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What is Accent Reduction Training? June 7, 2011

Posted by lyndastucky in Communication.
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Have you ever wondered what  accent reduction training is?  Wikipedia provides an interesting tidbit of information regarding accent reduction (Click here for the article.)   Some good points are touched upon related to the elements of accent reduction:  pronunciation, speech patterns, and speech habits, changing the way one uses the mouth, teeth, and tongue to form vowel and consonant sounds, modifying one’s intonation and stress patterns, and changing one’s rhythm.  There is some debate, even among practitioners, about which of these areas is most important to develop to gain higher intelligibility.   

The goal is to enhance the clarity of communication with the native population.  It is not necessary to eliminate an accent but rather to be better understood.  Foreign accent elimination is extremely difficult to achieve.  Some of the reasons that it is difficult that I found in the research (Patsy M. Lightbown and Nina Spada, How Languages are Learned, 3d Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 53-76.) suggest that our ability to learn a second language is actually influenced by the environment in which we grew up, our aptitude, intelligence, age, learning style and motivation.  New language learning is also influenced by our self-confidence and willingness to make mistakes.    Having the right combination of these factors may assist you in eliminating the accent, but it will still take a significant amount of effort and time.  We see actors who have eliminated an accent for a role, which demonstrates to us that it can be done.  To do so though, it helps to have lengthy and intensive training for the specific speaking part that is being learned.  I normally don’t recommend it and most people don’t have time for accent elimination especially busy executives.

Do you think second language learners should eliminate their accent or just reduce it to be better understood?

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