accent was to make a lot of words run together in English. :) – Hagen von Eitzen Apr 23 at 12:15
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    This is a wonderful answer, and to help with practice I wanted to suggest the OP ask a friend or coworker whose accent is similar to what the OP would like to achieve, then record them speaking a normal piece of conversation (maybe a paragraph or so). Then, after listening to it with the information in this answer in mind, the OP can record themselves saying the same thing to see where rhythm, syllable stresses, an consonant emphasis differ. When practicing accents, I've found it helpful to have a specific example to imitate while I work on difficult elements. – Upper_Case Apr 23 at 19:12
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    how native English speakers put stress on one syllable in each word - This is a big one. It relates to Isochrony - English is a stress timed language whereas Hindi (and all other Indian dialects) are syllable timed. When learning a language with different isochrony from one's native language it is generally one of the more difficult aspects to assimilate to a fluent level and is a major component of many accents as a result. – J... Apr 24 at 19:40
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I see a few answers suggesting you speak too quickly. I don't think that's the case at all. You speak very slowly. You rarely even get into the ballpark of four syllables per second (four syllables per second is pretty standard for English), and I rarely have trouble being understood even when I speak at six to seven syllables per second. What's missing are the gaps between the words. When it's harder to find the word boundaries, we need people to speak more slowly so we can understand them better. There isn't just one kind of word boundary, though. Syllable stress is part of it. You put less stress on your stressed syllables than a North American speaker would. Intonation is another. For longer words, tone tends to rise towards the stressed syllable, then fall away towards the end of the word. It's more subtle than the tone differences across a sentence, like where we use a rising tone to end a question or a lowered tone to mark an aside, but it's still there. Another is the continuation of end vowel sounds into a following word. When I say "Canada about", there's almost an unvoiced stop between the words. When you say it, it's closer to "Canada'bout." A North American speaker will drop the "a" sound on "about" all the time in casual conversation, so that by itself isn't problematic, but that gap would persist. I only really notice it with ending vowels, though. For example, the way you said "over and over" sounds almost exactly like you'd hear it said in American English.

The actual sound and grammar differences are pretty trivial. Your long Os are a little tighter than ours, but that's somewhat true of Canadians vs. Americans too. Americans are never "from States," but "from the States." None of that would get in the way of being understood, though.

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    I thought I perceived her speech as a little fast, but it could be just the lack of gaps between words. – SarahT Apr 23 at 2:25
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    Listening to the OP's recording I agree with this answer: The difficulty is not speed here, it is words slurred together with no boundary in amplitude or stress - which at this speaking speed just takes some extra time and closer listening to figure out - at higher speeds it would be more difficult. And BTW, to the OP - I found you perfectly understandable. I work with many people with Indian-accented spoken English and you're definitely in the "easier" more natural end of the spectrum. (Indian English speakers on the phone and UK English speakers in film are much more difficult!) – davidbak Apr 24 at 17:02
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    It is not the average speed, it is just that sometimes a group of a few syllables is more rapid than the average or perhaps even partially blended together. Sometimes native English speakers do this too, and then it is difficult to understand them! (I have been guilty of this myself.) – David K Apr 24 at 17:35
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    @SarahT Sometimes it's too fast, but not always. I think the comment about isochrony goes a long way toward explaining why your perception is that it's too fast: you notice the parts that are too fast to understand easily, and you correctly identify them as too fast, but you don't notice the parts that aren't too fast to understand easily. – phoog Apr 25 at 3:43
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Loud Mouth

First of all, having worked with a fair number of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis over the last few decades, I can say that you have a very mild accent overall. This leads me to assume that your interlocutors are either linguistically naive (have not spoken with very many non-native speakers), or willfully stubborn (not willing to make any extra effort to infer what you are saying). Leaving that aside, I can give you one big hint about American speakers: we talk with our mouths open more than many other language speakers. A less charitable explanation is that this relates to talking loudly and calling attention to ourselves, but let's not digress too far. Let's start out with a simple example.

