Five Commonly Asked Questions About Accent Reduction
American accent 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 strong accent so important, and how does speaking with a heavy accent really affect your life? This article covers five of the most commonly asked questions about accent reduction:
- Why is it important to be a good speaker of English?
- Why is ESL instruction not enough?
- How does my accent affect my ability to communicate?
- What is the listener’s role in understanding accented speech?
- Should I be concerned about accent discrimination?
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of accent reduction.
1. Why is it important to be a good speaker of English?
English is the lingua franca, or common language, of international business, education, science, technology, diplomacy, entertainment, and radio, seafaring, and aviation communications. It is the official language of 67 different countries and 27 non-sovereign entities, and is spoken in many countries where it is not an official language. In addition, a working knowledge of English is considered essential for more and more jobs across the globe.
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. How does my accent affect my ability to communicate?
There is a great deal that needs to be taught when you learn a language. Vocabulary, grammatical rules, and syntax are at the foundation of any language, and are understandably the primary focus of ESL classes. However, consonant and vowel production, along with intonation (the musical aspect of a language), are vital to how clearly you speak, and therefore how well you will be understood.
Mastering these aspects of American pronunciation can be daunting for the non-native English speaker. For example, American English has five vowels but 20 distinct vowel phonemes, or sounds—more than most other languages. Thus, learning to differentiate between similar vowel sounds (“sit” versus “seat,” for example) can be a challenge for the non-native speaker.
Intonation is another important aspect of American English. Intonation lets the speaker signal to listeners the most important part of the message, so they can immediately understand it and quickly respond. Using the wrong vowel sound or an intonation pattern that emphasizes the wrong syllables or words, can make it harder for the listener to understand the speaker’s message, and lead to a communication breakdown.
4. What is the listener’s role in understanding accented speech?
Listeners want to understand what their communication partners are saying quickly and easily, so they can respond without delay. Talking to a person who struggles with pronunciation and with putting the right emphasis on syllables or words causes the listener to put extra attention and effort into following and comprehending what’s being said.
It is important to remember that people subconsciously dislike experiences that require additional effort.
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 the communication skills that are essential for doing one’s job well.
Additionally, research indicates that people perceive information as unreliable when it’s communicated by individuals with a heavy accent. Plus, native English speakers, instead of perceiving non-native speakers as only harder to understand, are also 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 career.
If you’re a non-native English speaker, accent reduction training can benefit you both interpersonally and on the job. The goal of American accent coaching is to help you communicate more freely with other English speakers and achieve greater professional success.
Interested in hearing how accent reduction training can help you?