Do you want to take accent reduction or accent modification classes but are not sure what it's all about? Read on...
You may have heard that someone you know at work is taking an accent reduction classes or accent modification online. Perhaps you’ve searched for pronunciation exercises online? Many people are. But what and why are they taking these accent reduction classes? Is this something you might be interested in doing? Read below to find out more about
First, of all, What is an Accent ?
An accent is essentially the way a particular individual or group pronounces words when they speak. Different people's accents differ in voice, pronunciation, how their vowels and consonants sound, stress and prosody. Sometimes, even grammar, semantics and vocabulary are part of an accent. Often times, people who are just starting to learn spoken english or starting to practice their english conversation skills, are labeled as having an accent because the way they pronounce english is impacted by the sounds from their native language.
And this impact from our native language on our American english pronunciation is fine. We all have an accent that is particular to where we are from and the community within which we grew up. But it doesn’t mean that you want to have your word pronunciation sound different when you are using your business english at work. There are many people today that are speaking via phone or video chat to an American audience and want their American english pronunciation to be understood in conversation.
“I always thought that my accent was something I had to live with. But the American Accent training I received with STTW really changed the way I sound. The English pronunciation exercises were so easy and clear, I saw progress very quickly.” - Vlad, North Carolina
Why Do People have a different accent?
There are two reasons that people pronounce english with an accent. The first reason might be that there are certain sounds that exist in spoken English which do not exist in their native language. So they substitute sounds. They end up using the sound that is closest to that sound from their native or original language.
For example, the “th” sound is not one that exists in many languages, but it does in American English. So a person might substitute the “th” sound in the word “think” with another sound like “f.” So their accent influenced pronunciation of the word would be “fink.” While they absolutely know how to speak English, they are actually saying the wrong word. And while a listener might know what the speaker intended to say, they will also know that the word pronunciation was wrong.
There is a second reason that people with a different accent might use the wrong sound. And that is because using the American English pronunciation of a sound is very difficult. It is hard to make the American English sound because it feels unnatural or strange.
For example, in this case, the speaker might be trying to make the “j” as in “joke” sound. But that sound does not exist in their accent and so the word might come out as “yoke.” The sound that is chosen by the speaker is easier or sounds close enough. But it does not sound like someone with an American English accent and technically, that word pronunciation is incorrect.
“I’ve been struggling with my accent at work and needed to do something about it. I looked for pronunciation exercises online but all of the videos never helped me make a change. I needed to learn how to speak with an American accent from a real person. These classes worked so well for me.” - Luis, San Francisco
Some other things that Can Impact How Someone Sounds
There are other aspects of spoken language that can impact how a non-native speaker pronounces English.
One aspect of a language that can be pronounced differently is intonation. The English language, like every other language, has a melody. In American English pronunciation, there is a different intonation pattern which a speaker must use. They are not too difficult and a non-native speaker wanting to speak with an American accent does not need special musical training or special skills to learn this intonation. We all have the capacity to learn this melody or intonation that is unique to American English pronunciation.
There is something else we end up working on with many accent modification clients in order to improve pronunciation in American English, and that is stress. What happens is that people who need english accent training due to their native accent also change the stress when they speak in English. Every language has it’s own stress rules that people learn just by listening to their speech community. It’s not something they ever learn explicitly. So when they start to work on their American pronunciation, they are not even aware that they need to work on stress.
Let’s look at an example: In the word delay, you can put the stress on the first part of the word: DElay. But that would be incorrect pronunciation. The more correct and better english pronunciation is to put the stress on the last part of the word to say deLAY.
So Who Might Need American Accent training by Taking Accent Reduction Classes?
There are many people who might consider English accent training to work on their pronunciation. These might include people who are on the phone for their job, teachers who need to present to an American audience, team managers or people that work in a corporate environment.
