How to Reduce your Thai Accent
The first step to clear English speech is to make sure you have a complete sound set for English. So let’s zoom into some of the key sounds you need to have that are not in Thai. Please note, this is not a comprehensive list but rather some suggestions to enable Thai accent reduction.
1) Form clear English Consonants
If you are a native speaker of Thai you have mastery of up to 21 consonant sounds that can appear in as many as 44 different forms for your mother tongue (Lorwatanapongsa, & Maroonroge 2007). That is quite an impressive set at your disposal. But we need to discuss the sounds of English that are not present in Thai.
The sounds mentioned here are a few of the many sounds of English that are not in Thai.This might help you to realise why some words with these sounds may be hard for you to pronounce.
This sound does not occur in Thai. Your nearest option is a /k/ sound as in words like kitchen or back.
A /g/ sound is produced with the sound mouth and tongue movements as a /k/, except that the voice must vibrate. Make sure that words that have a g at the end conclude with this /g/ sound. This is what allows for listeners to distinguish between bag and back and other such combinations.
The g sound usually appears in words in the following spelling combinations: -g as in igloo, –gg as in egg or gh- as in ghost.
Try these words:
Here are some of the key consonant sounds that you need to familiarise yourself with and work into your speech patterns. This can be a complicated and time consuming process on your own, but regular drill can make a difference.
There are two ways of pronouncing the letters “th” for English and this is some information on one of the options. This particular sound is found in all word positions. If the sound breaks down for a Thai native speaker, it is usually produced as an /f/ or /t/. Any error in creating this sound can have a big impact on your speech especially because /θ/ is a sound that is found in many words that have high usage in English.
Practice the following words ensuring that your “th” sound in these words does not sound anything like an “f” or “t” sound. Please note, these words are used often so try to make the switch whenever you use them from now on!
Try these words:
4) V /v/
Pay attention whenever you see this letter in an English word! This letter creates an English sound that is not present in Thai. This sound requires your top teeth to make contact with your bottom lip while the voice vibrates resulting in a buzzing quality. In fact, it is produced with the same position needed for the sound /f/, however the voice must vibrate. This sound occurs wherever it appears visually, it is never silent, so make sure you turn your voice on adn buzz your lips. It sometimes occurs on the letter “f” as in the case of “of”.
Try drilling these words and make sure they are correct:
2) Develop an English Speech Rhythm and Intonation Pattern
Thai and English are very different in terms of how the speech moves and flows. English is categorised as a stress-timed language. This means that the length of syllables varies. In contrast, Thai is a syllable timed language. As a result the syllables in Thai are even and regular. Even if you possess the correct sounds needed for English, an incorrect speech intonation and rhythm will result in the registration of a pronounced accent. It is important to focus on working on the flow and rhythm of your English speech as much as it is important to create clear sounds. Try to develop an understanding of what parts of words need to be stressed. Work on creating a link at a sentence level between your words so you create a different speech rhythm from Thai.
3) Improve your pronunciation of Multi-Syllabic Words
Thai is made up of very short word units. You have no doubt seen how long words of English can be! This is one factor that can create breakdowns in your speech. It is important to spend time on pronouncing long words to get your speech system accustomed to connecting multiple sounds expertly. Identify the key long words that are difficult for you that need to be used frequently. For example, if you are working in the medicine field, know the words you struggle with and practice drilling them to integrate them into your muscle memory. Notice that many multi-syllabic English words contain the same endings. Exercise your ability to read words that share the same endings. This will make life much easier when you get to words like : confusion, profusion, allusion, illusion, diversion, transfusion for example. Drilling words according the same ending pattern will allow you to decode such word sets more skilfully.
See more info on Accent Reduction and English Pronunciation Training here.
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.
See more accent reduction tips for non-native speakers here.
©Voice Science, 2014-2019
Lorwantanapongsa, P., & Maroonroge, S. (2007). Thai speech acquisition. In S. McLeod (Ed.), The international guide to speech acquisition (pp. 554-565). Clifton Park, NY/: Thomson Delmar Learning.