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Getting rid of the accent?


I'll jump straight to the question - how does one get rid of their native language accent? I'm Slavic, and Slavic languages are known for strong Rs. I'm pretty fluent in German and have spent years talking to people on German but I just could never get rid of my accent. I watched tutorials and tried to mimic the natives. Alone - not so bad. Talking to others - I get flustered and end up talking like a drunk. :(

Any tips? What are your experiences?

April 2, 2016



If you want your Rs to sound more German, try gargling :) The Standard German (and French) R is basically just a very short gargle.


Been practicing that and at times it did seem kind of alright but when I have to speak out a 'fluent' sentence I often forget or the gargled R comes off too strong. Perhaps practicing further would be in order, as you say :) Thank you!


I think it is all about attention to detail. As an American living in Germany, this is something I work to improve daily.

My main issues are the "ü" sound and the "ch" sound (not the hard one that comes in words like "Nacht", but the softer "ch" sounds in a word like "offensichtlich").

It definitely gets better and smoother over time, but only because all the Germans I know (my boyfriend included) tirelessly correct every detail when I speak. Which was super annoying at first, but now I appreciate all the feedback.

So I suppose it is exposure to the sounds over and over. A HUGE tip I have for you if you are not already doing it is to record your voice and play it back to yourself. Try to get a decent quality recording with a good speaker. We are usually shocked at how our voices sound through a speaker versus how we hear them "in our heads".

Just individual words will do. Pick ones that are challenging. Then, play back a native person's voice saying the same word (dict.cc is great for this). Play your recording side-by-side with the native speaker's voice and notice all the little nuances (which syllables or stressed, etc).

There are lots of resources if you type into the YouTube search engine as well.

Good luck to you! In the end, it is much more important to pronounce the words crisply and with an effort towards the way they should sound versus "sounding just like a native". I personally think that is not such an important goal to have, unless you want to be a spy or something. Though if you have a very thick accent that makes words difficult to understand by others, then by all means train yourself to slowly improve over a long course of time. My German friends here speak beautiful English, but it would still be obvious within 2 or 3 words that they come from Germany if I were to meet them for the first time. When I lived in London for 2 years, I didn't suddenly drop my American accent either. It definitely softened over time though and I incorporated some British-isms into my speech, much to the annoyance of my family and friends back home.

I find it endlessly charming when Europeans speak English with various accents. If we all sounded like "native speakers" it would be a slightly more boring world. And then there is the problem of which of the crazy amount of dialects and stylistic attributes (slang, etc) to choose from. Hehehe....


I can relate to you with the ü sound! My teacher back then in the elementary told me it's done by shaping the mouth as if you'll pronounce 'u' but pronouncing 'i' instead. Took a while but it was no longer a problem afterwards :)

May sound a bit odd (or hypocritical) but I love hearing accents by other people. It's just something that puts me off by my own. Sounding completely like a native will be a long, long process but I strive for people to understand me completely and not have my Slavic background that much visible (not that i'm ashamed of or anything, though!)

Thank you so much for the feedback, this community is really kind and helpful :)


My dad can speak fluent Russian without accent. He said to me that this was only possible because he really got involved in the language. When he talks Russian he thinks Russian, he feels Russian, he is Russian. Well the "think" part is important I think. If you want to get rid of your accent you cannot subconsiously concentrate on translating. You have to reach at least this level. I think also speaking much and often with natives is a good way to go at this. But in the end you will need to do this without thinking about it or you will easily fall back into old habits.

I hope I could be of help.


I understand your point. I often get too focused on whether i'm using the right tense or trying to find a more fitting word. I don't stutter but it does make me more nervous :) I will try to apply what you wrote, thank you so much


I think the previous point is possibly the most helpful in getting rid of nerves (and it sounds like, once the nerves are gone, you do better w/ the accent.) I have heard the phrase "Talk like a two-year-old" more than once. It is meant to say that little kids don't care when they butcher a language, they just talk -- and they communicate. Later on, we start helping them find the right words. If you could be as free as a small child, allowing yourself to fall, I bet your nervousness would lessen and your accent would be more attuned automatically. (Or at least that's my plan)


You should not feel bad because you have an accent. You stated that you speak German Fluently. It is OK to have a charming accent. You were not born in Germany. As a matter of fact People have different accent in different region of Germany. Do not let this bother you. You are doing great as long as people can understand you. Thank you.


This is really encouraging, thank you so much :) The more I read the replies here, the better I feel.


German is not only the R. I would even say, the R is not the most important thing :) I am Slavic too, and as I began my studies at a German university, we had a special course where we could improve our speaking skills. There we were asked to prepare a short monologue which was recorded on video and then we could analyse it. And there I saw/heard that a big problem of mine concerning German pronunciation was the vowel system. As a Russian native speaker I wasn't able to distinguish short and long vowels, as well as some different types of the same vowel, say the "o" in "Bahnhof" and in "hoffen" are two different sounds, even written with the same vowel. My teacher recommended me to attend a lingaphone class where I could train the problem sounds with special speaking exercise and get controlled by an assistent. My personal experience is also, lingaphone lab rules :D

And then, here is one more tip: try to record your voice and to listen to it. It's not the most pleasant experience as most people don't enjoy listening to themselves. We appreciate our voice in another way as we hear it from outside. So, try to pronounce a word or a phrase, record it, and then listen to it and compare it with the way a native speaker speaks. It really helps to find out which things are going wrong and how to fix them.