Transcript

First things first, I took the liberty of transcribing your recording for easy reference. I include it here:

  1. Hi guys,

  2. First of all, thank you if you're listening to it.

  3. I'm Simran and the reason I'm recording this audio is, umm...maybe silly, but anyway.
  4. So, I moved to Canada about nine months back; and so, I'm pretty new here.
  5. And, basically I've been feeling like I have to sort of repeat myself a couple of times when I'm speaking to our native Canadians or Europeans or people from States, because I have bit of an Indian accent and that sort of does not help with smooth communication.
  6. I mean, it's no fun when you have to repeat yourself over and over, so, umm...yeah.
  7. I would just love to know what could I possibly change to sound more native or more understandable to natives.
  8. Umm, yeah, that's pretty much it; and I really look forward to your responses.
  9. Thank you.

Phonetics

Believe it or not, I can identify your accent on the very first line, when you say "Hi guys". It's very subtle, but you change the diphthong "aɪ" into "ai" in "guys". To understand the sound differences between your (presumably Hindi/Punjabi) accent and the typical neutral American accent (AmEng), we do need to appeal to some linguistics. I am not a professional linguist, so take anything I say with a grain of salt. However, I feel I can explain some key differences with just a few concepts, so please bear with me.

Diphthongs

If I try to describe the pronunciation of "guys" in very explicit terms, it would be like so: "g-ah-I-z". The phoneme /a/ is formed with an open mouth, tongue low, lips unrounded. The small capital /ɪ/ actually represents what we call the "short i" sound in English ("tin", "bin", "win"). Whereas /a/ is formed with the jaw low (to make the mouth open), /ɪ/ is formed with the same mouth shape, but with the jaw mostly closed. Now, the way you pronounced it is more like: "g-ah-ee-z". The /i/ phoneme is what we call the "long e" sound in English ("cheese", "bees", "knees"). Almost every other language pronounces /i/ like "ee", which is why IPA uses it as such. Since "y" used as a vowel generally operates like /i/, it is natural and logical to pronounce it like "ee", and even Americans do so in many circumstances (all the "-ly" suffixes: "broadly", "hastily", etc.). But American English, as you know, is not natural or logical, so we also pronounce it like /ɪ/ ("idyllic") and /aɪ/ ("fly", "tyrant", "guy").

Now, the difference between /ɪ/ and /i/ is fairly subtle. As you can see in the vowel section in the Wiktionary IPA reference, /i/ is one of the most "closed" vowels, meaning your mouth is mostly closed when pronouncing it. But /ɪ/ is just a little less closed. The other difference is that when pronouncing /i/, the sides of the mouth are pulled back further (hence, why we say "cheese" to take pictures: the phoneme forces a kind of smile). The "opposite" sound is /ɑ/ ("father", "naught"), where the mouth is wide open, and there is no opportunity to pull the sides of the mouth back, really.

This phenomenon occurs again when you say: "Thank you". I would transcribe your pronunciation as "th-eh-ee-n-k", whereas the AmEng version is closer to "th-eh-n-k".
So while I can clearly hear the /æ/ sound, it transitions into /i/ in a subtle but noticeable way. You can probably see the beginning of a trend here: your pronunciation includes more "closed" vowels compared to the AmEng version. And this is what I meant when I said "we talk with our mouths open more". I meant that literally! ;)

Not to beat a dead horse, but the only word I missed when I listened to your sample was "Canadians" on line 5. It sounded like "comedians". I was curious about why you were calling out comedians in general, until I realized you were talking aboot Canadians. ;) Again, we can call this the diphthongization of /æ/ to /æi/. It will be difficult, but if you want to sound closer to AmEng, you will need to stop transitioning most vowels into /i/, and literally leave your mouth open. When pronouncing "Canadian" in a mirror, the second syllable should feature an open mouth. My guess is that your jaw never lowers at all when saying this word.

