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South Korea has a profound market for English Language learners.  If you are Korean and reading this, I’m sure you know this better than anyone! Perhaps you spent a bulk of your childhood attending English Hogwans.Maybe you even took units in English at university or perhaps you are living abroad trying to master English to this day. 

Korean speakers typically have had maximal exposure to native speakers and teachers of English.
Yet, while many Korean native speakers have dedicated hours to English instruction, many may still continue to struggle with producing the English accent. So why is this so? Surely after hours of classes, especially in a country that favours Language Immersion classes run by native speakers, your English should be sounding pretty authentic by now?

Follow these top tips to reduce your Korean accent.

How to reduce your Korean Accent

Create Accurate English Consonants

Korean has a total of 17 consonants. English, in comparison has up to 24 consonants. Not all of the consonants are the same. Take time to check the following consonant sounds. These sounds are not present in Korean. If you wish to neutralise your accent, be sure to produce these sounds correctly.

Listen carefully to the consonants of native speakers. Record yourself reading short paragraphs from newspaper articles. Do you sound like a native? Listen for the consonants that you know you need to work on. Practice saying the sound on it’s own. Try saying words that have that sound in them. Record yourself. Do you sound close? Consult a speech pathologist for tips or maybe even therapy for production of the hardest sounds.

The consonants of English that are not present in Hangul mal include:

1) TH /ð/

This sound is the first pronunciation option of the letters “th”. you can find this sound at the beginning and middle of English words, and rarely at the end of words. It is present in words like them, feather, gather, mother, the and breathe. “Th” must never sound like a “d” or “t” or “z”. Be sure to create this as a distinct sound from any other sound.

Try these words:

than

they

although

worthier

loathes

2) F /f/

This sound occurs in numerous words of English in all word positions (beginning, middle and end). It is pronounced in all instances where you see the letter “f”, “gh” or the letters “ph”. Note the spelling variations of this sound: phone, fanatic, affairs, chaff, beef, agrophobia. It is a sound that needs to be distinct from “th” options. Also take care that it does not sound like a Korean “p”.

Try these words:

fake

faithful

gruff

laugh

buffalo

3) J /dʒ/

This sound will need to be produced in words such as Jeff, badger, merge and gemThis sound may occur on a “g” as in George, a “j” as in jam or “dge” as in edge. Be careful as the Korean letter in자 다” can sound very similar to this English sound, but it is in fact not the same. 

Try drilling these words and make sure they are correct:

average

gem

jump

mileage

Genius

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.

This area can take a lot of work to improve. Try sounding the sounds you know you have difficulty with on their own. Practice the sounds by themselves. For many sounds you can use a mirror to see if you are making the sound correctly (for example, when you say “th”, does your tongue come between your teeth? If not, it’s probably wrong!).

Things to think about Speech Intonation

What is intonation? In a nutshell, this refers to the music of your speech. Every accent and dialect follows parameters of rhythm, tone and pitch that match expression. When we learn a new language, we are all inclined to apply the intonation of our mother tongue to our target language. This can add charm but can result in listeners struggling to understand you, or even, at worst, becoming distracted by your accent instead of absorbing the content of what you are saying.

Try to slow down and link your words together instead of rushing to sound more fluent. If you speak at a slower rate, listeners will understand you better and you may also feel more calm and confident while speaking. Use pauses to collect your thoughts and don’t be afraid to take more time when you need it. Try to add inflection and colour your speech like native speakers do. Watch local soap operas in English and mimic the actors.

Be careful with word endings

All those years of speaking Korean and being surrounded by Korean and eating awesome kim bap/ bulgogi/dok/kochujang has invested you with the gift of a wonderful language and cultural background. But these years have also set you up to speak with speaking habits ideal for Korean language but not so ideal for English pronunciation. Many features of Korean speech differ from English. One major aspect is the way sounds are managed at the end of words. In English, unlike Korean, you must not add an extra vowel at the end of a word. Here instead are a few examples of typical errors made by Korean speakers when concluding an English word.

  • kissed becomes kissta: see the added “a” at the end? Don’t do it!
  • finished becomes finishedu: see the added “u” at the end? Finish the word with a clear consonant and just leave it at that.

Listen carefully to the ends of words of native speakers. Record yourself reading short paragraphs from newspaper articles. Do you sound like a native? Listen back critically and be careful that you are not adding vowels to the ends of words that don’t have vowels at the end of them. Making this adjustment will greatly reduce your Korean accent.

girl

See more info on Accent Reduction and English Pronunciation Training on our FAQs about Accent Reduction and English Pronunciation Training at Voice Science Page

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 Seoul, Florida, Busan, Daegu … wherever you are. We offer face to face consultation via our Melbourne Collins St clinic. We also have an online global service. Our chief, Sarah Lobegeiger de Rodriguez is a senior voice clinician, certified practicing speech pathologist and professional opera singer.

 

To contact Sarah, Chief Speech Pathologist at Voice Science, for a consultation complete the following:

Diagnostic Accent Assessment

 BOOK NOW

See more accent reduction tips for non-native speakers here

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See more accent reduction tips for non-native speakers here

©Voice Science, 2017

 

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