Top Five Commonly Asked Questions About Accent Modification

Updated: Mar 22

Accent modification training helps non-native English speakers effectively communicate, enabling them to speak confidently in their day-to-day lives. But why is the ability to speak English without a heavy accent so important, and how does speaking with an accent really affect your life? This article will cover five of the most commonly asked questions about accent reduction services, and whether or not accent discrimination in the workplace exists today:

  1. Why do people learn English?

  2. Why is ESL instruction not enough?

  3. Does your accent affect your ability to communicate?

  4. What is the listener’s role in understanding accents?

  5. Should I be concerned about accent discrimination?

Keep reading to learn more about English accent modification.

1. Why do people learn English?

English is the official language of over 50 countries and is one of the most frequently spoken languages in the world. English is considered lingua franca, and is increasingly being called the international language of business. In addition, working knowledge of English is considered essential for more and more jobs around the world.

2. Why is ESL instruction not enough?

In many countries, people who learn English as a foreign language are frequently taught by non-native speakers of English. Consequently, the English they hear and that is modeled for them is accented, and they tend to repeat these accented patterns when speaking.

Even ESL teachers who are native speakers of English are not typically trained in teaching their students the nuances of accent and pronunciation.

3. Does your accent affect your ability to communicate?

There is a great deal that needs to be taught when learning a new language. Vocabulary, grammatical rules, and syntax are the foundation of any language and are naturally the primary focus of an ESL class. However, consonant and vowel production, along with intonation (the more musical aspect of a language), are important to the clarity of our speech. English, for example, has around 20 distinct vowel phonemes (depending on how you count) which is more than most other languages have. Thus, learning to differentiate between similar sounding vowels (for example, as in “sit” versus “seat”) can be a challenge for the non-native speaker.

Intonation is another important aspect of American English. Intonation enables the speaker to signal to the listener what the most important part of the message is, so that the message can be understood faster and can be responded to more quickly. Using the wrong vowel or an incorrect intonation pattern can make it harder for the listener to understand the speaker’s message, and can lead to communication breakdowns.

4. What is the listener’s role in understanding accents?

Listeners want to hear and understand their communication partners quickly and easily so that they can respond without delay. Subconsciously, people tend to dislike things that require additional effort.

Speaking with a person who struggles with pronunciation issues and syllable or word emphasis may require extra attention and effort on the part of the listener to follow along and comprehend the message.

5. Should I be concerned about accent discrimination?

Although employment discrimination is prohibited by law, the law does not specifically prohibit accent discrimination. Additionally, while most people understand that discrimination based on visual appearance is wrong, discrimination based on speech patterns is not currently considered a form of prejudice. Employers can also argue that a strong accent interferes with communication skills that are essential for doing one’s job well.

Additionally, there is some research indicating that information provided by individuals with a strong accent is more likely to be perceived as unreliable. And that native English speakers, instead of perceiving the speech of a non-native speaker as harder to understand, are more likely to perceive their statements as less truthful. This has implications for job seekers, medical providers, and college instructors, to name just a few.

Thus, while many non-native English speakers possess a good command of the English language, a strong accent can have a negative impact on their professional image and their career.

Accent modification training can benefit you both interpersonally and on the job. While other classes exist to help improve one’s English language skills, accent reduction can help you communicate more freely with other English speakers and achieve greater success professionally.

**Interested in hearing how accent reduction can help you?

Contact us to learn more about accent coaching!

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