Going for a British accent, any advice?
Wow, the conversation is heating up. I didn't intend to create an argument, guys!
Anyway, thank you for your answers. I'll focus on Jasper's answer first.
"Charlotte, you said that you have tried shadowing with little success; have you given the effort enough time? Are you sure you're following the instructions correctly? (Speak along with the speaker, one sentence at a time, until perfection is reached, then go on to the next sentence.)
It would take 500 hours, perhaps more, to achieve a good skill level with this method if you're a non-native."
Well, I must say that I didn't exactly use that method. I tried shadowing for around 10 hours - actually, I tried the method twice, once with American recordings, and once with British recordings, not the same month though, so it adds up to 10 hours but it's really ~5 hours + ~5 hours - but it didn't prove very successful.
I think I could repeat the text fine, but then when I spoke, I automatically used my old pronunciation (= American, or whatever). I also found the method quite demanding and exhausting, but I suppose that's because I tried to repeat 10 sentences+ in a row, not one, for around 10-30 minutes without taking a break.
I guess I could give it a go again. However, if there was another technique out there that would be more effective, I'd try it immediately. I reckon I may not do the right thing when it comes to shadowing, but there's also a slight chance that it just doesn't work for me. If you have good recordings for me to repeat, please let me know, because I suspect that the fact that I wasn't enthralled by the novel did play a part in my failure.
I'm really motivated but I don't want to waste my time because I didn't understand the principle of shadowing or another means to improve one's pronunciation.
By the way, how many hours a day do you think it is reasonable to shadow? I guess that the amount of hours per day and the length of the session also play a part in whether you're successful or not.
Uriel : "Americans sound "twangy"?"
Well, it depends on the speaker. To me, some Americans do sound a bit twangy, yes. Watch "Family Guy" (the mother) if you want to have an example. And I've never said there was something wrong with that pronunciation =).
For me, UK English sounds either redneckish (Estuary, Brummie, Cockney) or cold and distant (RP). Geordie sounds nice but it's not easy to understand.
''Just don't pronounce th-sound as f or v or t or d. ''
Well, even natives simplify TH in some words or in fast speech: mont(h)s,
For a foreigner, interconsonantal TH is very difficult to pronounce: what's this
T S TH
a very harsh combination
Interconsonantal THs are easy enough for me and I don't mind taking shortcuts either.
"For me, UK English sounds either redneckish (Estuary, Brummie, Cockney) or cold and distant (RP). Geordie sounds nice but it's not easy to understand."
Yes, Geordie sounds nice LOL. As I said before, I like Northern accents for some reason, don't ask why. I think it's still quite posh sometimes but a bit less cold than your average RP accent.
That's the first part of an episode of "Two pints of Lager", they have nice accents and the show is really funny.
I like Charlotte Church's accent: Welsh. Way kewl. She does not sound like donkey (unlike others on MTV UK)
Charlotte, correct shadowing consists of taking one sentence at a time, and repeating along with the speaker, 10 or more times if necessary, until your pronunciation matches the speaker as closely as possible. It is only then that you're permitted to go to the next sentence.
You'll notice at the outset that remembering one sentence is pretty easy.
There is no doubt about the fact that the work is tedious, boring, and grueling. A student could shadow a half-hour each day, but her progress would be slow. At that rate, near-perfection might take years.
For accent reduction purposes for a non-native, 500 hours or more is suggested; absolute perfection is probably not possible, but you can get pretty darn close.
Charlotte, don't let the 500 hours mark scare you, however. Success is directly related to the time invested; a shorter period will still give you significant results. If you want to do just 100 hours, try it, mark your level of success, then decide if you want to continue with the endeavor.
<<For a foreigner, interconsonantal TH is very difficult to pronounce: what's this
T S TH
a very harsh combination >>
Sometimes they can be hard for us, too -- that's why we take shortcuts and modify them sometimes.
<<Well, it depends on the speaker. To me, some Americans do sound a bit twangy, yes. Watch "Family Guy" (the mother)>>
Yeah, she's twangy to us as well!
Charlotte, some additional insight on the shadowing method is in order.
