What is Accent Reduction?
Accent Reduction is Clearly Talking’s approach to helping people with strong overseas accents communicate. At the time of writing, we’ve been doing this for over fifteen years. Traditional approaches to dealing with strong accents are either to seek Accent Elimination or to treat the accent as a medical issue through Speech Therapy. Our belief is that both are demeaning approaches to what is essentially a very personal matter. Your accent is part of who you think you are.
I don’t have an accent
You may have heard some people say that they don’t have an accent. Of course, this is not true. Every one has an accent. Statements like this demonstrate a distinct lack of awareness. If you want to see what someone’s accent is, all you have to do is take them away from their social and work groups and move them to another area. We speak like those around us because of an innate human need to be accepted by those around us.
Of course there are always exceptions. You may be one of those happy people who can pick up new accents within weeks of arriving in a new place. If this is the case our accent programs will not be of any help to you. Instead, head over to the Clearly Talking website where we deal with Public Speaking and Vocal Identity and Branding.
Accent as a Part of Identity
Accent becomes inextricably tied up with our sense of self-esteem and our identity.
Your accent is simply the way that you speak a particular language. This includes pronunciation of individual sounds, rhythm, stress, intonation and pace. Nearly all languages, even some that are only spoken by small groups, will have regional accents, this is to say a slightly different way of speaking a language. There will often be differences of accent based on socio-economic group. This is holds true in Australia where the biggest differences in accent are socio-economic.
What is the Best Accent to Learn?
I would strongly argue with the premise of this question. Some accents are easier to understand than others and some are more widely accepted but all accents have their place.
English Language Schools will tend to teach either RP (Received Pronunciation or standard British) or GA (General American). These are the most widely understood accents but there are many others and none are more correct than another. Accents are different in all English Speaking countries and most will have regional variations. This said, unless it is your plan to migrate again, it’s best to seek to reduce your accent towards the local accent in the country or area you have migrated to. Here at Clearly Talking we work with RP as this is the most easily understood and accepted in Australia.
Am I Stupid Because of my Accent?
You might be surprised how often people ask us the question, “Am I stupid because of my accent?” The short answer is definitely not!
The inability to lose a strong accent is simply a feature of aging.
Studies show that we are at our most receptive to learn new languages before we reach our teens. As we reach adulthood this ability begins to tail off so that by the time we reach our forties learning new languages (and taming our accent to blend in with a new culture) becomes increasingly difficult. This is true in your mother tongue as much as it is in a new language. I have found that by the time a client reaches their late fifties the challenges presented by trying to reduce a strong accent can outweigh the benefits. This is not to say that it is impossible, just that the older you get the more time you will have to devote to acquiring new language skills.
So, the problem with accents comes when we migrate to a new area as a mature adult. When you are building a career and a family, there isn’t the time to devote to language. Away from the pressures of work, we seek out comfort. This rarely includes putting yourself through more language classes and usually includes mixing with others from your home culture. Of course this compounds the problem or at least does nothing to improve it.
How do you go about Reducing an Accent?
The first thing to remember is that you are the main driver of change. Even the best teachers in the world can only show you the way. You have to supply the need and motivation. Most of you taking this program will be feeling the pain of not being understood or finding it difficult to understand what is being said to you. This pain is good! It provides you with the incentive to keep going and do something about it.
We start with breath control because any speech related discipline relies on your ability to control your breath. New and unfamiliar sounds and shapes that you will need to practice need better breath control.
We have developed our own strategies to help clients on their journey which are specific to accent. These are vital if you are to achieve mastery of new skills.
Putting in the Necessary Support
You will do much better on this journey of learning if you have the appropriate support and accountability.
One approach is often insufficient to deal with a strong accent, this is why immersion is important.
Tackling Difficult Sounds
Counter-intuitively the pronunciation of individual sounds is not as much of a deal-breaker as some people think. We can nearly always predict the pronunciation problems you will have depending on your mother tongue. Most of the issues are very easy to fix; they just need practice. We provide you with plenty of this.
Rhythm is the big game changer for most of our clients. Learning where and how to place stress in a word and a sentence are core parts of our program.
Another important part of our program. The key here is to activate what we call the Red Car Syndrome – namely our human ability to look for patterns.
Learn to be kind t o yourself. You doing better than you think. Virtually all of our clients are capable and well educated. You’ve just got this little hiccup with your accent.
The Seven Secrets program is an introduction to the subject of reducing a strong accent. If you want to go further why not take our full Accent Reduction program?