If you were born in China but now live in the United States, you are part of a large and talented group of people. According to the latest census information, there are over 1.6 million Chinese immigrants in the United States. Of these, two-thirds are of adult working age and two in five have a college degree or higher; however, two-thirds have limited English proficiency and need to improve their spoken English.
This means that, if you are Chinese and living in the United States, there is a good chance that you are a highly educated person who has come to the United States expecting to succeed, but you may have trouble advancing in your career because you have not learned how to speak English like an American.
ESL classes are a wonderful place to start and they do a terrific job of teaching the basics of English vocabulary and grammar. I highly recommend them!
The problem comes for many people who have learned to speak and write English but find that they still cannot communicate with native English-speaking Americans. Have you experienced this? Have you had someone ask you to repeat yourself when you thought you had been perfectly clear? It can be frustrating and disheartening, especially for someone who has worked so hard, to find that it is not a lack of education or effort that is holding them back, but the difficulty in being understood.
So, if you have taken ESL classes and you speak English every day, what can you do to be understood more easily? One of the best ways to improve your spoken English is to try and speak with an American accent. You can ask American friends to gently correct you when you mispronounce a word. Write down words you have trouble saying correctly and practice them at home.
Every language has rules to its pronunciation, and understanding those rules is very important to reducing an accent. There are some rules in English that are very different from the Chinese rules, so they can be quite confusing to Chinese speakers of English. Some of these include:
- distinguishing between the r and l sounds
- distinguishing between the n and ng sounds
- knowing when to pronounce final consonants
- understanding the difference between voiced and unvoiced consonants, such as k and g, p and b, and t and d
These sounds can be very difficult to learn on your own because they are so different from your native language. You will probably experience the most rapid results by working with an accent reduction specialist, who can help you learn to speak English like an American. This professional can recognize where you are having difficulty and teach you new speech patterns that will make speaking English much less frustrating. As you improve your spoken English, you will find that your confidence improves as well, and you will begin to feel more comfortable living in the United States.
To start working on your American accent today, download my FREE report, How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can Take Starting Today.