Open/Close

Again, when you say: "First of all", you pronounce "all" like "oo-ll". AmEng speakers hear the same vowel as in "fool", "pool", "dual", but they expect to hear the vowel as in "mall", "doll", "call". And again, /ɑ/ is an open vowel, while /u/ is a closed vowel (I would transcribe the IPA for your pronunciation as /ul/, while AmEng is /ɑl/). Another indication that your pronunciation of "all" is non-standard AmEng is that I predict you round your lips when you say it, whereas an AmEng speaker says it with a mostly open mouth, to the point where you can probably see the tongue touch the back of the teeth when pronouncing the "l". Try saying this in a mirror and see how close I am.

Articulation of W and V Sounds

As someone mentioned in comments, a common artifact that I notice is switching 'v' and 'w' sounds. The most famous such example is surely Pavel Chekov, in Star Trek IV, when he was mocked for saying "nuclear wessel". You pronounced them in the standard way, so this does not appear to be an issue for you. However, I notice it more when a word starts with a 'w' or 'v', and more so for less commonly used words. Surely you hear words like "when" or "way" very often, but "victor" or "warping" less often. One of my Punjabi friends often pronounces "vine" when referring to "wine", most likely due to the lack of distinct "v" and "w" sounds in Punjabi, according to this source. If you are asked to repeat a phrase that includes a leading 'v' or 'w', this may be why (especially if two words are identical except for a leading 'v' or 'w'). "You ready for vine?" could mean: "I heard there's an interesting video on the Vine service" or: "Let's go to happy hour already!". It takes a bit of parsing the context to understand which is which. Sometimes he avoids the confusion by switching to Italian and calling it "vino", which has no ambiguous "w" partner, and plays off the fact that "vine" and "wine" are intimately related.

Grammar

Probably the most noticeable grammatical difference between Indian and American English is the use of determiners ("a", "the", etc.). As others have noted, Indian English tends to drop these in places where AmEng considers them mandatory. On line 5, when you say: "...people from States...", most folks will know what you mean. But AmEng speakers expect to hear: "...people from [the] States...". It's probably not easy to notice when you have done this, unless you have a buddy that points it out consistently for you to help you learn.

Conclusion

I think that practicing in front of a mirror, and listening to pronunciations on Wikitionary will help you absorb the AmEng accent. It will be a slow process, because your brain is already programmed to speak the way you do. But the more you can see your tongue operate while speaking, the closer to AmEng you are likely getting. And if you hear less "ee" sound when listening to your voice, you are probably also making progress. Good luck!

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    +1 for thorough explanation. I'd suggest you add 'articulation of w and v sounds'. – Decapitated Soul Apr 24 at 14:13
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    The OP is in C-A-N-A-D-A. :) – Lambie Apr 24 at 17:43
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    @Lambie I see what ya did there, eh. Yes, AmEng and CanEng are subtly different, but I don't know the differences categorically, and they are much closer to each other than to Indian English. That's all I know aboot! Now take off, hoser! – Lawnmower Man Apr 24 at 22:30
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    @Lambie but many Canadians have an accent that resembles that of the upper midwestern US in terms of vowels -- I know an immigrant in rural Ontario who has a very strong accent of that sort -- and I hear those vowels already in Simran's speech. When I identify a Canadian accent (I'm from New York) it's really only through a couple of vowels -- if a Canadian avoided those vowels I wouldn't be able to say that the speaker wasn't from somewhere in the northern US. – phoog Apr 25 at 3:50
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While this is not a typical question for this site I compliment you on asking it here and especially on including an audio clip. I cannot think of a better combination.

I have worked with many people from India and environs and have frequently had trouble understanding them. You do not have many of the problems I have seen before but for your current geography you say you have difficulties. I will state several problems and what you could do for them.

