An accent is a certain way of pronouncing a language -- everyone has one. But just because you were born with a particular accent doesn’t mean you have to keep it. A U.S. Southern accent can give the impression the speaker is charming, easygoing and a pushover. In business, these impressions can hold a speaker back. Fortunately, it is not difficult to lose a Southern accent. With practice and a little time, a speaker can greatly diminish a Southern accent or lose it altogether.

Decide what type of accent you wish to have: East Coast, West Coast, Midwestern, New England, etc. It is important to remember that not everyone from the same place speaks with the same accent. Each person pronounces certain words a little differently than other speakers from the same region.

Listen to tapes, cassettes, the Internet or radio stations that feature speakers from the region you are trying to imitate. Hear how words are pronounced and the speed at which they are delivered. This is perhaps the most important step.

Speak along with the speaker, paying close attention to the way words are pronounced as well as the way syllables are stressed. Your goal is to sound exactly like the speaker. A cassette or other type of recorder is invaluable because you can record yourself, then rewind and play it back. This will enable you to see if you are still speaking with your Southern accent, or if you sound like the speaker you are trying to imitate. A Southern accent is often identified by long vowels and fluid words. While practicing, concentrate on clipping words and shortening vowel sounds.

Practice speaking without a Southern accent. The more you speak with a different accent, the more natural the new accent will become.

Immerse yourself in situations in which the new accent will be spoken. This is a good way to practice without any pressure. If someone does detect a Southern accent when you speak, it’s not life threatening. Casual exchanges or conversations using your new accent are a great way to boost your confidence.

Introduce your new accent gradually. This can be done as you practice, so the transition from one accent to another will be smooth and stress-free.