How does a person learn a second language? Looking at how we learned our native language could provide us with clues and help us to learn a second language more easily. Learning the first language involves using perceptive capacities in the most primal manner: we hear sounds, read lips, and imitate those sounds. Over time, we start pronouncing words… even if we are not fully aware of what those words mean.
Learning by Imitation
If you have had children, nephews, or younger siblings, you might remember them pronouncing some words and then asking what those words mean. We first approach words without being clear on their meaning. The meaning comes after someone explains those words or we learn about them by reading, as we do when using a dictionary.
Oftentimes we approach learning a second language from the standpoint of attempting to understand grammar rules and other complications that do not help a person set foot on the floor very easily. It is important to have a basic working vocabulary, and it is important to understand grammar rules and other linguistic aspects, but unless we practice the new language and attune our speech by paying closer attention to what we hear, it is more difficult to achieve significant accent reduction.
Accent Reduction and Accent Imitation
The goal of accent reduction is to sound more natural when speaking a second language. To do so, it is important to pay close attention to both listening to native or fluent speakers of that second language and being able to imitate their accents. It looks like a game, doesn’t it? But it is precisely in that playful approach that one learns to reduce his or her accent. No wonder why those who want to learn a second language are encouraged to listen to music, watch movies or TV programs, or even hear the news in that language. Tied with the practice of conversation, it can help tremendously to achieve a more natural-sounding command of that second language.
If you want to reduce your (native) accent, try approaching the second language through accent imitation. Be aware that there are sub-accents in every country! A New Yorker will surely not sound the same as a Minnesotan, nor as a Texan or Floridian. Be curious and explore these different sub-accents but strive to imitate the ones that are more easily understandable. It will do wonders for you!