Do I need English Pronunciation Training or Accent Reduction?

accent reduction in knoxville

“I’m sorry, could you repeat that? I didn’t understand.”
“Oh my gosh, I love your accent. Where are you from? Say something else.”

If you hear statements like this regularly, you may have been wondering what you could do to be better understood by others and taken more seriously.

Yet you’re too advanced for English classes, or maybe English is your first language. You don’t need any more grammar training, and you may have tried CD’s or DVD’s with little change in your communication skills. Most of all, even though you are a well-educated and successful professional, you wish you were more confident in who you are and what you have to say.

Confidence Learning Services’ Accent Reduction / English Pronunciation Training courses, available on-site in Knoxville TN or worldwide via Skype, may be able to help you communicate more confidently.

Let’s look at a few clues that English Pronunciation Training is right for you:

If people regularly ask you to repeat yourself in English, you could benefit from English Pronunciation Training.

Of course, everyone has to repeat themselves once in awhile. But if you have to repeat yourself more than once a day, you might need some English Pronunciation Training. In Knoxville, I have heard some speakers repeat themselves up to 10 times to make themselves understood. Try to keep a tally sheet with you, or on your smartphone, and tally each time you have had to repeat yourself to make yourself understood. If it’s more than once a day, you might want to seek further English Pronunciation Training. Coming up with excuses about why your accent isn’t “that bad” or how you wouldn’t learn anything in an Accent Reduction course won’t improve your communication skills.

English Pronunciation Training may also be helpful if you need to present a professional image without the distraction of an accent.

This applies to both regional and foreign accents. If you travel to make presentations at conferences, or communicate with clients on a daily basis, you don’t want your accent to speak louder than your words. But how do you know this is happening? If oral communication is a big part of your communication with others, you will notice if people regularly comment on your accent. Perhaps you have given a presentation on recent scientific research conducted by your group, only to have people approach you afterwards asking about your accent, how long you have lived here, and to talk about cultural questions. English Pronunciation training – even for native speakers – can help you to communicate professionally and put the focus back on what you have to say.
If your job involves little to no oral communication, you rarely interact with new people, and you don’t have to give presentations or speak with clients, then accent reduction might not be as beneficial for you. But keep in mind that even though those are not your current job responsibilities, if you are hoping for a promotion or raise, you might want to be prepared for them.

If you are a performer or public speaker.

One of the best examples of this is the character of Gregory House played by Hugh Laurie. Laurie mastered the American accent so well that most Americans don’t realize he is actually from the U.K. Incidentally, the writers of the television show “House, MD” could have included Laurie’s accent – it’s not like there are no doctors in the US with a British accent. But the writers didn’t want Laurie’s character to be immediately written off by American audiences, so they went with the American accent.
If you are a local news anchor, actor, speaker, or performer from another country living in the US, having an English Pronunciation coach may help you advance in your career as well. Likewise, if you are a performer or broadcaster from Knoxville but wanting to break into a national market, English Pronunciation Training may help.

If you are willing to put effort into improving yourself

Many people would love to lose some weight. Few people go to the gym regularly. Finding an English Pronunciation Coach is a lot like finding a personal trainer, and the practice materials provided in your sessions are a lot like your gym membership. If you aren’t willing to put the time and effort in, or if you aren’t interested in following your coach’s instructions, you won’t see the results you want.

Still not sure if you should pursue English Pronunciation Training? Contact Confidence Learning Services for a FREE evaluation.

We’ll come to your office in Knoxville or set up an appointment on Skype to give you a free, in-depth evaluation of your individual accent. 1-865-226-9477.

How to not be successful learning a language

One size does not fit all

I talk to people regularly who tell me, “I took three years of High School Spanish and I don’t speak a word” or “I’ve taken six ESL classes and I still can’t order dinner in English.” At Confidence Learning Services, when you sign up for a course with us, you can be confident that we want you to succeed in communicating more clearly in your language of choice. But that doesn’t always happen, and in fact,  I’ve even had a client or two myself who haven’t been successful in achieving their goals.

So what is keeping these students from experiencing success in their language learning? Here are some basic principles involved in failing at a foreign language.

Failing at a foreign language – Your Instructor Matters

Instructor

Who is your instructor? How do they know what they know?

Being a certified, highly-qualified Spanish teacher, I can let you in on a little secret – not all Spanish teachers are fluent Spanish speakers. In the U.S., this depends a lot on the state’s requirements to become a licensed teacher, but the truth is, a lot of people memorize the grammar and vocabulary needed and pass the tests to get their license without being a fluent speaker.

