Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Here you can find some general information on improving your accent, as well as specific information on the online course and private lessons.

General

Learning

Speaking is a physical process – we move muscles to create speech sounds. In order to speak in a different accent, you need to re-train those muscles. You have been speaking the way you do since childhood, so it will take some time to change your muscle habits.

The amount of time it takes to improve your accent depends on:

1. Your native language (and how close the sound system/rhythm is to English)

2. How long you have been speaking English

  • Changing the way you speak involves breaking habits. If you have been speaking English with a strong foreign accent for a while, it may take longer to break those pronunciation habits.

3. Your current level of English pronunciation

4. How often you practise

5. How quickly your speech muscles adapt

6. Your identity and whether you like England!

  • Everyone (consciously or unconsciously) adjusts their voice according to who they speak to. If you identify with the person you’re speaking to, you’re likely to make your speech sound more like them. If you already have a strong sense of identity which you don’t want to change – or if you dislike the other person – then you’re likely to make your speech sound different to them.
  • This means that if you dislike English culture or can’t identify with English people, you’ll find it harder to change your accent.
  • If you don’t like the sound of English, you’ll find it more challenging to create English sounds because you don’t really want to sound English!

7. Your personality. If you’re positive, confident, open and willing to take risks, you’ll improve more quickly. Why? Because:

  • You’re more likely to socialise with native speakers and therefore practise new sounds.
  • You’ll find enjoyment in creating new, unfamiliar English sounds.
  • Your sense of identity is more fluid so you don’t mind sounding English.

Like all new skills, some people are naturally good at it, and others have to work harder. Most people will notice improvements after a few months.

Yes!

Some people believe that only young children can acquire new sounds. This isn’t true because I have worked with hundreds of adult learners who have successfully learned new sounds and changed their accent.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how long you have been speaking English. It’s simply a question of re-training your speech muscles and lots of practice.

As much as possible. The more you practise, the more you will improve. It is important to do short, regular practice sessions every day – rather than practise for an hour once a week.

If you practise over a long time period, your new accent will be habitual and you’ll be able to do it instinctively.

It is certainly possible, but most people won’t get to this stage.

Unless you are an actor playing an English character, sounding exactly like a native is not very important. Your non-English background is part of your USP (Unique Selling Point) and having an accent is a positive attribute. Remember that your accent reflects your identity – so having a hint of French/German/Spanish/Japanese in your voice tells people who you are.

Your priority as a non-native speaker is to be able to communicate as easily as possible with native speakers. Your second priority may be to sound as English as possible (rather than 100% English).

Of course I can help those who want to sound exactly like a native speaker. But remember that this may take a huge amount of time and guided practice in order to integrate it into your everyday speech – and there is no guarantee that you will succeed.

For actors, it is slightly easier because there is usually a script to learn and so the words/sentences can be practised over and over again.

An English Accent?

You will be learning the Standard Southern British English Accent (SSBE), which is based on the accent in South-East England. You may have also heard of this accent as Non-Regional Pronunciation (NRP) or Modern RP.

It is perceived as a neutral*, intelligible, and contemporary English accent. As well as being associated with education, prestige and wealth, it is also widely understood across the world. For these reasons, it is the best accent to learn.

You may have also heard of the terms Received Pronunciation (RP), BBC English, or Oxford English. These names tend to refer to a more old-fashioned English accent, but some people might use them to refer to a contemporary accent.

(* no accent can really be neutral, but many native British English speakers would perceive this as neutral, standard or “not having an accent”)

Terminology

By improve I mean changing sounds so that you are better understood in English. For example, if you can’t make a difference between the words sheep and ship, then learning to distinguish these vowels is a priority. Once you are able to make this distinction, then it is clear you have improved. It’s not just sounds, but also rhythm and intonation that may need adjusting.

By accent I mean improving your English accent, as I imagine you don’t have much difficulty communicating in your native language.

Yes, they all refer to the same process.

But I don’t like accent reduction or softening because they suggest you will lose your accent. In fact, you are simply changing the sounds in your accent.

I also dislike the term elocution because it suggests an old-fashioned and uninteresting way of teaching. It also implies that the way you currently speak is wrong and unattractive.

My philosophy is that you simply have a Spanish/Chinese/French/[insert your language] accent and we are moving you towards an English one. There is nothing wrong or unattractive about a Spanish/Chinese/French/etc accent, but you may want to adopt English sounds to become more intelligible when speaking English.

The two terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference in meaning.

