There is something in linguistics called the –Motor Theory of Speech Perception–. It is a simple concept, founded on anatomy and evolutionary principles which explains (partly) why learning to pronounce a foreign language is hard. We work within this framework.
While adults can in theory learn new language to such a degree that they can speak indistinguishably from native speakers, they usually cannot learn to speak “without an accent.” If 100 native English speakers where to study Arabic for 5 years, with passion, in Beirut, 10 or so would learn to speak “perfectly” but only 1 might have such a good accent that most people would not realize that they had learned recently. Why this is is not understood by science.
With technical help and a lot of practice, most people can reduce their accent and learn to speak “in a polished and elegant way.” Your foreign accent is an asset. With accent modification, we can teach you how to speak more like “Americans” (for English speakers) or “Latin Americans” for learners of Spanish.
What does it take to improve your accent?
Answer: Commitment and muscles.
- Every conversation you have ever, ever had you had by means of moving muscles:
- Breating is done by muscle movement
- Your tongue, mouth, vocal cords are moved directly or indirectly by muscles
- So are your hands
- Body-language, eye-brow movements, winking it is all done by muscles.
- Even when I write these words, I am doing so by means of muscle movement.
Accent modification simply entails learning to move muscles differently.
We use the following tools to modify our accents.
- A mirror
- A computer and software
- A textbook
There is a great video that makes very clear how all the sounds of language come by way of muscle movements. I use this video in all my teaching: