Many times, clients know they sound different from native English speakers but it can be hard to describe exactly what is different. It is important to analyze and figure that piece out. If you don't know how your speech differs, then you can't know how to change it.
If you can't tell the difference, then how can you monitor whether you are saying then? So, for people learning a native Canadian English accent, it’s important to spend a lot of time listening.
Listen to how your native friends/colleagues speak
Listen to how you say the same sentence
Can you spot the difference? Even if you can't figure out how they differ, can you tell if they are said differently?
For example, let's say you figure out that the way you say the word vehicle differently than your native Canadian English speaker.
You say it like:
Native Canadian English speakers say it like:
Now, keep in mind that the way it's written here, you can very easily identify how the two pronunciations differ. But when you don't have it written out, you need to systematically listen for each sound.
Are the consonants produced the same?
Are the vowels pronounced the same?
In this case, 'v' is pronounced the same. 'cle' is pronounced the same. The vowels in-between are not.
If you notice that this is an ongoing problem with multiple examples, then you have difficulty with the ee, ih, and eh sounds. You need listening training to consistently hear the difference in your own speech and other's speech for these specific sounds.
I've mentioned this website before in a previous post but I'll reiterate the importance. Ron Thompson, an applied linguistics professor at Brock University, created a website that specifically targeted this aspect of English sound learning.
Here's how to use it.
Register. Sign up for an account (It's free) so you can keep track of your scores and improvement.
Explore the website. I’d suggest “Take the EAC tour”first to learn how to use the program. Then try to “Learn Consonants”. Consonants are easier to distinguish than vowels. Once that’s done and you feel comfortable, use the “Play Vowels” to really challenge yourself.
You can specifically choose to only hear the 2 or 3 specific vowels you have trouble with (e.g. ih, ee, eh). You can even slowly increase the difficult from just the vowel sound by itself, to the vowel sound with some consonants, to the vowel sound in whole words.
Just remember. It’s a work in progress. Start slowly, then slowly increase the difficulty or how long you practice. The goal is steady, consistent progress. You may have a really hard time at first but that’s to be expected. You can't expect to ride a bike in the city without first learning to pedal, balance on a bike, bike in a quiet area and then slowly get used to city traffic. Keep track of your accuracy and aim to improve slightly. Don’t aim for 100% accuracy straight from the beginning!