Whether it’s smoothing out a regional accent such as the well-known Philadelphia twang, or speaking another language like a native, accent reduction training polishes speech patterns and enhances diction.
Accents can vary greatly from one end of a country to another. In a country as large as the United States; the origins of the population heavily influence the way English is spoken.
Philadelphia’s roots are in the north of the United Kingdom; Minnesota has an unmistakable Dutch sound, made famous in the film and TV series Fargo; multi-cultural New York reflects the influx of Italian, German, Eastern European and Russian immigrants two centuries ago.
Speaking like a stereotype
Whatever its origins, an accent can have both positive and negative connotations. People’s past experiences can shape their reaction to an accent. They may cower on hearing someone who sounds like a feared teacher or boss, but think fondly of someone who speaks with the tones of a much-loved relative.
It’s impossible to know people’s personal preferences. However, academic research shows that linguistics play a crucial role in the formation of stereotypes. Films and TV shows use strong accent stereotypes to allow viewers to quickly make assumptions about a character.
Don’t be at a disadvantage
A survey in the United Kingdom found that accents from the cities Liverpool, in the north of England, and Birmingham, in the Midlands, were the least popular among customers of call centers. ‘Queen’s English’, however – the ‘standard’ English accent typical of upper and middle-class people in South-East England – was the most appealing.
People form opinions of others by their accent. Strong accents, or those with negative stereotypes, can undermine the message, regardless of who is delivering it.
Speak like a native
Fluency in a foreign language is a career-enhancing skill. Communicating with people in their own language provides a competitive edge in business, as well as a boost socially.
However, being word-perfect in writing does not necessarily translate to successful face-to-face conversations. Words can take on an entirely different meaning if they are not pronounced correctly; with amusing (and costly) consequences. Linguistics is a complicated science. The way a word is formed uses the throat, mouth and tongue. People develop the ability to form words in accordance with the language they speak. A non-native without this ability will pronounce a word very differently. The place where a word is emphasized can also dramatically alter its meaning.
Conducting serious business negotiations in a ‘comedy’ foreign accent can quickly strip away that all-important air of authority.
The professional approach
Accent modification or accent reduction programs are not intended to eliminate a person’s accent completely. Accents are an inherent part of who we are. However, an accent modification program can improve and maximize the ability to communicate effectively in a business setting.
A company’s wealth and success can often be measured by the type of professionals it is able to attract and hire. Talent might come from anywhere in the world, so language skills become crucial to international employees’ success. In global companies, international talent is brought on board every day. To ensure effective and efficient knowledge transfer, proper language skills in the company’s corporate language are key. How often do brilliant international employees fail to have an impact because colleagues find it difficult to understand what they are saying – and, as a result, the ideas they bring to the table?
Accent modification or accent reduction training programs also integrate listening, reading and writing skills, because speaking is not the only way to effectively communicate. They may also incorporate presentation skills, which are also important in order to be effective.
Whether it’s to iron out a strong regional accent or improve foreign language skills, accent reduction is based entirely on an individual’s personal requirements. The level of language, the desired area of focus and even their profession; can all affect how the accent medication program is delivered.