More than 10 years ago, I was a big fan of Karaoke. One night, after I sang “Unchained Melody” at a Karaoke club, a native English speaker said to me: “You have accent when you speak. But you barely have any accent when you sing.” Was that an insult or complement? “Thanks!” I replied, but never gave any thought about why I didn’t have an accent when I sang.
Last month, I graduated from “Accent Matters”, a nine-month on-line coaching with my mentor and long-time friend Mrs. Phyllis Thesier. Thanks to her expertise as a nationally certified speech and communication speech-language pathologist, I now understand the root causes of my accent and have clear ideas of how to reduce my accent. At last, with my educated mind, eyes and ears, I have finally figured out why I have no accent when I sing in English.
Singing eliminates the native accent to a large extent
Accent has a lot to do with the rhythm, stress, intonation and linking. When I sing I’m forced to follow the music’s rhythm, stress and intonation rather than my natural accent of Mandarin speaker. The flow of melody sandwiches and hides my imperfections of linking between words.
Singing improves the clarity of pronunciations
When I speak, I often have problems pronouncing ending consonants, dropping sounds, and adding unnecessary sound(s) in between words. When I sing, I normally practice the songs tirelessly and try my best to pronounce each word perfectly. Therefore, my pronunciation in singing is clear and precise.
Singing creates better voice projection and fluidity
When I speak English, I have the old habit of using the same muscular movements I use when speaking Mandarin. However, as soon as I start to sing, I break up the old habit and switch to different muscular movements similar to native English speakers. The change of muscular movements results in better voice projection and fluidity.
Understanding why singing reduces the native accent is very valuable To make your speech more enjoyable and understandable to audiences, non-native speakers can focus on:
– Improving the sing-along quality of rhythm, intonation, and linking,
– Pronouncing words clearly,
– Breaking the old habit of muscular movements.
With determination, practice, and coaching, you can transform yourself into a confident and competent speaker regardless of your accent!