A speech that lacks comprehensibility fails its essential purpose- that of communicating effectively.
The state of affairs becomes even more precarious where deals are to be struck and businesses are to run.
Unhappy customers, frustrated employees, misinformation, confusion, goof-ups can all be traced to some or the other kind of lapse in speech clarity.
This gives us a reason strong enough to relook at the way we speak.
With employers crisscrossing the globe and engaging professionals from all across, speaking a language, understood by the majority, has now become a necessity.
The business world is insisting, understandably, on developing a version of spoken English that is universally recognized and appreciated.
Accent is a factor that cannot be ignored here. Using an accent that is free from the influence of our primary language and is understood easily, enables better business communication.
Guided learning along with monitored practice is all we need to be able to speak in an accent that doesn’t interfere with our overall message to our global audience.
While we are un-learning our old speech habits and relearning the more effective way to speak, let us actionize these three things:
- Speak slow
- Enunciate each word clearly
- Follow correct grammar
And we are good to go!
Let me address some common questions that you might have while deciding to work on your accent–
Q #1. How do I know if I have an accent that required a reduction?
Ans. Try asking the following questions to yourself-
- Are you often asked to repeat yourself in order to be understood?
- Do you find yourself asking people to repeat, as you do not understand them the first time?
- Do you feel self-conscious while speaking in English?
- Have your accent and subsequently your overall communication ever come in the way of your personal and professional growth?
If your answer is ‘Yes’ to all these questions, it is time you start working on your accent.
Q #2. Can I do away with the influence of my mother tongue from my speech permanently?
Ans. Yes, very much. The process needs two simple actions –
- Train your ears to catch differences and then fine-tune them.
- Practice consistently.
Q #3. How long does it take to learn the new way of speaking?
Ans. Depends on how different your native language (sounds, word-stress, intonation, and rate of speech) is from English.
If the differences are subtle, just a few learning sessions would work. In case of heavy first language Influence, it will take a couple of months of learning and sustained practice.
Your urgency and motivation to learn also play an important role here.
To truly internalize your newly acquired speech style, you will typically need some serious and consistent practice for 3 to 6 months, post your formal Accent-reduction training.
Q #4. Am I too old to change my speaking style and accent?
Ans. Time and again it has been proven, learning is not age-bound. Although they say it is easier for younger learners to pick up skills, your willingness to learn, combined with your genuine efforts, can defy this notion. You are never too old to learn anything!
Q #5. Where do I start?
Ans. a) Start by fixing the vowel and consonant sounds in your speech.
b) Put these corrected sounds in words in your day-to-day conversations.
c) Work on syllable stress, intonation, and rate of speech in that sequence.
d) Fix any grammar error you might have in your speech, paying special attention to tenses and subject-verb agreement.
e) Take support from Accent reduction courses, books, audios, videos. Also, observing real-life conversations goes a long way in helping you learn.
Q #6. Are the results measurable?
Ans. In a formal Accent reduction training program, a pre, mid, and then post-training diagnostic analysis helps you see your improvement graph.
Also, if you find that your answers to the questions from Q#1 above are gradually changing from ‘Yes’ to ‘No’, then you know you are on right track.
If modifying our accent helps us get ahead in personal and professional life, then this is worth the effort!
There are some famous names who have successfully dropped their native accent out of necessity. These examples reiterate the fact that smoothing the edges of our speech style is well within our reach.
- Hugh Jackman– Watching him in Wolverine of the X-Men, it is surprising to know that the actor is from Australia. You wouldn’t find a trace of his native accent in the role he played.
- Kate Winslet– She played the role of an American lady, Rose, in the movie Titanic. Her smooth un-British accent convinced many that she was American, whereas the fact is that she is originally a British actor.
- Madonna– The pop star is known famously to have developed an upper-class British accent while being married to Guy Richie, a British film director.
- Meghan Markle– Her stint as an actor might have given her a good ear for sounds, rhythm, and intonation. People have noticed the slight adjustments in her sounds and intonation (more British than American), post her wedding into the Royal British family.
- Margaret Thatcher– The British Prime minister on purpose dropped her native Lincolnshire accent. She adopted the standard Queen’s English solely to align her personality to the position of power she held.