First of all, what ISN’T accent training? Accent reduction, or accent training, is not the elimination of an accent. All of us have an accent – even what is considered the neutral American accent is actually from the American Midwest – and it is extremely unlikely that you can eliminate your native accent completely. We occasionally see actors who play a role with a different accent than their native one. In almost every instance, there is an accent coach on-site to help them with the character’s accent, and the actor spend hours upon hours practicing their lines and being corrected. And even then, how many times do we chuckle at how inaccurate the acquired accent is?
When we learn our first language, we learn how to make sounds in a specific way. What we think of as an accent is basically the way we learned to make those sounds. As we learn other languages, the sounds from our first language, or mother tongue, interfere with the new sounds of the language we are trying to acquire. Sometimes the sounds are pretty similar – for example, an Italian native speaker would not have too much trouble learning the new sounds required to learn Spanish. Other new sounds might be extremely difficult to acquire. Someone learning English after learning their mother tongue of Punjabi, for example, might have trouble with some of the new sounds.
When someone decides to have accent training, they engage in a process to learn how to make these new sounds that are specific to the new language. Instead of learning the sound that’s “close enough” in their native tongue, they learn the sound that is specific to the new language. For example, many Korean English language learners, when learning the name of the tasty fast-food dish of a round of bread with tomato sauce, cheese, and sometimes meats on it, they are taught to say “pija” (IPA: pi:dʒɑː) instead of “pizza” (IPA: pi:t.sə). This substitution makes this word almost nonsensical to native English speakers. Another example – in spoken Chinese, there is a specific sound that, to a native English speaker, reminds them of the “r” and the “l” sounds meshed together. This is a sound that is not used in English at all, but is common in Chinese. When a Chinese English language learner begins learning these two separate sounds, it can be very difficult to learn the correct tongue placement to make them.
That’s where accent training comes in. As a pronunciation teacher, I help you hear what the sounds should be, then help you learn the correct tongue placement so you can make the correct sound. As you practice the sounds and listen to your recordings, you can hear your own mistakes and learn to correct them. Often it just takes a few hours of practice to change your English pronunciation to a more easily understood way of saying things.
It’s very frustrating to want to communicate with your coworkers, clients, or boss, and to have to keep repeating yourself because your pronunciation gets in the way. With accent training, you can eliminate that problem and make faster progress in the corporate game.