In India, I have met a few people who speak with an American accent. I have noticed that not all the words they pronounce have this foreign accent. An Indian accent on a word slips in, here and there. And then, their ‘American’ accent sounds artificial. 😦
Does one have to speak like a native speaker? The short answer is: no. There are many kinds of English out there. We have Japanese English, Spanish English, and of course, Indian English. All these different kinds of accents are fine. Your accent reflects the place and culture you belong to. In the US, there are many accents. All these accents are fine. And so is yours.
What is important is that your pronunciation should be understandable. To better pronounce a word, you can focus on syllable stress and the phonemic chart. Do check out the other blogs on this page relating to pronunciation.
Here is a charming song on the differences in how we pronounce words:
People ask me for advice on where to go to improve their language skills. I understand that there are a lot of websites out there. Here are 3 websites I always recommend:
1. British Council
This site covers a lot of ground, from vocabulary to business English. Spend some time here.
2. BBC Learning English
This site has good videos and articles on current affairs. Great place to improve your grammar and vocabulary.
3. About Education
This site is by Richard Nordquist, an American professor. He does an excellent job explaining language points. One of my favorite sites!
A good way to improve your pronunciation is to focus on syllable stress.
You may ask: but, what is a syllable? A syllable is a complete sound with a vowel sound in it. A word can have one or more syllables. For example, in the word ‘syllable’ there are three syllables.
Next question: what is syllable stress? If there are two or more syllables in a word, then one word is stressed. For example, in the word syllable, the first syllable is stress:
syll / a / ble
In India, many people stress on the incorrect syllable. For example, some Punjabis say: senTENCE. While it should be: SENtence.
Here are some other common errors:
To improve your pronunciation, you need to focus on:
a. the sounds of English;
b. syllable stress.
In this post, we look at the first point.
If you are really, really serious about improving your pronunciation I would urge you to become familiar with the phonemic chart.
It may take a while to master all 44 phonemes. But once you do, you will have a clear understanding of the sounds that make up a word. You will be able to taste words!
Here is an excellent series of videos which are about the phonemic chart.