Despite being born in the Seattle area, from around age four to age ten, I lived in the northwestern Missouri area. During that time, I learned to speak and ended up with a bit of an accent. Until I moved back to Washington state, I did not realize I had an accent. But once it was pointed out to me, I started trying to get rid of it.
One thing I started doing is to enunciate in a “metered” cadence. Not too fast, not too slow. This cleared up most of the accent. The next thing I did, was try to not use contractions when speaking. No more, “can’t”, “they’re”, or “don’t”.
Despite only having the accent for six years and trying to get rid of it for over a decade, you’d expect it to be gone. I thought that too, but when I started doing tech support back in 1999, during a stressful call, it was brought to my attention that the accent was still there. I had started speaking quickly and it came out. Even now, almost thirty years later, I still get the occasional comment that people can hear it when I am tired or stressed.
So, why does the accent persist? Well, my theory is that I am still being exposed to it via TV, movies, and music. I assume this, because I’ve caught myself speaking with the accent after hearing someone else use it.
Just to be clear, I am not ashamed of my accent. However, I know that it makes it difficult for people not from that region to understand me. Also, given that I have not lived in the “south” for a long time, it does not represent who I currently am. Again, not ashamed of living in that area, just trying not to give people a misconception of me. Since I have not lived there a decades, I would not be a good reference to what it is currently like there.