How Can I Improve My Accent As A Non-native English Speaker – Sophie Tan

Apr 27, 2019English Speaking Tips, Smart Brains Spotlight

How Can I Improve My Accent As A Non-native English Speaker 

Sophie Tan


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Topic for today is how Can I Improve My Accent As A Non-native English Speaker?

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Today we learned four useful and helpful English speaking tips from Sophie Tan. We learned how these four useful and helpful English speaking tips had helped Sophie Tan improved her English accent as a non-native English speaker.

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How Can I Improve My Accent As A Non-native English Speaker Sophie Tan

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How Can I Improve My Accent As A Non-native English Speaker

Sophie Tan



Answer by Sophie Tan from the UK. All credit goes to Sophie Tan. Thank you!  “music, jazz, & learning about the way our brains work“. – Sophie Tan

Here’s a true story:

Someone I admire (a truly inspirational and amazing man) who trained himself to speak in a British accent. He started when he was very young, perhaps middle school – if not younger. He was teased a lot by his classmates, who thought the accent he’d put on was pretentious, and so, this friend of mine was a loner for some time. He didn’t mind that too much. So, he persisted in assiduously watching British movies, reading British books – in other words, cultivating both his speech and writing so they’d pass off as unmistakably British. He became so good that his professor in the US suspected that he was of British descent. When he moved to the UK, people would stop to give him double takes, because his accent was simply gorgeous. He was mistaken by a Brit on the train as a British trained barrister, even. It is people like him who make me believe that adopting accents, and doing so convincingly, is possible.

I can understand how the goal of many native speakers is to emulate the ‘originators’. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring for different accents, if that is really what you want. That being said, it really is tricky to pass off as a UK born and bred. Here are my tips though:

  1. Choose your ‘model’ English accent.
  2. Find someone who speaks that way.
  3. Put on the accent on as much as you can!
  4. Develop a feel for different expressions, the intonations and the cadence of speech.

So…let’s explore each point in more detail.

  1. Choose your ‘model’ English accent. A lot of Brits are amused and slightly annoyed when someone says, ‘I want to speak in an English/British accent’. They hate it when they assume that the posh southern accents or RP is really the way all English people speak. This is a fundamental error. People from the north speak differently from those in the south; they also have different stock phrases. So, have a listen to the accent you are in love with, and dig deeper from there.


Thank you, ” Youtube – Amy Walker “.

I think that’s a great way to get started. The beginning of this clip, incidentally, is one type of Brit accent.

2. Find someone who speaks that way. You have to find someone to model yourself after. You can parrot Emma Watson, or someone like…Mark Wright. Or Thatcher? You get the point, British accents are a varied lot.

3. Put on the accent on as much as you can! You have to be utterly disciplined. There’s no point putting on the accent for 2 hours and then reverting back to what you’re comfortable with. I used to think the best way for getting round the awkwardness of this transition (especially with people who know your original accent!) is to cook up an alibi i.e. ‘I’m preparing for a play that requires that I speak in so and so accent’). They get inured to the new accent, and then it’s easier to whip it out of the bag with old buds. I suggest also practicing with people you DO NOT know, at least initially. If you make a fool of yourself, or unwittingly give yourself away…it won’t really matter! These people do not know you. I think the acid test is talking to native English speaking people, and gauging their reaction. I suggest doing this though once you’re tolerably comfortable with your delivery.

4. Develop a feel for different expressions, the intonations and the cadence of speech. But accents are not really just about accents…you also have to develop a feel for the natural stops, inflections and expressions. Listen to the way an American poses a question vs. the way a Brit does, for example. You’ll notice a difference, not only in the accent, but in the way their voices go up and down. You’ll also have to become familiar with the subtle differences in expression. Below’s quite a good start to getting your brains contemplating the amazing intricacies of British vs. ‘foreign’ English!


How Can I Improve My Accent As A Nonnative English Speaker Sophie Tan

How Can I Improve My Accent As A Nonnative English Speaker – Sophie Tan


The Brits, as far as I know, are more reserved in their praise, subtler in their expressions (as seen above) and have a drier sense of humour. So, I think you’ll also have to keep these pointers in mind if you want to successfully work on your pick of an English (which I take to mean some British) accent.

For more immersion, you can have a go reading, watching and conversing with people of your target language/accent, too.

Again, I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to adopt a different accent. I just believe in keeping yourself firmly rooted in your beliefs and culture so that you are still, fundamentally, you. No matter how British you speak and write, it’s always worth having something you can anchor yourself to. After all, bias towards the non UK stock is always to be expected. Some sort of discrimination and bias towards people not of your kind happens everywhere, not just the UK.

Good luck! You can msg me if you’ve got any queries 🙂


How Can I Improve My Accent As A Non-native English Speaker Sophie Tan Reference:  Sophia Tan. “As a non-native English speaker, how can I improve my accent?”  originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.




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