I have the same problem. I'm American, though, and I get the feeling that Americans are notorious for butchering any foreign language we try to speak. Any tips on how to sound more like a native?


I feel this pressure too. We don't learn early enough, nor are we forced to speak other languages except in certain situations. I feel like the quintessential stereotypical American bull in the china shop when I try to speak other languages. I've had some luck with the ones I speak better in finding "groups" to go just speak. immersion style, for a few hours over coffee etc. This way, it's understood that they can correct me, and I will probably make mistakes.


Learn the IPA and tune in your ear to the difference between German phonemes and British ones. An English accent is often due to assuming that identical letters are pronounced the same, often the vowels.


Thank you, will keep that in mind as well :)


Why do you want to get rid of the accent?


I'm afraid of people not taking me seriously. Sometimes people chuckle or repeat a word I said and although it doesn't offend me I still feel a little bit apprehensive to talk further :)


What I recommend is practising it by reading out entire sentences rather than repeating single words over and over. That way, it's more realistic and you're more likely to use the correct pronunciation and not revert back to your native accent when you're stressed.


Silly that I didn't think of that yet. I was just focusing on words which have a gargling R, never on a whole sentence. You guys are useful :D I'm glad I put up this question


I second that. I've read entire books to myself out loud and it helps a lot with both pronounciation and timing. Assuming you can hear when you sound off.


Do not lose your confidence. Keep doing what you are doing. Do not be afraid to speak. Let them know upfront that you are not German so they will feel more comfortable to converse with you. Remember that in different part of Germany people have different Accent. Sometimes they having a little bit hard times to understand each other. Keep up the good work.


in my opinion, it doesn't really matter if you have an accent people should accept you for who you are but I feel your pain I was born in Iran and moved to Canada when I was 9 and people still say that I have an accent but they say it`s not that bad and I'm mostly bad with saying TH. my opinion for you is that just talk a bit slower so you can get the letters right and try to record your voice listen to it and see what is wrong with by comparing it with someone.


Accents are just so persistent, aren't they? :) One of the commenters here said that the world would be more boring if everyone spoke foreign languages like a native. Got me a bit thinking. As long as others can understand us, the accent shouldn't be a big worry for me or you. But striving to be a bit more 'genuine' sounding in a language doesn't hurt :D


I have some problems with all the s, z, ch, sch sounds in German, and what I do is that I pick a few words or sentences (different every day, I just choose random words I see) and then I practice saying them during the day. Some "stick" in my head though, and I go back to them. One of my favorites at the moment is "Erdgeschoss". :) But many times I get across a word with some "S" sound in it, I silently try to speak it. I know there is a difference between Zeit and Sein, for example. I also try to listen to German dialects (I search them out on Youtube) and sometimes try to speak in the same way.

I have not yet tried this recording my own speech but I think it would be good. And as always - practice makes perfect! :)


That's smart! Sch, Tsch and ch sounds haven't been of a problem here (they're common in my tongue) but your method is good and persistent :) I wish you all the luck with the language but seeing that you're so persistent and interested, luck won't be needed for success :D Recording my voice is something i'll definitely try


It's possible to achieve very good pronunciation, but it will never be the same as a native's. I struggle with embarrassment here too, although feedback from native speakers indicates I successfully avoid the stereotypical and dread-worthy "American language-butcher" accent. Striving for good pronunciation is important. But beyond the momentary embarrassment that comes from making a mistake, which is useful in that it drives us to not repeat the error, shame is unhelpful here. That little bit of accent that won't be gotten rid of, after years of effort, is there because we speak more than one language. Is speaking more than one language something to be ashamed of, or proud of?

Here's what works for me. Lots of singing along to German songs. Imitating Duden.de word pronunciation soundclips (hard to top Duden for sheer correctness). Tons of reading aloud (and checking pronunciation when unsure). I suspect there's a muscle memory aspect to this. The more practice the muscles used in speech have in making those sounds, the less likely they are to revert to native movement patterns - an accent - when we are nervous, distracted by forming a complex sentence, etc. Just a hypothesis. Reading entire books aloud (in multiple sittings, not all at once) gives more practice in speaking than normal conversation, and allows more focus on pronunciation since you won't be stopping to worry if you conjugated that verb correctly. This could be combined with imitation by listening to a segment of an audio book, reading aloud and recording from the text version of the same book, and comparing.

And, listen to many different native speakers. Youtube is great for this.


Amazing advice! I've definitely taken notes of these. Honestly, I thought that with time, my accent would fade but that wasn't the case. To sound 100% genuine is an impossible task and as I wrote before, the community here made me actually feel a bit proud of my accent :) I will strive to be as comprehensive as possible to Germans, though.

[deactivated user]

    Just Google: How to get rid of an accent OR Accent reduction. You will find various ways to improve yourself.


    If you want to learn spanish just let me know!!


    Thank you so much! Glad I will have someone to help me if i decide to learn it :D

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