Monday, August 27, 2012

My Quest for Perfect American Accent Continues!

Good evening from Singapore!

It's been ages since I last wrote on this blog.

Tonight I've decided to come back here for a little update as I kind of missed blogging in English, and wanted to get back the feel of writing for my international readers.

The purpose of this post is to announce that I've recently gotten serious again in improving my English pronunciation, after a hiatus of several months during which I was engaged in other studies.

Those of you who have been following me on this blog or on my YouTube channel will doubtless know that I have been struggling to master an American accent for a long, long time.

Compared to my relative success in picking up a natural Mandarin accent, my English accent obviously leaves a lot to be desired.

My theory for the cause of this discrepancy is that I was fortunate enough to learn Chinese with a private tutor from China at a very young age (I was 9 when I first started), while I didn't have much chance to converse directly with native English speakers until I was in college, by which time my ability to imitate and replicate foreign speech had come down drastically.

In spite of this disadvantage, I've always been harboring a desire to master English to a very high level of proficiency, and after decades of hard work, as far as reading and writing English goes, I have reached a level that I find somewhat satisfactory. 

Mastering correct pronunciation, however, has proven to be a much more difficult task.

In the hope of mastering flawless American speech, I have listened to tons of language-learning tapes and CDs, and watched dozens of Hollywood movies and hundreds of hours of American television newscasts, but I just couldn't completely get rid of that trace of foreignness from my accent.

A turning point came last fall when I came across the Eigonodo method (as elaborated in my previous blog post here).  This method gave me a completely new perspective on how I should vocalize when speaking English, and since then I have made great progress in my pronunciation, especially in terms of generating the deep, well-rounded sounds which characterize the speech of native American English speakers.

Granted, this method only covers certain aspects of American English pronunciation, and for me there are still loads of loose ends to tie up before I can claim mastery of an accurate American accent, if that day ever comes, that is.

My primary method to address these pronunciation issues is to engage in a lot of self-talk, while at the same time I record my voice with my IC recorder.  I make a point of listening very closely to the recording, and take the time to analyze my accent in microscopic detail in order to correctly identify my problem areas. 

Whenever I come across some words and phrases that I can't pronounce correctly the first time around, I would repeat them again and again until I can get them right.  So far I've had some trouble trying to pronounce such words and phrases as "Italy",  "with each other", etc. 

I feel like a Hollywood actor trying to perfect his diction, and contrary to what some people may think, I find this practice of rectifying my speech with surgical precision quite fun and pleasurable.  I try to spend about 45 minutes at one sitting, but my practice sessions can easily stretch longer than 1 hour,  as I get so hooked and find it difficult to end the session cold turkey.

As soon as I make some more progress in accent reduction, I plan to upload a new video on my YouTube channel to demonstrate what I have achieved.  I'm turning 39 this coming October, and I want to show it to my viewers that it's still possible for a middle-aged guy like me to continually improve his accent in a foreign language.  I promise it'll be a hugely inspirational video, so please keep a lookout!

Wish you all a nice new week ahead.  Talk to you again soon!