Students from all over the world dream of studying in US colleges and universities. They spend years taking Advanced Placement classes; standardized tests such as the IELTS, the TOEFL, the SAT, the ACT; spend thousands of dollars on education consultants – doing any and everything necessary to achieve this accomplishment.
However, for some students, once they arrive in the United States, they realize a huge deficit in their English language education. Their reading, writing, and listening skills are certainly sufficient to succeed in those areas in their classes, but now they have to make presentations to their classmates, and/or to their professors. So much time was spent learning other English language skills, but the all-important speaking skill may have been neglected.
This is not the students’ fault. It’s just the way that many students are taught English in their home countries. There is a huge amount of effort and time and energy devoted to vocabulary, grammar, writing and reading, but very little to actually speaking. In addition, in many countries, students are not encouraged to speak up and participate in discussions in class. Instead, they are taught to solely listen to the teacher, read the book, and regurgitate the information on paper. The education style of the United States can come as a shock to many of these students.
Once they arrived in the United States, and they are sitting in what might be their first fully English-speaking class, they may find that they are lost. When they look at the syllabus, to see what is required to do well in the class, they find something called “discussion”. They may even find that they are required to make presentations in front of their classmates, their peers. This may be the first time in their lives they have ever been required to do something like this. Or, it may be the first time they’ve had to do it exclusively in English.
This is, to say the least, terrifying for many students. They realize that their accent can make people assume that they are less knowledgeable than their peers, even though they truly are not. It may even subject them to discrimination. Even if their professors and classmates are enlightened enough to recognize that an accent in no way makes a person less intelligent or less knowledgeable, because the student hasn’t had much practice in public speaking exclusively in English, they may not be very well understood.
This is where accent reduction training can be a huge benefit.
Accent reduction training is not intended as a means of taking away someone’s identity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having an accent. What accent reduction training can do, is give a person an additional tool so that they can be better understood by their peers, by their professors, and by their future employers and clients.
It can give them a huge step up from the competition. It shows that they are willing the extra mile in order to have a better experience in school, in order to present themselves in the best way, and in order to succeed. It can also give them additional confidence when making friends with other students. Instead of feeling like they can only spend time with people from their own background, they can feel more certain of acceptance by their peers from other communities, both within the United States and from outside of the United States.
Depending on the trainer, accent reduction training can not only help students learn to pronounce English with more of the standard American accent, but it can also help with public speaking. This is a skill, and not one that most people know how to do naturally. With this training, however, students can have a more enjoyable and successful experience in their American college or university, and in their future career.