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amytheorangutan

Advance learners, how did you get rid of your accent from your mother tongue?

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amytheorangutan

For intermediate to advance learners who consider themselves to have good pronunciation and almost native accent, how did you acquire it? Did you work on it from beginner/elementary level or did you fix it once you get to intermediate/advance level? When I say native accent I mean whichever accent you try to emulate with very little to no accent from your mother tongue in your speech. 

 

I’m having such a huge issue with pronunciation and accent. I’m still having issues when I speak English, even though I’m an advance English learner and have been living in English speaking countries for 16 years. I should clarify that people understand me fine but I have such a horrible thick accent from my mother tongue that I really hate and find it really hard to get rid off. 

 

I don’t want to have the same flaw in Chinese. I found that after such a long time speaking English with my horrible thick accent without realising it, just like years of bad habit it’s actually really hard to correct. I would have to consciously think before I speak to correct it and so far I always forget to correct myself as people understand me fine and it’s easy to stay in the bad habit. So I’m interested to know if you worked really hard on it from the beginning or fixed it at a much later stage and how did you overcome it.

 

I realise that this is probably not an issue for a lot of people as long as people can understand us fine and we can communicate without problem but I really would like to ditch my ugly accent from my mother tongue 😓 and would love some advice. 

 

 

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pon00050

I feel like someone else would bring up this post by Imron, so I might as well do it.

Basically, identify the problem and deliberately practice!

Practice, practice, and practice!

Persistence is the key!

 

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DavyJonesLocker

Like many of us who have got off to a bad start by not really paying much attention to correction pronunciation or tones , I wonder how hard it is to undue the damage especially after many years of sloppy Chinese . 

 

I rarely meet a foreigner in China with Chinese pronunciation that I'd consider even average (including myself). Its much easier to notice it in others than yourself. 

I know myself I constantly say xiao & shao incorrectly and I seem to have no ability to say xinr 

 

A good way is to record you own voice . It can be a pretty off-putting experience but it's a harsh reality check. 

 

 

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emuboy

As a disclaimer I am by no means advanced and frankly pretty terrible at Chinese.

 

I recently moved back to Australia from China and one of my mates who I was regularly talking to in China noted that I now have a thick accent, whereas before it apparently wasn't that bad.

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歐博思

You've really got to learn to love hearing yourself speak on recordings.

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imron
1 hour ago, 歐博思 said:

You've really got to learn to love hearing yourself speak on recordings.

Actually, you've got to really *hate* hearing yourself speak on recordings but then keep pushing until you do love it

 

7 hours ago, amytheorangutan said:

Did you work on it from beginner/elementary level or did you fix it once you get to intermediate/advance level?

I wouldn't claim that I had gotten rid of my accent, but I think I have a decent accent for a foreigner.  I worked on my accent right from the very beginning, and I would recommend others do that too.  It means you move more slowly initially, but the payoff is significant as you get better.

 

 

19 minutes ago, murrayjames said:

I did this with episodes of 喜羊羊 for two years. It helped a lot.

Do you sound more like a lamb or more like a wolf? :mrgreen:

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amytheorangutan

Thanks so much guys so many useful advice and resources. I was actually recording myself in the beginning and mimic chinesepod dialogues. I’ve just gotten lazy in doing it in the last 4-5 months because of the inconveniences listed by you above (time consuming and really awful to listen to my own voice especially when I have to rerecord and listen 3-4 times until I’m mildly satisfied). Yesterday, I did it again for the first time reading my homework and it was horrifying. One problem I have identified is that I try to stress every word when I speak other languages in the hope that it would make my speech clearer 😅.  

 

I will check out 羊 on youtube haha and John Pasden’s blog. I have a Chinese tutor but she doesn’t correct me as much as I’d like her to. I think I’ll mention this to her next time. 

 

I will just have to really work hard on it from now before it gets harder to fix.

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imron
45 minutes ago, amytheorangutan said:

time consuming and really awful to listen to my own voice especially when I have to rerecord and listen 3-4 times until I’m mildly satisfied

See, it works.

 

It takes 3-4 times to go from really awful to mildly satisfied.  Now you just need to do it enough so that you get satisfied on the first go, and then make sure to incorporate that in to the way you speak.

 

You don't have to like doing it, you just have to realise that not doing it means that your normal speech sounds the way it does on the first recording, which by your own admission is currently at 'really awful'.

 

45 minutes ago, amytheorangutan said:

I will just have to really work hard on it from now before it gets harder to fix.

Work on it a little bit every day.  It's better to spend 10 minutes on this every day, rather than 2 hours once a week even though the latter represents a larger amount of time.

 

The reason is that regular and consistent practice will help you maintain the minor improvements you make between each day, whereas having a multi-day break between practice sessions will cause you to slip back in to old speaking habits (thereby undoing previous progress).

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Tomsima

I do workaudiobook every day for a minimum of 30 mins. I'm now 6 1/2 months in without missing a day. My pronunciation has improved massively. But its incremental; after the first month a friend of mine commented 'your chinese is so good, it doesn't sound like a foreigner at all!' naturally I went home beaming. Two days ago went out for drinks with the same friend; he commented 'hey...so yeah whens your chinese not gonna have a foreign accent, you've been studying for long enough now...'.