In East Asia, the problem is almost an epidemic, with many if not most English teachers unable to speak English themselves.

As a result, these teachers rely on textbooks, vocabulary and grammar memorization, and pre-packaged quizzes to teach a language that they can’t really use to communicate.

How can you tell if your instructor is a fluent speaker? Well, you can start by asking them about their education and experience, maybe ask for their personal recommendations for authors, singers, favorite actors or TV shows in the language they teach. If possible, get them to talk to a friend who speaks the language, or see if you can find a recording of your instructor speaking the target language.

Failing at a foreign language – One-size doesn’t fit all

One size does not fit all

“One-size fits all” language classes are not effective

Even if you had a fluent French speaker for a teacher in high school, the materials that teacher used can make a lot of difference. If they were restricted to teaching grammar from a textbook, and trying to teach a class of 30 teenagers whose interests and talents ranged from basketball to philosophy to dance, they simply made do with what they had. Unfortunately, if you learn best by reading novels, and your teacher decided to show a TV series to your class, you were out of luck. If you picked up the language quickly, but your teacher had to constantly review for students whose pace was slower, you were also out of luck. Pretty soon, a few years have gone by and you still don’t speak French.

When looking for a language learning program, personalization matters. Talk to your instructor about how they personalize their course, if they offer the same courses regularly or if they vary their offerings. An individual or small group course is the best context for language learning. At Confidence Learning Services, because our students are different each time, we never offer the same course twice. The important thing is that you are getting materials and opportunities that work for you.

Failing at a foreign language – Time matters

Time Matters

30 minutes a day = 3.5 hours one day a week?

None of us have the time we need to accomplish everything we would like. But in language learning, regular practice is key. The brain shuts down to new language information after about 90 minutes, so completing an hour a day will be more beneficial than cramming 6 hours in on Saturday.

It’s important to recognize before you begin studying a language how much time you can dedicate to regular practice. If your workout routine, volunteer commitments, and ongoing education courses are taking up your time, you may want to reconsider adding a language learning program to your routine.

As a rule of thumb, if you cannot dedicate about an hour a day to practice, it might not be the best time to start a language learning plan.

Failing at a foreign language – Authentic communication matters

After taking some foreign language classes, you may be able to listen to a conversation on an audio learning CD successfully, play some games, or sing a song in your target language. But are you really communicating?

It’s important to use your new language to actually communicate. Communication opportunities – whether they are sending e-mails, visiting your local Spanish language store, having an open-ended conversation with your conversation, or attending a worship service in the target language – should be built into your language learning program. At Confidence Learning Services, specializing in offering the highest-quality personalized language instruction available means we work hard to build this communication practice into each course, even for clients who live in a different state.

Sometimes this is a little uncomfortable or intimidating. I recently asked a client to visit a local Spanish-speaking business and ask employees there to give her directions to somewhere else. But that authentic practice is vital to your communication skills.

Failing at a foreign language – Following directions matters

Following Directions

“My trainer said to lift weights to build arm muscle, but I want to try the treadmill instead.”

This one should be a given, but I run into this situation from time-to-time with my clients. I assign specific practice materials and opportunities, only to find that my clients don’t follow through with their assignments. It may not be a question of their time, either, as I sometimes find they have spent more time practicing something else entirely! But here’s the thing – following directions matters.

If you go to a personal trainer at the gym, tell him that you want to enhance your muscles and bulk up, they may assign a weight lifting routine. But sometimes, weight machines can be confusing, and you might decide to spend that time on the treadmill instead. Don’t be surprised when you haven’t reached your goals after a few months. You weren’t following directions that were created by a trained expert, and you decided to follow your own advice instead.

If you have a course with a qualified instructor, providing personalized curriculum, building in authentic communication practice into the course, and you have dedicated the appropriate amount of time to practice, you could still fail simply by not following directions. Say your instructor has assigned a vocabulary list to you, but you decide to learn a different one. Or you have a movie assigned to watch, and instead you decide you would prefer to spend that time listening to dialogs on CD’s. You might even think you can learn more from listening to those Audio learning CD’s than you can from watching the movie your instructor assigned. But here’s the thing – following directions matters. Instead of simply changing course, let your instructor know why that assigned movie didn’t work, or why you would prefer a new vocabulary list. In everything, but especially in language-learning, communication is key.

So what do you think? Have you had any experiences succeeding or failing at learning a foreign language? Why do you think you were successful, or not successful?

If you would like to be successful in learning Spanish, improving your English, or speaking with an American Accent, contact us today, at 1-865-226-9477.