A big part of changing the way you speak is understanding the speech patterns you use and how what you hear may be different from what is actually being said. Our native language influences our brain from an early age, creating a filter for speech sounds, or a phonological system. When we learn a new language, our filter interprets the sounds we hear and tries to match them with known quantities. So while the new language may have different sounds, we aren’t always hearing them. Fortunately, when these sounds are pointed out with a contrasting sound (such as the error we produce with our accent), we can hear the difference, and begin to correct our production. To read a layperson’s take on the science behind accents, read Wired Magazine’s Nick Stockton’s recent article.
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