Accent usually refers to a distinctive way of pronouncing a language, especially one associated with a particular country, area, or social class. That’s why I talk about the Standard Southern British English Accent on my website. The term accent can describe the way in which vowels and consonants are pronounced as well as rhythm, intonation and voice quality.

Pronunciation usually refers to the way in which a word is said. So this term is used more with specific sounds (like vowels or consonants) without any geographical or social connotations.

The Online Course

About the Course

Of course!

Sign up (no credit card details required) and you’ll get access to the course introduction and first lesson for free.

You’ll also be able to see all the lessons that are included.

Unlike other courses or textbooks, the course is organised according to your native language. This means you will concentrate on the most important aspects for you first (and don’t have to learn the parts that you can do already).

Uniquely, the course includes:

  • Speech muscle training
  • Muscle settings (exploring the overall sound of your voice and how you hold your speech muscles)
  • Modern English rhythm and intonation
  • Ear training games
  • Animations (to show you how sounds are made inside the mouth)
  • Click-for-IPA (by clicking the IPA button, you’re instantly able to see phonetic transcriptions)
  • Control audio speed (you can slow down audio to help you hear sounds more easily)

Additionally, the course explains how to make all the vowels and consonants in English. Further differences to other courses are that it:

  • Uses a sense-based approach.
    • For each new vowel or consonant, we explore how it feels in the mouth, what it looks like in the mirror, and how it sounds. This allows you to learn quickly and accurately.
  • Teaches contemporary British English pronunciation.
    • There’s no point sounding like the Queen (i.e. a very old-fashioned and posh form of English, which would sound humorous to a native speaker).

If you are subscribed to the course, you can purchase this service here.

1. Understand how the mouth muscles work

First you explore how the mouth works. Remember that speech is physical activity. It’s important to understand how the mouth muscles work so that you are able to change the way you speak.

2. Train the muscles

The course provides different physical exercises to make the mouth muscles stronger and more flexible. This will give you the control to create new sounds more easily.

3. Learn some IPA (phonetic) symbols

English spelling is confusing. It is not easy to guess the pronunciation of a word from the spelling (e.g. the “b” in “debt” is not pronounced!)

By learning the difference between letters and sounds – and by using symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) – the process of pronouncing words becomes much simpler.

Don’t worry if you want to avoid IPA symbols – they are not essential to improving your accent.

4. Focus on important topics

There are 20+ pronunciation topics that have been chosen and ordered according to your native language. Priority is given to sounds that will improve intelligibility (=people understanding you) and reduce the impression of a “foreign accent”.

Helpful comparisons are made between the sounds in English and the sounds in your native language.

5. Guidance on how to practise

The course gives clear instructions on how to practise and how to incorporate new sounds into your everyday speech.

6. Speak clearly & confidently!

After studying this course, you will have a deeper understanding of English pronunciation and you will be able to communicate more effectively in English.

Every month, there will be a live class with Luke. You can observe him teaching or volunteer for a 1-1 coaching session. You can also ask questions about any pronunciation topic using the chat box. 

If you miss a live class, you can watch it another time. All past classes are uploaded into the course and organised by the topics covered and the participating students’ language groups. This means you can easily find classes relevant to you.

The classes are part of the course subscription. Access is through your internet browser so you don’t need to download any special software. 

This depends on how long it takes you to learn and how much time you have to study.

The course has a large amount of material which is organised according to what will make the biggest difference to your accent first. You do not have to complete the entire course in order to improve.

You can see what lessons are in the course by signing up.

The course is suitable for learners with an intermediate or advanced level of English.

The course uses a sense-based approach: for each new vowel or consonant, we explore how it feels in the mouth, what it looks like in the mirror, and how it sounds. This trains you to understand whether you are making a sound accurately or not.

In addition, there are high-quality video lessons and mouth animations to help you.

Many learners believe that they need a teacher to check whether they are making improvements with English pronunciation, but this isn’t true.

At the beginning of the course, you record a text which contains all the sounds in English. This acts as a benchmark recording. You can re-record the text after spending some time on the course to measure your improvement.

Additionally, there are games to test your learning and to check whether you can hear the difference between sounds.

Your native language has a sound system that is different from the sound system of English. It is also different from the sound systems of other languages.

This means that a Mandarin speaker will have different challenges compared to a Portuguese speaker when learning English pronunciation.

Of course variation exists within each language: for example, there are many different varieties of Arabic. However all speakers of a language will usually have similar challenges when approaching a language like English. Where necessary, reference is made to specific varieties (for example a sound that is more important for Brazilian Portuguese speakers to learn rather than European Portuguese speakers). In the course for Chinese learners, references are made to Mandarin and Cantonese.

