Raj, very talented in the financial world, rose up quickly through the ranks of his company and couldn’t penetrate the glass ceiling to the VP level. In day to day conversation he felt that he was easily understood and so didn’t think his accent was holding him back. However, talking fast with a heavy accent, while giving presentations on very complex strategies, was so difficult for his peers to understand that they became extremely frustrated and stopped listening. He told me that his wife, who is a medical doctor, was told straight away by her professors to reduce her accent because her patients, out of fear of not understanding her, would ask immediately for another doctor.
In the world of performance reviews in corporate America, many people are not told that their accent is holding them back. Pure and simple everyone has an accent and the goal is to be easily and readily understood by the people in the country in which you are living and working.
Whether you were born and raised in America with a deep southern accent or recently emigrated here, it is much easier, quicker and more realistic to reduce your accent than to develop an American Accent. After all, an American accent is so varied. You have the southern accent, the New York accent, the Boston accent, the Texan accent, the Mid-western accent. Therefore I feel to be easily and readily understood by your audience is your goal.
Every language has its own pronunciation of sounds, its own accent and its own rhythm. For foreign speakers, the process of accent reduction begins once you can speak English without having to translate from your native language: meaning you are thinking in English and have developed a working vocabulary. You begin by cleaning up any mispronounced consonants and by saying the ends of your words. For example make sure your say (ing) at the end of singing instead of singin’. Ringing, singing, and dancing instead of ringin’, singin’, and dancin’.
There are a couple of consonants that are difficult for the foreign speaker. The most common are T, TH, W, V, L and R. Even though there are only 5 written vowels there are many more sounded vowels and having a working knowledge of these vowels helps you to speak English rhythmically, melodically and smoothly.
Every foreign speaker speaks their mother tongue with its appropriate accent. For example, if you speak Hindi, you will do so with a definite rhythm. Most Hindi speakers, who have learned English, are familiar with the differences in the pronunciation of each language, even though they may still need to refine their pronunciation of English.
What they may not realize is that they may be speaking English with a Hindi rhythm. This causes them to put the heavy accent on the wrong syllable in an English word, rending it very difficult for an American to understand. For example Americans say complicated and not complicated, or development instead of development.
If a Hindi speaker repeatedly does this for six or seven words of every thought and also speaks very fast, it becomes very frustrating for the listener and as in Raj’s case, his peers needed and wanted his information and couldn’t understand him.
Raj had his wife’s experience to help him understand that he needed to work on his accent in order to advance to the VP level. In our conversation he told me that he had concerns for his fellow countrymen who are working in business in America. That they may not find the success they deserve because of their accent.
I believe that a great speaking voice is the foundation for great communication and a successful business is built and runs on great communication.
If you would like to learn how to improve your accent, I, Sandra personally offer a private telephone Voice Analysis Consultation. To register go to www.voicepowerstudios.com and click on the Voice Consultation button.