I’ve had many different reactions after explaining that I provide accent reduction courses. Here are the most common:
That’s incredible that you can help people do that. I’m sure they enjoy being understood and I’m sure others appreciate their effort.
I didn’t know people could change their accents.
I didn’t know people took courses to change their accent.
Why would someone want to change their accent so badly?
For the less than positive reactions, I typically respond with the following:
People can most definitely change their accents. There are millions of people who study English as a Second Language in the United States. Pronunciation is an important part of learning a language and communicating effectively. Most of these individuals would like to improve the way they pronounce English, not to hide who they are or their linguistic background, rather, so people listen to what they are saying not how they say it. If you were going to learn a foreign language would you want to sound as native as possible?
What typically follows is an ‘aha’ moment when people get that accent trainers are not out to Americanize people and hide their culture but rather help people become better more self-assured communicators.
What it is
A Process – An accent course takes time. Most people report that they really start noticing a difference after 3-5 sessions. Then the results typically start showing exponentially. Others report that they notice a huge difference after just a consultation. Whatever the persons experience is, it’s a process of practice and trial-and-error that happens typically over 13-16 sessions.
A Method – An effective accent program must follow a system and be designed to address the individuals specific language needs and their learning style.
Hard Work – Most people like to avoid the term ‘hard work.’ Just like any skill it requires focus, dedication, time, and yes…hard work.
What it isn’t
Magic – There is no magic wand or set of ‘tricks.’ It’s about instruction, feedback, facilitation, guidance, and offering strategies.
Something that will make you sound 100% native – If you hear of someone who promises ‘accent elimination’ or anything similar, don’t just walk away, run. Not only is next to impossible to completely eliminate an accent it shouldn’t be the goal. The goal is to communicate effectively, reduce frustration, and reduce the need to repeat.
An agreed upon term – People use Accent Reduction, Accent Modification, Accent Training and other terms.
Something anyone can do – Just because someone speaks English doesn’t mean they should teach English. Similarly, just because someone teaches English doesn’t mean they should teach English pronunciation. Accent reduction is a very specialized skill. While there are ESL teachers who are great at accent modification most accent trainers are speech language pathologists, also called speech therapists. Speech therapists have extensive training in language, sound production, and sound correction. They’re also trained in assessments, treatment planning and working one-on-one to address similar issues.