 

Guess its time to stop coasting through shadowing. Im gonna get an audio recorder and carry it with me so I can listen to myself in conversations and give myself some pressure to actually get all my tones to hit their peaks and troughs properly. 

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Tomsima
2 hours ago, abcdefg said:

What you might find is that the problem isn't with the tones as much as it is with the phrasing, the speech rhythm and its contours. 

 

Yeah, this is definitely a major stumbling block for me, my speech rhythm is often still off. Stupid example, but good nonetheless: went to a water park two days ago and there was a big slide called '大喇叭', it was a huge slide with a conical trumpet shaped end which you spin round before dropping into the water. I said 大喇叭好刺激 and the girl next to me did her best 外國人 impression of what I'd just said. All my tones were right, got the name right and all. but yeah, I found out I had said 喇叭 when everyone else was saying 大叭. So frustrating, but yeah, still wrong.

 

As for the dialect thing, I can actually say quite a bit in the local dialect here now because of long term exposure with my wife and her family. But outside the house I just dont, it causes so much attention and people dont seem to actually listen to what Im actually saying. I'm obviously still in the formative stages, so its a bit like when we all first started mandarin and everyones constantly coming over to listen to your weird attempts at butchering their language. Don't know if youve had the same experience with 昆明話?

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abcdefg
5 hours ago, Tomsima said:

As for the dialect thing, I can actually say quite a bit in the local dialect here now because of long term exposure with my wife and her family. But outside the house I just dont, it causes so much attention and people dont seem to actually listen to what Im actually saying. I'm obviously still in the formative stages, so its a bit like when we all first started mandarin and everyones constantly coming over to listen to your weird attempts at butchering their language. Don't know if youve had the same experience with 昆明話?

 

You are ahead of me. Nice going!

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imron
1 hour ago, murrayjames said:

It is more important that you listen to the correct pronunciation of native Chinese speakers than to your own incorrect pronunciation.

I think both are important.  You need to develop an ear for correct pronunciation (which will only come from listening to enough correct pronunciation) and you also need to apply that ear to your own speaking, otherwise you'll think you sound great when actually you don't.

 

Developing both is an ongoing process.

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Flickserve
4 hours ago, murrayjames said:

Spend the bulk of your time absorbing and imitating native Chinese speech

 

... Which can have quite a lot of heterogeneity. 

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yueni

@murrayjames I think you have a point, but a distinction needs to be made between passive learning and active learning (in terms of accent acquisition & pronunciation). I believe you are partially correct when you state:

 

Quote

It is more important that you listen to the correct pronunciation of native Chinese speakers than to your own incorrect pronunciation.

 

While this is true, this is the passive learning part. You can listen to the correct pronunciation of native Chinese speakers at any time, by listening to your lesson recordings, Chinese podcasts, Chinese dramas, Chinese songs, etc. This is important and of course should not be left out. Passive learning can happen at any time. Even just by playing a Chinese radio show in the background while you are washing the dishes can be considered passive learning, because you are exposing yourself to the natural rhythm of the language, even if you don't necessarily understand what is being said. Exposure is necessary, but just because you are exposed to correct pronunciation does not mean that a person can accurately replicate it. 

 

Listening to yourself mangle the language is part of the active learning portion. The steps to correct pronunciation that I listed out is not something that you can do for a large portion of the day (like having a radio show on in the background while you are doing other stuff), and when done correctly, is an extremely exhausting process. 

 

Both have to exist together, and it's up to the learner to decide how much of each to do. However, to ensure proper accent correction (assuming the learner is not especially talented in picking up accents like some people are), then the active portion of the learning can't be left out.

 

Caveat: I should state that it is not necessary for non-native language speakers to sound like a native speaker of their second language accent-wise. In terms of priority, ensuring good enough pronunciation so that people can understand you is probably more than sufficient for most people for the most part. Of course, this is all up to the learner to decide just how native they want to sound as well. I don't think sounding like a native speaker is a priority so long as understanding is not impeded. Of course, then it is up to the language learner to decide what their priorities are. However, if one of their priorities is to sound like a native language speaker, then the steps I stated above work well. At least, they worked for me.

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Flickserve
On 7/17/2018 at 10:50 PM, amytheorangutan said:

I’m having such a huge issue with pronunciation and accent. I’m still having issues when I speak English, even though I’m an advance English learner and have been living in English speaking countries for 16 years. I should clarify that people understand me fine but I have such a horrible thick accent from my mother tongue that I really hate and find it really hard to get rid off. 

 

I think because you haven't been diligent nor careful enough and/or you have a lot of contact with non-native English accents.

 

You really need to pay attention to the rhythm and emphasis in a sentence and all those small things that make a native speakers sound like a native speaker. For instance, Chinese, Malaysians and many Singaporeans amongst others have difficulty with pronouncing - th- which gives them that distinctive non-native accent.

 

I speak Cantonese pretty fluently and get all the intonations similar to a native HK person except my grammar and vocabulary is pretty poor which gives me away after a few sentences. People usually ask me if I am from Malaysia.

 

Another interesting thing is that I can imitate some English accents quite easily. Although I grew up in London, I had a lot of contact with people from Manchester and Yorkshire and Malaysia when young. When I speak to people with those accents in English , I notice my speech changing to 'fit' in. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to work for Mandarin and I reckon it's because I have not really trained the listening abilities. 

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