How to stop sounding FAKE and start feeling NATURAL in English

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Today’s lesson deals with the question of sounding and feeling ‘natural’ in English.

Do you ever feel that you work TOO HARD when you speak English?
That you’re investing too much effort?
Or perhaps you feel exhausted after an hour of a simple conversation?

That’s what this lesson is all about:

In this lesson, you’ll learn:

1. What are the things that prevent you from sounding and feeling natural in English
2. How and where you can invest less energy when speaking English, so you don’t feel exhausted afterward.
3. Why learning American intonation and rhythm is the secret to effortless English.
4. Why being ‘clear’ is sometimes the opposite of being ‘natural.’

Watch: How to stop sounding FAKE and start feeling NATURAL in English

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Hey, it’s Hadar and this is the Accent’s Way.

And today we are going to talk about how to sound natural in English.

I hear my students complain all the time that when they practice their English or when they

try to apply the things that we learn about American sounds and intonation and rhythm, they always

feel fake, and they always feel like they’re not natural.

Something’s missing that prevents them from having this nice flow and freedom in English, even though

they know exactly what they need to do. So today I’d like to share with you the five tips

I give them to help them sound more natural and effortless in English.

Number one: It’s okay to feel fake at first.

Here’s the thing, when you’re learning a new sound you’re using different muscles.

You’re doing things that you’re not used to doing.

Considering you don’t have the sound in your native tongue.

So it’s going to feel unnatural. It’s going to feel fake and it’s going to feel effortful.

However, the more you practice, and yes it always comes down to practice, the more you practice

the more you make it your own, the more comfortable and natural you feel with the new sounds

and new melody patterns and new rhythm.

Number two: You’re mispronouncing important sounds.

Now English is a very efficient language. Sometimes there is a lot of tension

but only in one part of the mouth.

When we pronounce all those tense, sounds like the ‘r’ and the ‘l’ and the ‘th’ sound

we don’t need to use too many muscles. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you don’t have the ‘th’ sound in your native tongue

so you need to get used to sticking your tongue out when you pronounce the ‘th’.

However, I see a lot of my students, because they’re not used to the ‘th’, they’re compensating

for this weird sound with tensing up everything around your tongue.

So they’ll do something like this

‘TH’

They’ll tense up their lips.

‘TH’

‘TH’

Or stick the tongue out too much.

‘TH’

‘TH’

Tense up the cheek muscles.

‘TH’

Instead of just sticking the tongue out

‘th’

and relaxing everything else.

‘think’

‘authentic’

‘theory’

and not

‘THeory’

Right? When I’m engaging a lot of muscles and when I’m tense, when some of my muscles

are tense when they don’t need to be, that creates tension.

And that sounds full of effort. And this is exactly the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve.

Let’s take the ‘r’ for example, if your tongue is not in the right place, you’ll invest a lot more energy than needed.

The tongue needs to be in that perfect place to create that nice tense strong sound.

‘r’

It is strong, not because I’m investing a lot of energy, just because my tongue has clicked to the right position.

‘r’

If my tongue is not in the right position

‘uuu’

It’s gonna sound hollow and I’m probably gonna try and compensate for it by investing more energy.

‘UUU’

I haven’t changed the tongue position. I’m just saying it a little louder.

‘UUU’

I’m tensing the lips more.

‘UUU’

Which doesn’t help me with getting the right sound and it definitely doesn’t help me with sounding natural

because I’m investing way too much energy.

It’s okay when you’re learning the sound, it’s okay when you’re trying to find it, to discover it and then

you need to practice it and gradually reduce tension in your lips.

And it’s important to remember that it’s not about those people who listen to you and say

‘Oh he or she sounds so full of effort’. No, it’s not about that. It’s about you.

It’s about you feeling that you’re investing way too much energy, that you’re not natural, right?

And then we become self-conscious.

And most importantly you’ll be exhausted after speaking because as I said English should be more efficient

and if you’re not being efficient when you speak you will invest too much energy, way too much energy

and feel exhausted at the end.

And that’s not the purpose we want you speaking for hours and hours on end

Number three: You’re pronouncing all words the same.

So I already talked about it in my intonation video and I will post a link to it in the description below.

Not every word is pronounced the same and not every word is pronounced with the same amount of energy.

So words that carry content, words that are more important, words that deliver the message

are going to be longer and higher in pitch.

Words that are less important, that are there just to connect the important words are soft.

The consonants are soft and the vowel is reduced.

So all the ‘am, is, are, could, would, should’ right? They are not

‘COULD, WOULD’

They’re

‘could, would, should’

Right? I’m investing very little energy in those words and let me tell you this even more than that

parts, longer parts not just words, but long parts in a phrase or a sentence are

delivered with less energy if they’re less important.

So parts that are a little less important, that are just there to get you to

your main point, that is usually at the end. Those parts are quicker, those parts are more effortless.

Those parts are softer.

And to illustrate that, let me read you a sentence or two from a book.

The first time all stressed, all words the same.

Both content words and function words, both the more important parts and the less important parts.

And the second time I’ll do it with putting the right emphasis on the right words and parts of speech.

‘Caroline and I sat side by side in the darkened auditorium, waiting for the music to start.’

‘I’ve always loved that hush, the hush of nerves and excitement that comes’

‘with the dimming of the lights, the last few coughs as people prepare themselves for the performance.’

Now let’s try it again, with investing less energy in parts that are a little less important.

