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June 15, 2011

I Have a Neutral Accent. Do I Need To Improve My Accent?

Question and Answer Series about Cross-Cultural Communication Success Tips in America.
Question 1: Jennifer, I have a neutral accent. Do I need accent reduction coaching?

Jennifer's answer:
I don't know what a neutral accent sounds like. I can offer a few questions to help you analyze yourself to decide if you could benefit from accent reduction.

Questions to ask yourself about your own speech patterns:

  1. Do you think others understand you when you speak?
  2. Do you think it's the word choices, speed, sound patterns, tone?
  3. Do you talk fast? Does the speed of your speech affect your accent and how others understand you?
  4. Do you know what kinds of things are misunderstood by others when you talk?

Questions to ask yourself about what you hear others say:
  1. Can you understand words that are said by people around you?
  2. How much of any given sentence can you follow or understand?
  3. Do you notice any differences in others speed, tone word choices, sound patterns?
  4. What kind of things are difficult for you to understand when others talk?
  5. Can you follow idioms, slangs, or local phrases?
  6. Have you asked people to slow down or repeat? If so, does that help you understand better?
  7. If you hear a word or phrase you don't understand, are you able to get it defined?

When we are learning another language it's easy to think that people misunderstand use because we are not native speakers. Think about the times you spoke in your native language. What kinds of misunderstandings arose? We must be aware of our own clarity in speaking and communicating in different languages and cultures that may be able to help us better comprehend our shortcomings in learning to understand and be understood in another language.

However, sometimes we don't get feedback from others on our communication habits. Others may find it embarrassing to tell you what they don't understand and how to improve it. They simply may not know how to guide you also. In those cases, I am happy to help you. I have accepted recordings of prospective students, listened to them and given feedback or talked to prospective students on the phone for up to an hour or so to help them decide if accent reduction is something they can benefit from. (I do not charge for that conversation.)

-End of Question and Answer Session-

Photo credit: Pimoo at flickr used under creative commons.
Author Jennifer Kumar is a native American English speaker living in Cochin, India helping Indians to communicate better with their American counterparts. Check out our programs here.

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.