At Speech Therapy that Works, we have found that excellent communication skills are a way to get ahead in any business. We have been offering effective accent reduction classes to a diverse community of learners from many countries and business backgrounds. Our clients are in technology, healthcare, finance, telecommunications and more. Our clients have told us that our program has yielded increased satisfaction, job security, productivity and even getting ahead at work.
Our accent coaches have the skills to teach our clients and have developed methods for how to improve english pronunciation. There has never been a client we couldn’t help. We’ve developed a cost effective way for any size company as well as individuals to access accent reduction services and allow people to learn independently from any place they might be in the world. Our program includes one on one sessions - which, in all honesty are the only way to change your accent. While other accent reduction services might create excellent videos and subscription plans to access those materials, the ability to provide feedback directly and immediately to someone learning to modify their accent pronunciation is when the change really happens. All of those online videos that give you Engish pronunciation exercises online will not make a lasting change.
With our accent coaches, you or your employees will learn excellent communication and English pronunciation skills that are crucial in the multicultural and multinational workplace in which English has become the global language that people use for business. The programs we have will help you become clear and confident communicators.
“The program I’ve used with my coach is very well structured so that I can work to improve how I pronounce English and I can see my American accent pronunciation improving. My coach explains all of the concepts simply and clearly and I always have plenty of examples that apply to my real life. I would highly recommend working with a coach online. It’s how I’ve really made the most progress.” - Jin, New York
Accents at Work. Do You Think There is an Impact?
Foreign accents in the workplace have been in the news recently. In the article linked to below, Dr. Andrew Timming, an experimental psychologist at the University of Western Australia, stated that his research has shown that a foreign accent might detract against people that are trying to get a job and that there may be unconscious biases against accents when someone is hiring for a company.
In the study, he found that those with a clear and “native” accent were rated as more employable. Those with foreign accents were considered best for non customer facing positions. Meaning, those that were not going to be talking to customers.
While this is clearly not right and HR professionals should work on the unconscious biases they bring to the hiring process, it sort of makes sense. If you are a person that talks on the phone a lot for your job and people don’t understand you, it can be problematic. Or if you are a doctor and the accent and how you pronounce English in conversation is difficult to understand, what could happen? Should a hospital still hire the doctor or should the doctor consider taking some American accent reduction training classes to work on how to speak with an American accent?
Considering Accent Reduction Classes? Here are the Top 10 Tips for American Accent training.
To help make your American English accent pronunciation better, try these ten suggestions. Hint, it DOES NOT include watching all of those accent pronunciation exercise videos on YouTube.
1. Record Yourself
Use your smartphone or laptop to record yourself. This is the best way to hear how you sound to other people and it's helpful to see and hear yourself as a listener would. Don't only listen to how you pronounce American English words. Instead look at the overall picture: are you speaking at a comfortable volume to the listener? Are you speaking to fast or slow? Are you using language that is appropriate for the situation (professional language for a business setting)? All of these will contribute to sounding better.
2. Find an American accent role model
Do you have a favorite TV show or watch the evening news every day? Choose someone you hear everyday who has an American English Accent and listen to their spoken English pronunciation, rate of speech and the sounds in certain common words. You can practice at home trying to speak like they do. You can also use resources from experienced accent coaches to give you the right model for American English accent pronunciation.
3. Get Feedback from a Friend you Trust
If you feel like you still have more to work on with your business English, your word pronunciation or your American English Accent, ask a friend to give you feedback or watch videos of you talking. You can even ask for an honest critique from a friend after talking on the phone.
4. Pronounce Sounds Clearly
For American English accent pronunciation to be correct, this one is very important. Pronounce all the sounds in words clearly. Especially the last sound in a word. For example, instead of saying “workin” say, “working,” and instead of saying “seve” vs. “seven.”
5. Project your Voice
American accent training will always also train you to use your voice efficiently and face the listener when you talk. Take a good breath when you are about to speak and relax. Whether or not you pronounce every word in an American English Accent, speaking in a clear and strong voice will help you communicate efficiently and confidently.