Investing less energy and reducing the vowels.

‘Caroline and I sat side by side in the darkened auditorium, waiting for the music to start.’

‘I’ve always loved that hush, the hush of nerves and excitement that comes

‘with the dimming of the lights, the last few coughs as people prepare themselves for the performance.’

So as you can see, I reduce a lot of words for example instead of

‘Caroline And I’

‘Caroline-an-I’

Instead of

‘In the darkened auditorium’

‘in the darkened auditorium’

‘in the’

‘in the’

‘in the darkened auditorium’

‘WAITING FOR THE MUSIC TO START’

‘WAITING for the music to START’

So here, I reduce the

‘for the’

‘for the’

and I stress the ‘WAITING’ and ‘START’.

‘music’ is a content word, but I also set it softer and lower in pitch.

I invested a lot less energy in the word ‘music’ than the word ‘start’, because ‘start’ is the important word, right?

It’s not about just the music. It’s about when it’s going to start.

‘WAITING for the music to START.’ Right

So I only invest more energy in the words that help me carry the message across.

Number four: You’re trying to be clear.

You are pronouncing everything perfectly, your consonants are very strong and sharp.

You are enunciating every single sound and maybe you are separating words to be clear

because you’ve spent all this time practicing your pronunciation.

Okay, so it’s a great stage to be at.

Okay, Don’t get me wrong, at some point you do need to be at a stage where you’re fully

articulating all the sounds, that you’re super accurate because you’re teaching your tongue

to reach those new places, going back to tip number one, right.

It’s okay to feel artificial and tense at the beginning.

But at some point, once you created those new habits, you need to take it down a notch.

Dial it down, my friend! Invest less energy in the pronunciation of the sounds.

That means your consonants need to be a lot softer, so you are not supposed to say something like

‘PAY THE PRICE’

‘Pay the PRICE ‘

The ‘p’ is softer, the ‘a’ is with less energy, ‘the’ is really really soft, not

‘The’

‘The’

‘the price’

‘price’

‘pay the price’

Now if you’re investing a lot of energy in your consonants it will be harder for you

to connect words together. For example

‘What Did You Do Today?’

If I’m pronouncing every sound clearly and perfectly.

‘What Did You Do Today?’

Maybe my pronunciation is accurate, but I won’t sound natural.

Right? Because the consonants, especially consonants of words that need to be reduced

should be super soft, almost like you’re mumbling them.

‘What did you…’

‘What did you…’ ‘What did you do today?’ ‘What did you do today?’

Like I just got out of the dentist, and my mouth is a little numb.

And I’m I don’t have the energy to invest in it or like I just had a glass of wine.

‘What did you…’ ‘What did you do today?’

In English, there are so many sounds, so many consonants in one phrase or sentence

we cannot try and pronounce everything perfectly because then as I said, it’s not going to feel natural.

Invest less energy, especially, especially in words that are less important.

Number five: Use your pitch, not your volume.

A lot of speakers in order for them to stress words or parts of speech, they will just go a little louder.

‘So I TOLD HER that THIS is what she needs TO DO’

In English when you stress words, you go higher in pitch.

‘So I told her this is what you need to do’

So a lot of English learners know that, so they go higher in pitch, but they still keep their habits

from their native tongue and also say those words a little stronger.

So all of a sudden they’re both going higher in pitch and pronouncing the word a lot louder.

‘So I TOLD HER THIS is what she needs TO DO’

‘So I TOLD HER THIS is what she needs TO DO’

Instead of

‘So I told her this is what she needs to do’

I’m almost whispering the stressed words. I’m not saying them louder

I’m just saying them higher in pitch and that’s enough to stress a word.

You don’t need to go both louder and higher in pitch, you do go a little louder and that’s okay.

But if your tendency is to go louder anyway for stress words, don’t focus on that, focus only on

raising your pitch and in fact, I want you to focus on reducing your volume rather than saying it a little louder.

Okay, that’s it! Thank you so much for watching

If you liked this video, consider sharing it with your friends and let me know in the comments below

what are the things that you find yourself doing, when speaking English, that prevent you

from sounding natural and effortless in English.

Have a wonderful week and I’ll see you next week in the next video.

Show Episode Transcript

3 Comments on “How to stop sounding FAKE and start feeling NATURAL in English”

  1. Hi Hadar,

    Wonderful Vid on working toward a more natural sound with your English. I always look forward to your instructional videos. Small thing, but somewhat embarrassing. Please correct the spelling in one of your info slides, from ’emphesis’ to ’emphasis’.

    Your greatest Fan,

    Phil

  2. how to come over my nerve or tension to pronounce well and to have a good accent ,because when I get tension a forget every single word I’ve ever learned.

  3. I did a Judge my accent review on Reddit around two weeks ago. I was told my R is a bit off and I definitely raise my voice a lot when I mean something to be higher in pitch. What does higher in pitch actually mean and how can I get more conscious of it? Back in the day, I used to always stress the first syllable of every single word ’cause that’s what we do in Finnish, but then I started learning Spanish. It took me a year to start hearing where the stress was and it was mainly thanks to Portuguese nasal vowels that I started hearing the difference. Now I immediately hear where a word or a sentence is stressed.

    Thank you for your videos. I hope I can get the pitch thing and R thing right. They as well as the fact that I pronounce diphtongs in a very non reduced way make my accent a bit off.

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