Speaking up. Your English is actually correct so the word choices and grammar are not in the way. What does get in the way is your feeling that you are not correct, either in pronunciation or something. This causes you to retreat and grow quiet. You will know from faces that you are not getting across and this will make you quieter. For men talking to women it is not polite to ask them to speak louder but that is what I have done with many women. "I am very interested in what you have to say. Could you please speak louder. Thank you." Perhaps your upbringing has you thinking that you should make little noise and that is working against you here.

Speaking slower. As discussed in comments your accent is between minor and hardly noticeable. I cannot see that being a barrier anywhere. Like many smart people you are likely thinking about your next sentence half way through the current one. You have a responsibility to bring your audience along with you in your speech. With that in mind you [all of us really] need to stop rushing along when speaking to people outside our inner circle. With this you can improve, slightly, your pronunciation, of the ends of words. Again once you have started them you tend to finish them a bit early in a rush.

Pronunciations. I could recommend speaking more like a native of your current location, North America so that you might be better understood. This would only work if you had an ear for such things and some time and real interest. All I could suggest then would be to watch a fistful of movies from ten to thirty years ago and learn to speak just as they speak. Memorize a star's monologue or two and really overemphasize the diction. You feel you sound silly at first but you would be able use the skill to round out your regular speech.

In any event keep trying and keep asking.

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    I think this is a very good point even though it only indirectly addresses the question. Make sure the reason they're asking you to repeat is not just because you're speaking too quietly. If that's the case, working on your accent won't help at all -- you just need to talk louder! (I agree with all the people saying that your accent is fine and you're not hard to understand, but I'm a programmer and went to school for computer science, so I have heard plenty of Indian accents and my ear is used to it.) – Glenn Willen Apr 24 at 23:26
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I'm British, I've listened to your recording, and I'm going to be honest - I don't think you have an English accent. You have a lovely speaking voice and I understood every single word you said. As you said in your recording, you speak English (very well) with an Indian accent.

If you've mainly practised speaking English in the UK then naturally any words you have learned there will have a British inflexion. This is very common - I have American and Canadian friends that have lived here for many years, and they continue to speak with their original accent but say the odd British word or saying in a very British way. When they do this, it really stands out to me as a native BrEng speaker.

One thing I did observe from your recording is that you did sound a little American/Canadian when you said "over and over". British people pronounce this word "oh-vuh", whereas "oh-verr" sounds far more North American. Did you perhaps learn some English from watching US TV and movies before you came to the UK? Chances are you already have more of a North American accent than you think.

I think perhaps the real problem is that the people where you have moved to are not as used to your Indian accent as people were in the UK. Over time I'm sure that your accent will adjust, and that the people you communicate with regularly will get used to it. In the meantime, just try to learn their idioms and way of phrasing things and imitate this. Using familiar expressions and terms will make your speech more recognisable as much as any accent.

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    Another thing that might help would be to try speaking a little slower. I work with several Indians and Bengalis (in NYC), and many of my co-workers have trouble understanding them. A couple of them (the Indians/Bengalis, not the co-workers that were having the trouble understanding) were advised to speak slower, and it made a big difference in how well they were understood. – Jeff Zeitlin Apr 22 at 12:58
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    I could be wrong, but I don't think OP was trying to say that she has a UK accent, or that she's moved from the UK; rather, I think by "get rid of my English accent" she meant "get rid of my foreign accent when speaking English". – ruakh Apr 23 at 17:26
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    @ruakh That's what I meant :) – Simran kaur Apr 23 at 18:39
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There are already lots of answers here, but let me just suggest one thing: Perhaps try to "do a Canadian accent" rather than "not have an Indian accent". Listen to people on TV and imitate them, almost as if you were going to make fun of the way they talked. You may find that sounds to native speakers of that dialect as if you are just "talking right."

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    "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain". – Russell McMahon Apr 25 at 2:59
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    Yep, the most effective way to change an accent is to imitate real people you know, see on TV, or in pop music. Like an impressionist or a child (this is why kids pick up accents faster/better than adults). The only reason this is considered hard is that so many adults are needlessly uptight about sounding silly. – MGOwen Apr 25 at 6:33
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The speed of speech in your recording was not too fast, in my opinion. The elements that sounded characteristically Indian-accented were dampening of articles like "a" and "the" (either completely or partially) and a relatively constant pitch.