When you log into the course, you will see a list of lessons. Your lessons have been designed and ordered to prioritise improving your intelligibility (i.e. people understanding you) and reducing the impression of a “foreign accent”. The lessons also include comparisons with words and sounds in your native language to help you understand why you pronounce English in a certain way.

If you grew up bilingual, you can change the native language in My Account at any time. Your lessons will automatically change.

If your language isn’t listed when signing up, choose the my language isn’t listed option and you’ll receive a course which covers the main issues that non-natives face when approaching English pronunciation.

The course is taught in English only.

No, the priority of this course is for you to improve your accent in English as quickly and effectively as possible.

IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols are used as a tool in the course – but lots of other tools are used as well. So even if you don’t use the IPA, you will still progress well.

If you are interested in phonetics/phonology, there are sections called Advanced info in the course that you might find useful. Also take a look at the books page.

By default, the Upton transcription system is used. However, you can change to the Gimson system at any time in Account Settings -> My Profile.

Technical Questions

You access the course through your internet browser.

This means you can use it on your computer, laptop, tablet and phone.


Yes
, you will need to be connected to the internet to use the course. Please ensure that your internet plan gives you enough data to watch videos.

Account

Type a new email address in Account Settings -> My Profile and click the save changes button at the bottom of the screen.

If you are logged out, you can go here.

If you are logged in, you can type a new password in Account Settings -> My Profile and click the save changes button at the bottom of the screen.

If you want to cancel your subscription, just go to Account Settings -> My Subscription. When you cancel your subscription, your account will still remain active (so if you decide to restart your subscription in the future, you can log in using the same username and password).

If you want to delete your account, email info@improveyouraccent.co.uk. Please note that if you delete your account, all your data (including progress you have made) will be deleted. If you decide to study again in the future, you will need to sign up for a new account.

The course is designed according to your native language. If you need to change the language, go to Account Settings -> My Profile.

Pricing

You will be charged every month, every 6 months or every year depending on which subscription plan you choose. The course content is the same (you are just choosing how often to be charged).

It works out cheaper per month to take the annual subscription rather than the monthly subscription.

The only difference between the subscription plans is when you are charged. The content is the same.

It is cheaper to take the annual subscription rather than the monthly subscription.

If you would like to switch from one subscription plan to another, you will need to:

1) Cancel your current subscription in Account Settings -> My Subscription.

2) Wait until it expires (the expiry date will be shown in My Subscription).

3) Subscribe again with a different plan.

You can use:

  • Visa
  • Mastercard
  • PayPal

You will receive an automatic email receipt with every subscription payment. Search your email inbox for “Improve Your Accent”. If you can’t find anything, then check your spam/junk mail folder.

To cancel your subscription, go to Account Settings -> My Subscription and then click Cancel.

You must cancel at least 24 hours before the next billing date to avoid being charged again. If you cancel your subscription, you will still have access to the course until your subscription expires.

You can find out when your next billing date is in My Subscription.

As the course cannot be “returned” and you are able to try the course before purchase, there are no full, partial or prorated refunds.

If you no longer want to use the course, cancel at least 24 hours before your next billing date in Account Settings -> My Subscription.

You can find your next billing date by going to Account Settings -> My Subscription.

If there are any issues with billing, you will get an email to let you know. You can change (or view) your payment method in Account Settings -> My Subscription.

The billing system will make two attempts to charge your payment method. If both attempts fail, your subscription will be cancelled. However, you can easily subscribe again.

By the way, your credit card issuer may allow your credit card to be charged even if it has expired. You can opt out of this credit card auto-update feature by contacting your bank.

You can change your payment method in Account Settings -> My Subscription. If there are any issues with billing, you will get an email to let you know.

The billing system will make two attempts to charge your payment method. If both attempts fail, your subscription will be cancelled. However, you can easily subscribe again.

By the way, your credit card issuer may allow your credit card to be charged even if it has expired. You can opt out of this credit card auto-update feature by contacting your bank.

Other

You can find the terms & conditions here. The privacy policy can be found here.

Private Lessons

General Info

1. Assessment of your accent

I start with a comprehensive assessment of your accent (while speaking and reading). This means I am able to tailor the lessons to your individual needs.

2. Understand how the mouth muscles work

We will explore how the mouth works within the first lesson. Remember that speech is physical activity. It’s important to understand how the mouth muscles work, so you are able to change the way you speak.