If the student takes one sentence at a time, she learns how to correctly pronounce all the letter combinations in that sentence. For example, during the time I was shadowing, the word "fire" came up in the spoken text. After I shadowed the sentence 10 or 15 times, I learned, forever more, how to correctly pronounce "ire" combinations. The effect was permanent; I can now pronounce any word with that sound combination without an accent.
On a semi-related note, shadowing 10 or more sentences, I believe, would be a dubious venture at best--you'd waste far too much of your valuable time just trying to remember the sentences, and not be able to give the necessary focus to small groups of sounds. (Shadowing small groups of sounds reveals even the smallest deviations of pronunciation.)
I hope I have given you some encouragement to try the method again. One caveat to remember: the target speaker must be the same sex as the student; in your case, you need to find a female speaker, preferably close to your own age if possible. Good luck.
Why would it matter if they were the opposite sex? Surely men and women of a region have the same accent.
I do have a suitable recording to shadow, e.g. a female speaker who's still quite young.
However, I printed out the beginning of the novel, so I read along, actually. Thus, I didn't do blind shadowing. I reckon blind shadowing's better, because that's what you did and, according to you, it payed off.
"Charlotte, don't let the 500 hours mark scare you, however. Success is directly related to the time invested; a shorter period will still give you significant results. If you want to do just 100 hours, try it, mark your level of success, then decide if you want to continue with the endeavor."
Well, I'll have to try it out again, then, but even 100 hours scare me off. I've been focusing on listening comprehension, and I'm pretty good at it now, but I've been watching TV for 3-6 hours everyday for a month now, which makes around 150 hours. And even that is quite tedious, because you have to be concentrated all the time, but at least it's pleasant.
I don't know whether I have the guts to try it out again or not, really, but you said something that motivated me, because I know it's true
"absolute perfection is probably not possible, but you can get pretty darn close. ".
Absolute perfection is never possible in anything. Native speaker perfection may be possible, but you see, there are always regional accents and stuff like that anyway, so since there's no "correct" English per se, there's no thing such as "perfection" either.
"Why would it matter if they were the opposite sex? Surely men and women of a region have the same accent."
Uriel, besides the fact that breathing patterns differ between the sexes, the difference in pitch is too great for shadowing purposes.
Charlotte, the experts who devised the shadowing method caution their students never to print the material and read it, because part of the brain's attention is diverted to the reading process; all of the attention needs to be directed to the hearing/speaking process.
To use an analogy, it is like driving a car with just one hand, while talking on a cell phone with the other. ;-)
All in all, going by all the advice given in this thread, unless it's absolutely essential for you, for whatever reason, to attempt it, then "going for a British accent" really isn't worth all the effort needed. :-)
The only reason I can think of for attempting to adopt with perfection any other kind of accent other than the one natural to me would be in drama school with the professional acting career in mind. That I could really understand. There again, people have a variety of other reasons don't they - such as yourself.
There was a discussion on the car radio this morning - BBC Radio 5 live - (I only heard part of it) about the difficulties immigrants to the UK experience in learning good English. With the great variety of accents and dialects and colloquial speech here in the UK the poor we things are more than just a bit confused. I have noticed the Poles (of which we have many hereabouts) are already using Scottish terms and expressions! I love it!
"All in all, going by all the advice given in this thread, unless it's absolutely essential for you, for whatever reason, to attempt it, then "going for a British accent" really isn't worth all the effort needed. :-)"
You are quite right, but I have these all-important reasons. I didn't really practise today, for I'm still not sure about shadowing. However, I'll try to work tomorrow if I have the time. I may try to use "Two pints of lager" as an exemple, because I was playing it on the computer and my mom said "What did you just say?". In fact, my fav character was speaking! So if I have the same voice as her or so, I could repeat what she says. I have recorded only one episod though, and the show isn't airing any more. But that's okay, because I'll take an awful lot of time to go through this episode anyway.
And I can't cheat with a script this time, because I haven't got it.
***I may try to use "Two pints of lager"***
Excellent! Fantastic! Do just that - those words in the Dog and Duck or the Frog and Prince will get you a very long way in Britain and nobody will give a hoot in hell what accent you say it in! Assuming of course you're directing the words at the barmaid/barman and are holding a tenner in your hand......