I heard "people from States because I have bit of an Indian accent..." I am sure that you meant to say "people from the States because I have a bit of an Indian accent." If you are saying them, they are inaudible. I would suggest taking care with "a", "an", and "the" at every opportunity.

When I hear English with a North American accent, I hear a different pitch for almost every word, depending on the intended effect. (British English has the same reliance upon pitch, but the pitches are different.)

Some accent reduction coaches have YouTube channels. This video seems like a good starting place, though regrettably the audio is unbalanced from side to side.

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Here's a more general answer.  (I'm not Canadian, and don't know those accents well enough to judge where they differ from yours.)

When I've tried to pick up accents before, here's what worked for me:

  • Get recordings of the desired accent.  (I mainly used TV shows, especially comedies I enjoyed.)

  • Listen to them, and try to copy them.  This means listening really carefully, and hearing exactly what sounds they're making, not just the ones you expect.  (I'm a musician; I suspect that helps.)

    Try to mimic every aspect you can: the quality of each vowel and each consonant, the timing and stress, the pitch variation.  Experiment to try to find the right mouth shapes; they may feel awkward at first*.

    Start just by listening for a while.  Then pick a few phrases, and keep playing them back and saying them until you can get as close as possible.  Then do a few more.  Keep listening really closely, both to the recording, and to the sound you're making, to pick up any differences.

    Keep going; keep listening and practising.  It can take weeks or months to fully internalise the sounds, shapes, tones, and rhythms of an accent and can reproduce them for your own words as well as the phrases you've practised on.

    If you have any native friends or colleagues, you could listen to them and imagine to yourself how you'd repeat what they say.  Or, if they're willing, try out your accent on them and see what advice they have.

(Source: this is how I picked up a strong regional accent for an amateur play; audience members assumed we were a touring production from that region!)

Good luck!  You've already taken the first step — being aware of the difference — and if you really want to sound like a native, I'm sure you'll be able to!

(* I have a pet theory that different languages — and, to a lesser extent, accents — exercise different sets of facial muscles, and that this can be reflected slightly in the facial appearance of their speakers, especially around the lips.  I've no idea whether there's any truth in that, though!)

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Now further thinking specifically how the Indian dialect is different than English, which to me is a 2nd language as well, here is one observation.

The Indian dialect shapes the lips out and keeps the chin pretty tight. nor does the mouth open much. The lips keep knocking on each other pretty tight and the tongue knocks heavy on the upper mouth and the lips are spread.

take one word and practice saying it with different shapes, until you get it right. Once, you get one word right, you will easily add more and more words.

I hope this helps.

Levi

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I know it's awkward to not sound native English speaker but I have seen many Indians speaking good accent and I asked them this secret and they said practice lol... So I would suggest you to practice it everyday or take classes.

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I think there are a few sounds that you're pronouncing somewhat inaccurately.

One of these is the "L" sound. A stereotype of Indian English speakers is that they speak using a "palatalized L" sound, with the middle of the tongue high in the mouth and close to the palate. Native speakers, on the other hand, usually use a "plain L" sound, with the middle of the tongue low in the mouth, creating a large empty space above the tongue. See if you can manage to hear the difference between the two sounds. Once you can hear the difference clearly, try to imitate the "plain L" sound that native speakers use.

You might be doing something similar with your "R" sounds; those also sounded to me like maybe you're palatalizing them in a way that native speakers don't.

Other things you should probably do in your speech are Canadian raising and flapping.

Canadian raising is (as the name implies) common in Canada and somewhat common in the United States, too. Listen to Canadians and imitate the way that they pronounce words that have the /aɪ/ sound followed by an unvoiced consonant, as in every word in the sentence "White mice like diced white rice."

