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What is the Correct Term for Accent Reduction?

As the global marketplace expands a new area of English language learning related to ESL has become very popular, “accent reduction.”  There are many terms accent reduction, accent modification, and accent neutralization, accent training.  Are all of these terms equal?  Are some out of fashion or inaccurate?  In this article, I’m going to break down my opinion of each word and ultimately explain why the Accent Training Center is called what it is.

Accent Reduction

I’ve listed the term “accent reduction,” first for several reasons.  One it’s the most common term used to describe the process in which people attempt to  achieve a more authentic American sounding pronunciation.  Therefore, throughout this article I’m going to use “accent reduction,” as my go-to term (even though I believe another term is much better, keep reading!).  Secondly, despite it being the most common word, it’s flat out inaccurate.  “Reduction,” intimates that a person has a level.

Accent Neutralization

Accent reduction is often times referred to as “accent neutralization.” This term has largely fallen out of usage due to it’s technical, overly medical, sounding name.  The last time I heard the word “neutralization” it was in the context of “odor neutralization.” Additionally, I disagree with the term on a technical basis because there is no such thing as a “neutral accent.”  There is, however, an accent that is widely considered to be the way most American pronounce a word and is free from regional influences.  Regardless of the term used, the goal of accent reduction is to help individuals who already posses a high level of English speak with a more standard accent.

Accent Modification

In fact I like the term “accent modification.”  I believe it accurately describes what accent reduction does, change a person’s accent.  The term, “modification,” still sounds overly medical and stiff.

 Accent Training

We’ve finally arrived to my favorite word for “accent reduction.”  Accent training seems to be a catch all.  It doesn’t sound stiff or medical, it implies that there is no standard accent – one is simply modifying an existing one, and it implies that it takes time and some effort.  Accent training isn’t a matter of attending one or two classes or being hypnotized.  While accent reduction programs vary, the average program is 7-weeks for a milder accent and most require 13 weeks.  Additionally, client have to practice at home and try to incorporate their new speech patterns into everyday life.

Common Techniques and Goals

Regardless of the terms people use there techniques and goals of each program is largely the same.  Here are some of the common areas of focus in an accent training program or class.

  • Changing speech patterns
  • Voice production
  • Intonation and rhythm
  • Taking on a new North American “Personality” – I think is a great way to distance oneself from the more distasteful implications of accent reduction

The stated goals of many of these programs include:

  • Changing regional accents to increase personal and professional opportunities
  • Engaging in extensive conversations, presentations, and telephone calls
  • Be more confident and effective, both socially and professionally
  • Improved professional image of your company
  • Greater understanding from listeners

To begin exploring accent reduction, specifically using the Compton P-ESL method, the Cleveland based Accent Training Center provides services to help individuals understand the fundamentals of why they have an accent and, ultimately, help them reduce their accent.