While exaggeration is not always recommended, for English pronunciation it is a powerful accent reduction technique that can be used to achieve clarity and precision. Exaggeration requires that the tongue and lips make full movements to form and “exaggerate” the English sound. Think of exaggeration as “over-doing” or “making the most” of the movements of your speech muscles. Exaggeration works best when we say all of the sounds in a word and when we slow down and give the speech muscles time to move from one position to the next.
At first exaggeration can feel strange, but eventually it will feel more natural and it will make an incredible difference to your speech. Even if you have sound errors, people will understand what you’re saying. You can watch yourself in the mirror to see if you are using exaggeration correctly.
Here’s a few things you’ll notice:
- You will clearly see your lips moving on m, w, b, and p
- Your jaw will open more
- You muscles will make fuller movements on vowels like “ee”, “oo” and “o”
- You will see you tongue tip moving up on t, d, s, z and n
- You will see your tongue tip coming forward between your teeth on th
- Your rate of speech will be slower
- The final consonant of words will be more noticeable
A good way to practice exaggeration is to grab a mirror and try saying common everyday sentences. You will be able to see and feel if you are using exaggeration. Record yourself and you will be able to hear if you are using exaggeration. Your speech should sound clear, with no mumbling or slurring.
Try practicing the following common sentences using exaggeration:
Can I help?
Let me check.
I didn’t know that.
I think it’s a great idea.
What time is it?
I’ve got to get going.
Okay. See you later.
Could you say that again?
Thanks for your help.
That sounds good.
Wait a minute.
We had a great time.
Who did you go with?
Once you get the hang of using exaggeration with common sentences, you can try it out in conversations. Your speech will be clearer and you will be easier to understand!
“Accent Reduction Explained” is a client-requested series created to provide core accent reduction knowledge and strategies for changing an accent. Information, including specifics about English pronunciation, can be applied to multiple accents including French, Chinese, Russian, Indian, Spanish, Arabic and Italian accents. Our goal is to demystify accent reduction so people can easily improve their English speaking skills to be better understood. We are committed to promoting diversity and helping people worldwide to join the conversation.