6. Speak a Bit Slower
To improve your word pronunciation, you can stretch out the vowel sounds in words to decrease the speed at which you speak just a bit. This gives listeners time to think about what you are saying or have a chance to reply. You can also pause or put the information you want to say into chunks by pausing where a comma or period might be.
7. Remember Stress and Intonation
Try to remember to vary your stress and intonation patterns to work on your accent reduction. Don't speak in a robotic monotone. Stress the most important word in a sentence by slightly increasing the pitch and volume of that word. Think about the difference between sentences when you stress different words. For example, the difference between "I have a GREAT lunch," versus "I had a great LUNCH." There are a lot of American English pronunciation stress rules that you might need to learn, which are posted here.
8. Practice all the Time
If you want to know how to speak in English with an American accent, then every time you speak is an opportunity to practice your American English pronunciation. Whether you're at work, buying movie tickets or saying hello to your neighbor, use each opportunity to practice the strategies you've learned.
9. Practice Stress Rules When Reading
English pronunciation exercises are available everywhere. There are nouns your email, compound nouns at the grocery store and numbers on your smartphone calendar. These are all opportunities to practice commenting using the proper stress rules. Learn the rules and then use these opportunities throughout the day to use the learned techniques.
10. Get a Professional Opinion for American English Accent Training to be Successful
It's difficult for all of us to know what might still be slowing down our progress. When you feel like you've taken your learning as far as you can on your own, consider contacting a professional in American English Accent pronunciation to take you to the next level.
Do you want to be a Successful Communicator and have Confidence on the Job?
Who wouldn’t answer “yes!” At Speech Therapy that Works, so many times we come across clients who are in a leadership position or a super high profile career in which their communication and speaking skills are a critical component and key part of their daily job requirements. Some clients work in high tech and have to communicate to other programmers. Some are in health care and require great communication and American English accent when in conversation with a patient. Others are in management positions and are always speaking with their teams to lead projects.
At Speech Therapy that Works we have even had a person who had to present on television and sometimes radio. That’s high profile! He was often interviewed and made presentations on stage and his American English accent for business English had to be neutral enough for many people to understand what he was saying. He did not want his native accent to get in the way of his message. He also had to speak about a topic that was highly very important and timely. He would make his best effort to speak with the way he heard others speak but he just didn't know how to speak with an American accent correctly. This was very stressful for him. This stress sometimes even made her accent worse - as he showed us in recordings. He would then be even less understood.
He had considered taking classes to change his accent and sound like he had a better American English accent by taking accent reduction classes online. But they gave him access to a bunch of videos and recordings which didn’t make any lasting change.
That’s when he came to Speech Therapy that Works. We were able to make an analysis of his current American English pronunciation when he was speaking. It became evident that the classes he needed to take would be focused on working on specific consonant sounds for his business English to improve, the rate of speech so that he could have time to actually pronounce the American English words with the correct accent and her intonation.
He had taken several months of American English classes online and then went back to TV and making presentations and speaking in public in with his new American English accent after taking accent reduction classes online. He was so excited to use his new skills. He could not believe how many people had said to him that he had improved his ability to have a conversation in American English and be understood.
His employer also said that he was now a much better and more effective communicator. When we asked him what the biggest effect and most important change that had come about from taking American English accent training classes online with Speech Therapy that Works online is that he had gained so much confidence and that he really had the skills now to make the change to his accent in a permanent way. He even told us the following:
“I am so grateful for all the help I received from my accent coach. The classes online for accent reduction were so easy and convenient with my travel schedule. And compared with other courses I signed up for, this worked because I had a coach that was working with me and held me accountable every week. That made the biggest impact. My presentation skills are so much better and I feel that everyone thinks my American English accent is intelligible now I am much more confident now!” - LR, Washington DC
At Better Speech we know you deserve speech therapy that works.
We have experts in your needs and assign the right therapist; not just the therapist that happens to be in your area. If you want to find out more about our services, contact us to schedule a free consultation.