I get a lot of questions about the most interesting and least understood service that I provide with Confidence Learning Services, “Accent Reduction.” Here are some basic facts that will hopefully help you to understand this service just a bit better.
1. Accent Reduction is not really reducing your accent, but simply learning a new accent.
A lot of people considering Accent Reduction Courses are scared or intimidated by the possibility of “losing” a part of themselves, or they wonder what it would be like to speak “without” an accent. But the truth is, we all speak with an accent. An Accent Reduction Class just teaches you how to speak with a standard American accent, instead of the regional or foreign accent that has been causing you difficulty.
2. Accent Reduction Software is limited.
Anytime you purchase something that is pre-packaged, like Accent Reduction Software or DVDs, you are giving up personalized attention for a generic product. Your accent is as unique as you are, and each person has different accent issues in English that need to be addressed, including your native language, your hometown or country, age, gender, level of education, career specialty, level of exposure to English, etc. When you purchase an “Accent Reduction Software”, it may be helpful, but the same content will be available whether you are a Native Chinese speaking Engineer, or a Native Finnish speaking financial executive. Choosing a class or trainer with one-on-one learning opportunities increases the effectiveness of any program.
3. Accent Reduction does work.
“But my uncle has lived in the U.S. for 20 years and he still speaks with an accent!”
Accent Reduction is possible, but only if you are willing to invest the time and energy required. Students who enroll in a 12-week Accent Reduction Course, and practice for one hour each day during the length of that course, demonstrate an average of 50-80% improvement on an objective evaluation. However, if you don’t enroll in an accent reduction or pronunciation training class, or put some sort of effort into improving your pronunciation, chances are, you won’t see much improvement. It’s a lot like having a membership with a gym – you may have had a membership for the past 5 years, but if you haven’t put the time and effort in each day to work out, you will still be out of shape.
4. Accent Reduction is easier for some people than others.
Life isn’t fair, and this is one of those areas that just seems unjust. Learning correct English pronunciation is much easier for people who come from similar language backgrounds – especially other Germanic languages like German or Dutch. It is hardest for people who come from languages with very different sets of sounds, like Mandarin or Cantonese. However, students who find accent reduction the hardest are precisely the people who can benefit most from an individualized Accent Reduction course. Students who come from language backgrounds that are very different from English tend to struggle the most with day to day activities – communicating at work, ordering food, talking with service personnel on the phone – because of their accent. These are the students who will see the biggest difference in their quality of life after taking an accent reduction course.
5. Accent Reduction isn’t just for non-native English speakers.
Regional accent reduction can also benefit your career. If you are traveling throughout the U.S. for business and find people consistently asking you where you are from, that may be a sign that your accent is affecting the impression you give to others. It’s no problem to say “y’all” instead of you, or “far” instead of “fire” if you are living in Tennessee, and saying “Hoe-ah-ya?” instead of “How are you?” in New York probably won’t garner any negative attention. However, when you leave your local region and try to conduct business in other areas of the country, these pronunciation habits will likely place the spotlight on your accent, instead of what you are trying to say.
6. An accent is just a habit
Just like brushing your teeth, getting dressed, or looking both ways at a stop sign, an accent is a habit, a way of speaking that your brain has been programmed to do since about age 4. Because an accent is a habit, it can be changed with practice. However, it is very different from learning new information, which simply requires memorization. An accent requires regular practice to master the new skill you are trying to implement, and it changes gradually, just like any habit you are setting out to change.
Want to learn more about accent reduction? Give us a call and we’ll set you up with a free evaluation to identify the specific areas of English pronunciation you need to improve most.