What I believe: accents are beautiful, quirky, tell a story and endear us to people.
What I also believe: if you have an accent and you want to be successful in business, you will communicate more effectively if you speak clearly and people understand you well.
Now, our business is to teach languages, but it’s also our business to reduce accents and show our students how to sound more ‘native’.
This doesn’t mean that we want everyone to sound like Americans, only that we want others to understand you well.
There are specific tricks you can learn that will make your speech understood better by an American ear.
You Want to be Understood, Right?
I remember when I lived in Mexico, and every time I ordered, the waiter said politely, “What?”
I was embarrassed. I was frustrated. And worse, I was completely fluent in Spanish.
Why Couldn’t He Understand Me?
Accent is more than just pronouncing words. It’s the rhythm, the cadence, the tone, the linking of the words, as opposed to saying. Each. Word. In. di. vi. dually. Native speakers don’t do this. You don’t do this in your first language either.
When you’re fluent, but you have an accent, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve it so that you can work more effectively, or, make your coworkers feel more confident about working with you.
I have a friend/coworker who has a strong accent.
I’ve seen him give presentations, and the crowd leans toward him and focuses intently to understand him. Now, you might say, “That’s great! He’s getting their attention!”
But not in the good way.
We want them to be able to relax and listen to your speech, not crane their necks and scrunch their foreheads trying to understand. We want them to focus on the content of what you’re saying, not trying to figure out the words.
Dianne Markley, a professor at the University of North Texas at Denton (UNT) whose graduate research focused on how accents affect the hiring process, says unfortunately, “sometimes an accent leads to the perception that that person can’t perform this job,” she adds. In fact, it is legal to not hire someone whose accent materially affects his ability to perform key aspects of a job.
Point is: if people are asking you ‘what?’ on the phone or in person, you might want to consider accent reduction lessons.
I reduced my accent in Spanish, and now I can order in a restaurant without the ‘What?’.
If you would like to a free consultation about your accent, please email email@example.com.