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Bulgarian Accent Reduction Tips

Bulgarian native speakers have often had the luxury of exposure to several languages of their region- Turkish, Greek, Macedonian and even some Russian, for those who studied under the older education system. These days, in Bulgaria, it is not uncommon for students to receive considerable exposure to English throughout their schooling. 

Many Bulgarian native speakers achieve a proficient command of English at a grammar and vocabulary level which will result in great written skills. Aside from these strengths, it is not uncommon for Bulgarian speakers to find it difficult to reduce their accent in order to produce clear and neutral English. What accounts for this challenge, is the fact that English and Bulgarian apply entirely different sound systems. Obviously, the alphabets are different but to top it off, the variation in the sounds used for each language is comparable to the difference between Bulgarian сирене and regular cheddar cheese. And we all know how different that is!

The variation in the sounds used for each language is comparable to the difference between Bulgarian сирене and regular cheddar cheese.

Apply the following suggestions to reduce your Bulgarian accent.

How to Reduce your Bulgarian Accent

1. Listen for variation

If you wish to adjust your current accent, it is really important to understand which sounds vary between the two languages, and how. Bulgarian and English do have a few consonant sounds that are produced in the same manner, but for the most part, many of the sounds are not the same. For example, the Bulgarian registers as distinct from the English t. Did you know, the International Phonetic Alphabet transcribes a Bulgarian t with a different symbol from the English t.

If you wish to develop your English accent, there are some key English sounds that need to be conquered. Take care that the unique sounds of English resemble nothing like Bulgarian sounds.  The two sounds that follow are only two of the multiple sounds required to create clear and intelligible English.  Speak with us atVoice Sciencefor more information on the sounds of English that you require according to a comprehensive accent assessment tailored to your current accent.

Make sure the following sounds are distinct.

 TH /θ/

This is one of two options for “th”. You can find this sound at the beginning, middle and end of English words. It is present in words like thick, breath, thousand, thunder and thermometer. “Th” must never sound like an “f” or “s”. Be sure to create this as a distinct sound from any other sound.

Try these words:

three

thrill

broth

tooth

tenths

 R /r/

This sound is not to be confused with a Bulgarian r. This is one of the most complicated sounds of English. In fact, it is even one of the last sounds that children learn to master. Take care with this sound. In order to allow for clear English it is important to make a decision about your target accent as different sound rules will occur of the letter “r” according to North American or British, Australian or New Zealand accent. 

A major sign of Bulgarian accented English will be a sustained or trilled r. This sound is not required for neutral English. Using a Bulgarian  will interrupt the fluency and clarity of your English.

Work to reduce the length and momentum on the sound. Articulate the following words using reduced pressure and length on the r:

revenue

arrow

ring

right

rebellion

race

right

rich

radiation

Rosemary

arrange

carry

rancid

Be patient and drill your target sounds daily. Find other words that contain these sounds. Make sure you can produce the consonants sounds clearly in all word positions : beginning, middle or end.

H /h/

An English “h” is often described as a silent h. Comparatively a Bulgarian utilises increased air turbulence. For an English h to be produced accurately, it needs to be created further towards the front of the mouth than a Bulgarian h

We recommend that you listen out for how English native speakers articulate words that start with a h. Try to match the quality of the sounds and release it just behind your front teeth.

Practice these words and try to create an English on each where required:

have

had

hiccup

horrible

haven’t

how

Hastings

Hydration

2. Get help with the English Vowels

Bulgarian contains 8 vowels in total. In contrast, standard English, can feature to 21 vowels depending on the accent (General American, Australian English, Received Pronunciation). As a result, it is likely that there are as many as up to 15 sounds that may not be occurring in your English sound system! The vowels of Bulgarian are generally shorter in duration that the bulk of the vowels required for English. This can lead to some intelligibility issues at a word level. For example, a Bulgarian’s rendition of sheep  may be mistaken for ship due to the use of a faulty vowel length. 

3. End words using English rules

A key point of difference between Bulgarian and English concerns what occurs at the ends of words. In Bulgarian, the voice must turn off at the final sound of a word, where in English, voice usually remains on for sounds that require voice. Ensure that you do not turn your voice off for final sounds that require voice.

Be sure to articulate the final sounds with voice vibration in the following words:

had 

jade 

sound

braided

nude

opened

patted

bad 

Read more about our accent reduction training packages.

Accent reduction takes time and practice. It is not uncommon to still have an accent even after years of expatriate life. An accent can be an asset that sets you ahead. Listeners soon realise you are multi-lingual. Sometimes an accent can interfere with your message. Speech breakdowns can occur and it can be harder to express thoughts clearly to your listener. Don’t give up! Work on your pronunciation weaknesses strategically and practice daily to improve your English.

Many non-native speakers opt to consult with a Speech Pathologist to reduce the impact of a foreign accent.

Voice Science treats from Melbourne to Stuttgart, Zurich, Mannheim, London … wherever you are via our global online service. We also offer face to face consultation via our Melbourne Collins St clinic. 

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