3. Train the muscles

We do physical training exercises to make the mouth muscles stronger and more flexible. This will give you the control to create new sounds more easily.

4. Learn some IPA (phonetic) symbols

English spelling is confusing. It is not easy to guess the pronunciation of a word from the spelling (e.g. the “b” in “debt” is not pronounced!)

By learning the difference between letters and sounds – and using symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) – the process of pronouncing words becomes much simpler.

Don’t worry if you want to avoid phonetics – they are not essential to improving your accent.

5. Focus on important sounds

I start by teaching you the sounds that will make the biggest differences to your accent. The first priority is improving intelligibility (=people understanding you). The second priority is sounding more like a native speaker. Depending on your needs we may study some or all of the following: vowels, consonants, rhythm, intonation, and voice quality.

When helpful, I make comparisons with the sounds in your native language.

6. Practice materials to study at home

I will give you worksheets with diagrams, practice texts and audio recordings. In addition, I will email you a “Lesson Summary” after each lesson, which documents what we learned and includes advice on what to practise.

7. Guidance on how to practise

I will advise you on how to practise and how to incorporate new sounds in your everyday speech.

8. Speak clearly & confidently!

After taking lessons, you will have a deeper understanding of how English pronunciation works and will be able to communicate more effectively in English.

In the first lesson I will do a thorough assessment of your accent and then recommend how many lessons it would be useful to take.

For this reason, I suggest booking one lesson first. This also gives you a chance to ensure you are happy with my teaching before committing to further lessons.

Most students take one lesson per week.

However, I’m flexible to your learning needs. I suggest that you start with one lesson per week – and if necessary we can change this to every two/three/four weeks depending on how much time you need to practise and revise between lessons.

Yes!

After every lesson you receive a personalised lesson summary with advice, as well as worksheets and audio to help you practise at home.

I also record you in the lesson so you have references to listen to.

This is all included in the cost of the lesson.

The lessons are suitable for people with a high-intermediate or advanced level of English.

Knowledge: I am qualified by the International Phonetic Association (as well as having a first-class degree in languages).

Experience: I have taught people from over 80 different countries and have given lectures on phonetics at UCL.

Professionalism: I have been published in the Voice & Speech Trainers Association academic journal.

Attitude: I thoroughly enjoy my job!

  • Lessons are 100% tailored to your needs.
  • Flexible lesson times that fit into your schedule.
  • You learn at your own pace.
  • We work on the sounds that will make the biggest improvement to your specific accent first.

Who I teach

Yes, I do. Please contact me with your specific requirements.

I don’t unless:

1) You’re an actor

2) People can’t understand what you’re saying.

 

Why I don’t usually teach native speakers:

Your background is part of your USP (Unique Selling Point) and having an accent is a positive attribute. Remember that your accent reflects your identity – so having a hint of Cockney/Scouse/Geordie shows people who you are.

Also, note that your accent changes throughout your life depending on who you socialise/work with or where you’ve travelled. This is normal.

If you are being bullied/discriminated against because of your accent, then take action to stop it (speak to HR or an anti-bullying organisation for advice).

On the other hand, it might not be your accent that is the issue but your voice. Perhaps you feel it is too quiet/tinny/breathy etc. Or you are lacking in confidence when you speak to others/when you give a presentation at work. In which case I suggest you find a voice coach who will be able to help you with this.

No, I only teach adults (18 and above).

Skype Lessons

Yes, it does! I find it very effective. It’s important to check that you have a stable internet connection, you have set up Skype correctly, and your video and audio work well.

I have a very stable and fast broadband connection (ultraband), so there should not be problems.

There is no refund for connection problems that may delay or disrupt the lesson.

Payment / T&Cs

You can pay securely by credit/debit card on my website. Payment for lessons must be received 48 hours in advance.

Contact me to book a lesson, and then I shall send you the payment link.

Yes, please contact me with your requirements.

  • If you reschedule or cancel a lesson with less than 48 hours’ notice, then you will be charged for the lesson.
  • Payment must be made 48 hours in advance to confirm a lesson.
  • Lessons are 1 hour long (unless otherwise arranged). If you are late, the lesson will still end at the scheduled time and lesson time will not be made up.
  • If you buy the 5-lesson package, 5 hours must be taken within 2 months of purchase. No refund will be given after this time.
  • If you buy the 10-lesson package, 10 hours must be taken within 4 months of purchase. No refund will be given after this time.
  • Skype lessons: there will be no refund for connection problems that disrupt or delay the lesson.

You can find the full terms & conditions here. The privacy policy can be found here.

If you have any other questions, just contact me!