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Accent Modification Training:
An Overlooked Benefit for Foreign Nationals

August 2007

Dear Karen, Welcome to On the Edge, a monthly newsletter from ExpatEdge®, that
answers your questions regarding international assignments. This month, Karen Yates,
President of Global English Training in Dallas TX, answers your questions regarding accent
modification training for foreign nationals.

  • Many of the foreign nationals my company brings on assignment to the U.S.
    are fluent in the English language, but are still routinely misunderstood
    because of their accent. Are training programs available that can help our
    transferees?
  • What are the benefits of an accent modification training program and how do
    they work?

Many of the foreign nationals my company brings on assignment to the
U.S. are fluent in the English language, but are still routinely
misunderstood because of their accent. Are training programs available
that can help our transferees?

Language training may be the most obvious form of support for foreign nationals in the United
States. This may be the case for those transferees who speak little or no English, but many
companies overlook those transferees who relocate from countries where English is a first or
second language. Companies often assume that when a transferee relocates to the United
States from an English speaking country such as India or Singapore, they have a command of
the English language and need little assistance. Many companies are beginning to realize that
a foreign national who is completely fluent in the English language may still be routinely
misunderstood because of their accent. Accent modification training is provided by universities
and private training companies where individuals are trained how to identify incorrect
pronunciations and how to exercise their mouth and tongue to correct the problem. Other
teaching methods include mimicry. This method helps students correct pronunciation,
rhythm, and stress by watching videos of native language speakers, then mimicking what they
hear and see, including body language. Most training programs incorporate individualized
programs developed as a result of a comprehensive speech analysis. These programs typically
last between ten and twenty sessions. Most programs can be provided one-on-one or in a
classroom setting. Classroom programs generally take longer and are less expensive than
one-on-one tutoring, but one-on-one tutoring is more effective and quicker. For some,
improvement can be seen immediately, but it can also take between three and six months for
others.

What are the benefits of an accent modification training program and
how do they work?

Companies bring foreign nationals to the United States at great expense. They are often
experts in their field and are brought to this country because of their technical expertise,
qualifications, and experience. Much of this value can be lost if they are unable to
communicate effectively with their work colleagues, teams, or clients. Not only does this
impact a transferee’s effectiveness, but it can also lead to frustration and feelings of isolation.
By making accent modification programs available to foreign nationals, organizations can
maximize their expertise and knowledge. It can help ensure a positive return on the
company’s investment in the transferee and further the individual’s career development. A
foreign national’s accent may impede their communication ability, even though they are fluent
in English. Research indicates accents are caused mostly through differences in rhythm and
stress, as well as difficulty in making certain sounds linguistically. A common example is
putting an emphasis on the wrong syllable. Accent is almost impossible to improve without
training. Speakers seldom can hear what they are mispronouncing. For example, certain
regions mix up “L” and “R” sounds because they cannot hear the difference. They may not
notice a mispronunciation, but others may not be able to understand what they trying to
communicate. Accent and grammar are usually established by ages six and twelve
respectively. In order to help someone change their accent, an instructor needs to be a
linguistics specialist and have the knowledge of a speech therapist. Accents are influenced by
the tongue, lip position, vocal cords, and air movement through the mouth or nose.
Instructors must be able to show students how to manipulate these in order to limit
mispronunciations as a result of their accent. There is much that can be done to correct
accent-related problems. As companies research the various options available, they will find
that it is surprisingly cost effective and beneficial for both the company and the transferee.
Global English Training works with individuals and corporate clients to find the best linguistic
solutions that meet their needs.


To learn more about the various language training programs available or how accent
modification can help foreign nationals better communicate, contact Karen Yates, President,
Global English Training, at (972) 687-9005.

 

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Call for free initial speech analysis today 972.687.9005

G.E.T. English Training was created in 2006 to provide quality accent and English training to business and medical professionals. We currently train individuals from around the world on-site, in our offices and live internet training via WebEx™.