I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the US, and everyone from here uses Canadian raising for /aɪ/ sounds, but not for /aʊ/ sounds. If they don't apply Canadian raising to /aɪ/ sounds, they sound like they're from some other part of the United States. If they do apply Canadian raising to /aʊ/ sounds, they sound like they're from Canada. If they pronounce /aɪ/ as /ʌɪ/ all the time (which sounds like an indiscriminate version of Canadian raising), they sound like they're from, perhaps, somewhere in Britain.

I think flapping is common throughout North America. If you don't use flapping, you won't necessarily sound like you're from India, but you will definitely sound like you're not from North America.

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I'm not Canadian but English is my first language. To me your English pronunciation is perfectly fine, and would cause little problem in being understood.

In any case, your accent will shift over time and you should experience a reduction in any problems you're currently having.

If you were to change anything, I would suggest just being careful to enunciate each of the words a little more distinctly for the present, so that they don't run together. I don't think you need to change the pace of your speech, though.

If you really want to shift your accent more rapidly, the main thing I'd suggest is to pay attention to the vowel sounds (and some of the softer consonants) used by people in Canada with good/clear speech habits and try to imitate those sounds more closely, but to me this seems completely unnecessary.

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It is about the shape of the mouth. A funny example, when our POTUS, blessed be the fruit, says “China China,“ he is attempting to imitate the way the Chinese say China, but nobody gets it. If you listen closely to how he says it vs. how a native Chinese says it, in their dialect, you will notice that it is about mouth shaping.

Some languages have the chin out further and pretty tight. In Spanish for example the chin is lose. English is spoken with the chin.

If you focus on shape rather than taping yourself and attempting in vain, you have a shot:-)

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    I'm not sure what you're getting at with your example about Trump pronouncing China being an imitations of the way Chinese people say China. They call their country Zhonghua Renmin Gong He Guo which translates to People's Republic of China. They don't actually call their country China so how could he be imitating Chinese people? – MiniRagnarok Apr 23 at 17:47
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    @Levi Kraus Ha! I've never heard 'blessed be the fruit' in BrE. I'm adopting it. :-) – Old Brixtonian Apr 24 at 0:52
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    @OldBrixtonian: it's a reference to The Handmaid's Tale, though Levi appears to be conferring a different meaning on the phrase compared to how it's used in the book/TV series... :-) – Steve Melnikoff Apr 24 at 8:30
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    @Steve Melnikoff Oh of course it is! I didn't see the whole series: just the odd snatch! I must have heard it in R.E. at school, 'cos it rang a bell. Yes - amusing to hear it used the way Levi Kraus used it :-) – Old Brixtonian Apr 24 at 14:26
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I don't see this emphasized in other answers: Listen to recordings of your own voice, and use that as feedback. It is surprising how different we sound when we hear a recording of our own voice, as opposed to how we sound to ourselves when we speak. I suppose the effect is a mixture of physiology and psychology. Part of our own voice is transmitted through the head when we speak, so the sound our ears perceive is materially different.

But more importantly, psychologically we overlay what we hear from ourselves with our expectations while we are producing only an approximation of the sounds we were aiming at. Our self-perception is a mixture of our intentions and our actual performance; of what we want to do with what we are actually doing, an overlay of our self-image and our actual appearance.

This effect is not limited to our manner of speaking. For example, when we see video footage of ourselves we often find (or at least I do) that our self-perception was a bit flattering.

What you need in order to improve is to obtain unflattering feedback from recordings or third parties and then practice using that feedback, gradually aligning the performance with the intent. This is the same technique actors or dancers would use.


After these general considerations allow me to add a concrete hint. As others have remarked, you have a really nice voice. It is melodic, gentle, "round", friendly, not aggressive or loud. You also present yourself in a really polite way. How we speak is — partly — an expression of ourselves, of our personality, so I imagine you as a person along these lines.

