The short answer is, no, not really. The larger question is, are you sure you really want to?
Your dialect is a rich part of who you are and what you bring to the table. It would be a great sadness to really lose it. BUT, you are probably thinking, I am not always able to communicate effectively in a business setting.
THAT is something we can absolutely address.
Have you ever been told that your accent is holding you back? That you aren’t always easy to understand in meetings? That it’s hard to follow you? Do you wonder if people just aren’t trying to understand?
If you have considered trying to “lose” your accent, I propose that a more effective (and kind) way to approach it is, instead, to learn a Neutral American accent that you can use when you choose.
“Code switching” refers to humans’ tendency to speak differently in different settings (i. e., most of us talk differently to our best friend than we do when we present at a meeting). So you can learn a solid American accent and still retain your identity.
So how do you learn a Neutral American accent?
While some people can get it by simply immersing themselves in it and listening to native speakers, the majority need some guidance.
An accent has three main parts:
Speech sounds are the individual sounds that make up a spoken word. Different languages use different sounds, and American English has some sounds that other languages don’t even have (did you know that no other language uses the American “TH” sound?). Similarly, some regional American dialects use completely different sounds than the Neutral target.
So identifying exactly which speech sounds you need to learn is important, as that is the difference between think and fink, nut and not, shit and sheet.
Sound placement refers to where it feels like the sound lives in the mouth. This has to do with how you shape the muscles of your mouth and throat. An accent can be placed relatively forward in the mouth, like posh British English (think Helen Mirren). Or farther back, like Russian (think Yakov Smirnov).
Learning how to shape your mouth muscles in the Neutral American configuration is a big part of success.
Intonation is the inflection, stress, and rhythm of an accent. Every language or dialect has its own unique musicality – it’s a key to sounding authentic. Have you ever been told you are monotone or don’t have enough inflection? That is intonation.
Native speakers of any language understand others with less effort if the stress and inflection patterns are familiar.
This may seem like a lot, but knowledge is power!
Most people need some targeted coaching to address the speech sounds, rhythms, and mouth movement of a neutral American dialect. Check out my iBook if you want to try some self-study, or schedule a session to get more personalized guidance.
The goal is for people to focus on what you are saying, not how you are saying it. You can be heard and understood and still not “lose” something that is a beautiful part of who you are.