English as a Second Language, English as a Foreign Language, Accent reduction, Accent training – argh! There are so many names for so many different aspects of learning English, no wonder people are confused! Which way should you go? What are the differences between them? Isn’t learning English in an ESL class enough?
The biggest difference between accent reduction training and English as a Second Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classes is the goal. The aim of ESL classes is to teach an English language learner the grammar, vocabulary, and syntax of the English language. Almost all ESL classes teach reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Slang, idioms, and colloquialisms may also be taught in higher-level classes. An English language learner can go to ESL classes without knowing any English at all, and begin to learn the language.
Although ESL teachers can assist English language learners in their pronunciation, most are not trained in how the sounds of the English language are produced. They may have some idea, either from their own experience in learning a new language or from paying attention to their own pronunciation of various sounds, but they don’t necessarily know how to explain the sound production.
In accent reduction training, the client already has a solid grasp of the English language. They have already gone through the process of learning the language, and usually has at least an intermediate level of English. They may have even taken tests to show their English language proficiency, and may either have a job where they use English on a daily basis, or are actively looking for one.
However, the client also realizes that their English, although proficient, is lacking something. Perhaps they are constantly being asked to repeat themselves. Maybe they lack confidence, and feel their English pronunciation isn’t adequate to make presentations to groups. Maybe they’ve been misunderstood one too many times, and are frustrated. Maybe they’ve been told that their accent is holding them back in their career. Or, perhaps, they’ve been directly asked by a supervisor or professor to work on their pronunciation.
One great reason to have an accent reduction trainer who is also an ESL teacher, is that they are used to working with English language learners. They’ve seen the frustrations that come with learning a new language, and they can help the client work through them. They may even be able to help the client with writing any presentations or speeches they may need to give, from the initial revisions to pronouncing the words correctly. Teachers are constantly speaking in public – they know how challenging it can be.
Accent reduction training can be a great supplement for more advanced ESL classes, either during or afterwards. Although ESL classes can give some help in pronunciation, they are no substitute for getting the targeted individualized training that accent reduction classes can offer.