Your second lifeline is to use audio books. There is a plethora of audio books and audio book services available. They present an excellent way of working on reducing a strong overseas accent.
Ideally you need a physical copy of the book and an audio version, then practice reading along with the narrator. Most audio book apps allow you to speed up or slow down the reading rate. Take it slowly, one page at a time. Listen first then try and copy the intonation, rhythm and stress of the original.
Ideally, record your reading and then compare that with the audio book. This is an excellent exercise to do with your English speaking friend. Get them to listen to your recordings and ask them for constructive criticism. About a page at a time or no more than five minutes worth is plenty. You don’t want to make the exercise onerous.
You don’t need to buy special recording equipment, most smart phones will have a recording app built in.
What sort of audio books are best?
The best audio books are ones whose subject or genre interests you. This guarantees that you’ll listen more attentively. Until you get the hang of it avoid getting anything which is too advanced. For the first few, you could try books aimed at younger readers.
Always look for books narrated by locals. So, for Australian clients we recommend that you find books narrated by native Australian English speakers. After that there is a recommended order in which to seek out materials.
- Australian English
- Kiwi (New Zealand) English
- British / Irish English Preferably in Received Pronunciation
- North American English (USA & Canada) Preferably in American Standard Pronunciation
- Other varieties of English Jamaican, Indian, Singaporean can vary enormously
The reason why North American English is near the end is because the vocabulary, spelling, stress and rhythms of this variety of English can be quite different to the English spoken in former Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand. These places have been heavily influenced by British English.
This order applies to things like podcasts and radio which we will discuss in the next topic. You could change the order if you’re in another country, but bear in mind that all the material in this course is aimed at an Australian audience.
Accessing Audio Books
Audio books can be quite expensive, especially if you buy physical versions. Happily there are lots of ways of getting them much more affordably. You can usually sample a few minutes worth to check that it’s what you want.
Audio Book Services
Audible Part of the Amazon Group
Audio Book Store no membership required
Audio Books Exactly the same price as Audible
LibriVox Free Public Domain Audiobooks
These are just a few, there are dozens.
Depending on where you live, your local public library service will offer audio book lending, usually online. The best thing about this is that the service is free. The downside is that there is sometimes a waiting list for popular titles.
Opportunity / Thrift / Charity Shops
If you are a bit more old fashioned and prefer a physical copy, but don’t have the budget for a new one, op shops* are an excellent way of picking up a bargain. It’s pot luck but you’re not losing a lot if it’s a dud and you’re contributing to a good cause. Even small towns have at least one op shop, some are better than others, so it pays to shop around.
* Op Shop short for Opportunity Shop the Australian name for what’s called a Charity Shop in the UK or a Thrift Store in North America. They sell donated and usually second hand goods at very affordable prices. Profits go to the charity running the shop.
Articles Page on Accent Reduction website
How to Learn Faster with the Best Foreign Language Audiobooks FluentU Foreign Language Immersion Online