Northern Europeans, and their American descendants, often do not share these features to the same degree. There is a lot of Viking in us (I'm German). Compared to Asians we are loud, rather impolite unless we really try not to be, and have an assertive edge bordering on the aggressive. This reflects in the language: We speak louder, and although standard English is rounder than e.g. German, the language still has more "edges" than e.g. Hindustani. For example, from what I read there are more glottal stops and guttural sounds.

I feel that in order to approximate a native English speaker you have to be more assertive in your general manner of speaking. Whether mere "acting" will do or whether this requires to actually become more assertive I don't know, if these two can be fully separated at all.

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    re " ... I feel that in order to approximate a native English speaker ..." -> This is in no way a complaint or criticism. I read with (genuine) interest the various comments here about how speech should sound. Your comments seem helpful. But, I note that "native English speaker" is a rather broad and variable target. | I'm a New Zealander. We speak "Queens English", we think. Others will tell us that we don't :-). ... – Russell McMahon Apr 24 at 18:49
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    ... Canadian English sound "nicer" to our ear than most. US English stands out almost as much to us (or me at least) as does typical "Indian English". To my biased ear Simran 's voice sounds nicer and "more correct" than "US English" and perhaps different to but no less euphonic that Canadian English. We have the advantage of in our mere 5 million people being perhaps a greater melting pot of languages than even the US. So while I fully understand Simran's desire to alter her speech, 'from a distance' what I hear is just as understandable and just as pleasant as :correct" Canadian English. – Russell McMahon Apr 24 at 18:50
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    @Russel I think you are perfectly right. I didn't reflect enough about what I meant with "native English speaker", naively throwing Canadian and U.S. speakers in one pot. The OP's "neutral" is probably some Canadian English (with which I have zero experience). – Peter - Reinstate Monica Apr 24 at 19:21
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A lot of great answers here already; let me add some things that maybe haven't been mentioned yet. My own take is that your pronunciation is very lightly accented and there may be non-phonetic issues happening.

First off (and Lawnmower Man did touch on this), is there a pattern in the situations, or audiences, in which people claim not to be understanding you? Are these people who have less experience dealing with diverse others? Or conversely, whose own first language is not English? Are these difficult situations, confrontational or adversarial, in which people may have a high expectation of being dealt with formally, or subserviently; or may just not want to hear what they're being told? Or is it just a place of high ambient background noise?

Secondly, separate from your pronunciation, you might want to pay attention to your turns of phrase. Indian English can use idioms which might be common in other international English, even in the UK, but that aren't used in the US or Canada. Are you asking a restaurant for "take-away"? Calling a garbage can a "dustbin"? Saying that a puzzle is "eating my brain"? These will puzzle most Canadians (well, those who don't watch a lot of British TV) and, if you speak them with even a slight accent, your listener may get trapped in a cycle of did-I-hear-that-wrong-or-is-that-a-phrase-I-don't-know. And even the biggest Downton Abbey fan won't have a clue "how many lahk dollars" a car costs.

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What has helped me significantly is listening closely to native speakers over time. When I lived in Korea I had a lot of opportunities to hear people speak Korean. Even though I couldn't understand them at first, I still listened closely. Over time, and with a lot of listening, I was able to hear when my own pronunciation was wrong, which would enable me to try to correct it. At first, I would know I was wrong but not know how to produce the correct sounds. Over time, I learned a combination of the correct sounds, and sounds that I knew were incorrect but which Koreans didn't seem to have trouble understanding.

Here are two other suggestions: First, try to pay attention to what prompts people to ask you to repeat yourself. It's very likely some specific words and/or sounds. The more you can identify your own errors, the easier it will be to change your pronunciation habits.

Finally, while I could easily understand most of what you said, I sometimes had trouble with your Ls. The letter L has different pronunciations in English; the L in love is different from the L in table, and it is this second one that was often unclear. However, from a practical standpoint, your best results will come from noting the specific things most people around you have trouble understanding and focusing on those.

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