Adapting to life in a new country is a challenging endeavor for anyone. Add in learning a new language, adapting to cultural norms and establishing a career, and it can seem impossible. This is where many people who speak English as a second language turn to accent modification programs.
Accent modification, otherwise known as accent softening or accent elimination, is designed to help non-native speakers improve their English language skills and enhance their overall communication and presentation skills for application in their everyday and professional lives. Though it is impossible to fully eliminate one’s accent, modification courses are proven to significantly reduce obvious accents and help non-native speakers enhance their confidence. Professional accent reduction training is intended for people who have average to advanced English skills but need extra assistance to improve the clarity and effectiveness of their pronunciation.
What are the potential benefits of an accent modification program? Enhanced language skills and confidence are just a couple of improvements you can expect, but that’s not at all – here are eight benefits of accent reduction training.
Benefits of Accent Modification/Softening Programs
1. Learn to speak with confidence and know that you are understood by your colleagues and peers.
Studying pronunciation on your own or using software programs to improve your skills is a great beginner tool for English language learners. What these methods lack, however, is the ability to practice your newly acquired skills with other learners and native speakers.
When you enroll in an accent elimination program, the individualized instruction and one-on-one support from teachers will greatly improve your chances for success and boost your confidence. In this classroom setting, you will get to work with trained professionals as well as students who, like you, are trying to improve their skills in a non-native language. Here, you can get real-time feedback on your pronunciation and accent softening, as well as additional technique suggestions that can help improve your mastery of the language.
2. Improve language skills and techniques to improve listeners ability to understand.
In an accent modification program offered by an accredited institution, you can trust that the instruction you’re receiving should increase your odds of improving your language skills and ability to communicate effectively. These programs are run by licensed speech/language pathologists with master’s degrees, so they have learned specialized teaching methods designed to help learners with many diverse backgrounds.
Using tools such as pre- and post-training assessments, small group instruction and career-specific language training, accent elimination programs have been proven to work. In fact, the University of San Diego Accent Modification Professional program has seen students decrease speech errors 40-50% after completion of their coursework.
3. Develop great pronunciation skills.
One of the primary frustrations non-native speakers have is with their pronunciation. The English language is notoriously difficult to learn from a reading and writing standpoint, but many learners find it even more challenging to master comprehension and speaking skills. This is because the spelling of English words often does not correlate to how they are pronounced. In fact, 60% of English words have silent letters in them, making proper pronunciation a proper nightmare.
With accent modification training, you will learn all about the intricacies of English when it comes to pronunciation, dialects and elocution. These skills are designed to translate to both professional and personal settings, and help you assimilate to working, living and speaking in a new area.
4. Become calmer and more engaging when speaking.
When you’re confident in your speaking abilities, you’re more likely to be calm and engaged when conversing with coworkers or in social situations. After completing an accent softening program, you should feel that confidence. After all, you likely received specialized instruction, worked on specific diction modification for your accent and learned skills you can take into the world with you.
5. Fewer mistakes when speaking, leads to better effectiveness.
For English language learners, it’s easy and quite common to say words incorrectly or be misunderstood when speaking. Whether it’s your accent that makes it difficult for listeners to understand or particular words are just difficult for you, accent softening can help reduce your mistakes.
A study published in the Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice saw 82 U.S-based physicians who spoke English as a second language undertake accent modification courses. Prior to any accent modification training, they felt that their accents were a barrier to being understood, which was harming their ability to treat patients. After a comprehensive accent reduction program, the study noted that participants, “felt better about their ability to communicate; they had fewer negative feelings and believed they were better understood by others; finally, they believed that a higher percentage of their speech was understood by others.”
6. Better networking and negotiation skills.
Accent modification is often sought out by professionals looking to advance their careers in the U.S. to avoid being misunderstood in the workplace. This is because succeeding in their job aspirations requires not just knowledge and experience, but also the ability to communicate as effectively as possible.
After an accent reduction course that helps you see improvement in softening your accent, you will likely find it easier to communicate, network and negotiate in the workplace.
7. Less confusion from your audience.
Research from University of Chicago psychologists Shiri Lev-Ari and Boaz Keysar cited in a Scientific America report states that: “Non-native accents make speech somewhat more difficult for native speakers to parse and thereby reduces ‘cognitive fluency’ – i.e., the ease with which the brain processes stimuli.”
With accent modification, the goal is to soften your accent, thereby improving your listener’s “cognitive fluency” and ability to understand you. When there is less confusion, you are more likely to be completely heard, and your argument or point of view can come across in a clear, concise manner.
8. Avoid stereotyping, which can lead to faulty assumptions about capabilities.
Unfortunately, many non-native speakers encounter biases or are stereotyped due to their accents. The BBC reported that it can take 30 milliseconds of speech for listeners to identify a person's ethnic or cultural background as being different from their own, and make snap judgments about the kind of person they might be, whether positive or negative.
This is why accent modification can be essential for business professionals looking to advance their careers in an area where the native language is not their first. Of course, overcoming someone else’s stereotype should not be your responsibility, but personal bias should not stop you from pursuing and succeeding in the career you want. And with effective communication, you can demonstrate your abilities more easily and effectively.
Ways to Improve on Your Accent Modification Training
You’ve successfully completed your accent modification training, you’ve put it into practice, and now you have the job you’ve always wanted. That sounds like the hard work is done, but don’t let all the time you’ve invested go to waste. After completing accent softening training, you should continue to practice your skills and improve upon your pronunciation skills. How can you continue to get better?
1. Practice, practice, practice.
As you would with any skill, be it playing an instrument, juggling, cooking, literally anything, you must practice to retain and improve your abilities. This is definitely the case with accent modification – after completing the program, you should find ways outside of your work to practice. Attend public speaking seminars, repeat the exercises you performed in class and practice your diction with peers. All of these efforts will help you sharpen your skills and take your communication abilities to the next level.
2. Listen and record your speech.
This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to practice your modified accent pronunciation. Most accent softening courses will use this technique, which can easily be replicated on your own. Use a digital recorder or even your phone and listen back to yourself after performing various linguistic exercises. This will help you identify areas that can by improved with further practice.
With accent modification training, you are improving your ability to be understood, which therefore improves your chances of succeeding in the professional setting. Whether it’s sharing new ideas, speaking on the telephone, giving a presentation or growing your business, improved pronunciation skills can make all the difference. And when your employees or coworkers can better understand you, you can be more effective in all aspects of your job performance.
At the University of San Diego, the English Language Academy offers an Accent Modification Professional Program designed to help you develop language skills for every profession. All instruction is led by a licensed speech/language pathologist specially trained in accent modification. Our team of accent trainers have worked with employees and small groups from some of the largest companies in the United States and internationally, including:
- LG Electronics, Sempra Energy, Sony Electronics – Plantronics Inc., SDG&E, Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), Fitbit, United States Marine Corps, Illumina, Inc., General Dynamics, NASSCO, Leaders of Christ Ministry, Johnson & Johnson- Acuvue Division, AT&T, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, University of San Diego International MBA Program, University of San Diego Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science program, and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Our ELA instructors offer highly effective, personalized training programs designed to help students feel supported and confident in their learning environment, which we find translates to confidence in the real world. If you would like to learn more about our accent modification program, please contact the English Language Academy.