A lot of Indian speakers want to polish their English accent. First of all, we need to tell you that having an accent is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s pretty common.
We even believe accents are beautiful, as they are proof of the many awesome cultures that exist in the world. But as a language school, we also understand that polishing your accent is necessary to be understood.
That’s the problem a lot of Indians face in the English-speaking scenery. We know that English is very popular in India, because there’s a lot of history there with the British. History that goes back to the 1800s and made English an important language in India ever since.
Nonetheless, we know that not everyone there speaks English. And the ones that do, have an Indian English accent. This makes people from other English-speaking countries not understand Indians very well. That’s a problem, especially in the working field. You need others to understand you to communicate properly and not leave space for misinterpretations.
Not everything is lost, though! Here at Fluency Corp, we have some great English accent tips & tricks for Indians to improve their English-speaking skills.
Many Indian speakers don’t pronounce the “r” when this letter is in the middle or at the end of words. The same happens in the British English pronunciation, take for example the words “better”, “water” or “work”. This makes sense if we think that the English they learned was mainly influenced by the British. This characteristic is called a non-rhotic accent.
To sound more like the American English accent, you should strive for a rhotic accent. This means to pronounce the “r”. If you have trouble with that, just curl up the tip of your tongue a little bit.
But don’t touch your palate and don’t throw your tongue way too behind; there needs to be space for some air flow. It’s just a very small curl up the tip of the tongue. You can also think of your tongue moving up and down. Oh, and your lips need to be slightly open, but don’t round them too much.
The first few tries you might hear the sounds coming up way too strong, don’t get discouraged. It’s just a matter of practice and positioning your tongue correctly.
An Indian English speaker tends to curl up and back the tip of their tongue. That is a retroflex sound. The pronunciations end up being stronger and different than in the American English accent. It almost sounds like the letters are locked up and can’t get out.
We’re not saying that in American English, people don’t ever use retroflex sounds. But the tip of their tongues doesn’t go as back as in India.
That’s why many Indian English speakers make the “t” in words sound like a “d”. Or their “d” sounds are stronger. To change it to a more Americanized accent, just put the tip of your tongue in the ridge behind your top teeth. Don’t curl it to the back.
Now try to pronounce the ‘t’ and ‘d’ sounds. You’ll notice a huge difference. The sounds might not be as strong as before, but they’re still there.
The sound of “p”
Indian speakers tend to inhale the letter “p” when speaking. This makes it an unaspirated sound, which means that not a lot of air comes out when you say the letter out loud. For many people, the Indian “p” sounds more like a “b”. That could create some confusion when talking to English native speakers.
To achieve an American accent, you need to do all the contrary with the “p” sound. So, try to exhale more air when enunciating the “p”, make sure the sound comes from the diaphragm. Once again, the tongue plays a huge role in this, don’t curl it back.
“W” vs “V”
While English native speakers differentiate between the “w” sound and the “v” sound, Indian English speakers don’t. They use the “v” sound for both letters. So, simple words like “what”, “watermelon”, “want” and “wand” sound very different, as if they had a “v”.
That could be confusing, especially with orthographic neighbors. That is with words whose writing and meaning change only by one letter. Like “wet” and “vet”, or “wow” and “vow”, or “west” and “vest”.
When making the “v” sound, you’ll notice that your teeth touch the lips. That should not happen for the “w” sound. To make the “w” sound, just open your lips slightly and push them forward. They’ll look almost in a small “o” shape.
Now try to say the “w” sound or a word with it. You might find it easier if you look at yourself in the mirror while doing that. Because you’ll make sure your lips are moving correctly.
This is a very tricky sound, so do not despair. It takes practice. But if it helps you more, check this video by Gabriel Burrafato, a voice and speech coach. There, he gives an amazing tip to achieve the “w” sound.
First, say “oooooh”. Now, you just have to shorten the “oooooh” to something like “ooh” and immediately enunciate the next letter sound. Finally, say the complete word.
For example, take the word “what”: “oooooh” – “oooooh-at” – “ooh-at”.
English Accent Training for Indian Call Centers Employees
Did you know that there’s a huge amount of call centers outsourced to India? For one side, this is a great business decision, because of the many people in India that speak English fluently.
But on the other hand, Indian English is not easy to understand for other English-speaking people. So, Indian call center employees must put extra effort to change their English accent.
If you work in a call center, you should start training your ear, and putting into practice all the pronunciation tips we just gave you. That will make people understand you better, which will ultimately make you better at your job.
Training your ear will make you pick up the sounds almost without noticing it. If you think about it, it’s how babies learn their native language, they listen and their ears start to pick up the sounds. Overtime they emulate them. So, you must practice your listening.
Listen to songs in English or maybe some English podcasts. If you’re more of a visual person, watch a movie in English. After a while, try to repeat some of the words they say that you find complicated. That way, you listen first and try to emulate the sound.
There’s a LinkedIn article that says that call center accent training should involve accustoming your ear to different accents. We couldn’t agree more.
After all, you’ll speak with customers from different English countries, like Australia, the UK, and the U.S.A. To do that, just listen to videos of people from different English-speaking countries.
That same LinkedIn article says that some call centers make their employees practice situations they might encounter during the customer calls. This in order to know the best answers. So, they give them a script to practice with.
If this is your case, this method could also help your accent. Make sure to practice the sounds of your words when you play pretend with these scripted customer encounters and ways to answer.
Practice your pronunciation
To put into practice the tips we gave you before, make a list of the most complicated words and phrases you use at your job. It can also be a list of words you notice customers usually don’t understand when you say them.
Then, repeat one by one, but make sure the position of your tongue is correct and use everything we told you above. For example, let’s say you have trouble with the word “work”, and you notice that it has a “w”.
Then, apply our tips for the correct enunciation of the “w” sound.
These are tips for call center employees, because they’re one of the groups of people in India that need to improve their English the most. But all tips work just as well for any Indian speaker.
What Can I Do to Improve My Indian Employees’ English Skills?
Many companies are constantly looking for people with bilingual skills. Usually, they ask them to have a good English level. This is because it’s a common language and it’s well known that you’ll find many people that know English around the world.
So, it becomes necessary for companies. Since many Indians know English very well, it’s not surprising that they land great bilingual jobs.
But what is a blessing for them, could also be a double-edged sword if they have an Indian English accent. Again, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but maybe not everyone understands them. If you have one or more employees that need to improve their accents, Fluency Corp is here for you.
We’re a corporate language school. Our native teachers customize every program and lesson to your needs and the job. So, if what you want is accent training, be sure you’ll get that.
Though we also teach useful vocabulary and grammar skills, our focus is language fluency. So there will always be time for speaking. Nothing prepares you better for a bilingual meeting than that.
It doesn’t matter if these classes are for you or your employees, we’re here to help. Oh, and don’t worry, neither of you will feel ashamed of your accent or English skills. We’re a safe place to study and make mistakes.
After all, we learn from them.