Many people believe that accent reduction is for recent immigrants and ESL students. The truth is accent reduction is about building spoken English skills, and anybody can benefit from that, even native English speakers. It’s possible someone could be a native speaker of English, and still have a thick regional accent, or serious articulation issues.
But what about the case of Scott Walker? Mr. Walker is a presidential candidate who is a native speaker of English. He speaks with a thick Wisconsin accent and has reportedly been undergoing accent reduction lessons in order to neutralize his accent and make himself more marketable to a wider audience. Is accent reduction necessary for him?
I would argue no. Mr. Walker’s English is good, and despite his accent reduction lessons, he has not reduced his accent very much, as is evidence from the video above. I would suggest he embrace his accent and use it as way of discussing where he’s from, and what he’s about.
For me, accent reduction is about building English fluency, and avoiding miscommunication. It isn’t about changing who you are. It’s simply about being understood, and feeling a part of the cultural fabric.
As an accent reduction specialist in New York City and Central New Jersey, I see a fair amount of business people preparing themselves for interviews. For the ESL executive, this can be a daunting task. If you find yourself stumbling over your words in job interviews due to your lack of English fluency, try these few tips:
1) Don’t rush – it seems obvious, but most ESL executives speak too quickly. Take a breath at the end of each phrase, and really consider what you need to do with your articulators (tongue, lips, lower jaw, soft palate) to make each sound.
2) Study beforehand – pick up an accent reduction book, or begin to work with an accent reduction coach before your interview. Pick out five core problematic vowel sounds and five core consonant sounds. Listen to the sounds, then work carefully on your articulation. Pick out words you think you might say in the interview, and run them by your coach. Work them before the interview.
3) Role play – Write out the questions you might get asked, bullet point the answers, and then role play the interview with your husband, wife or coach. The more you prepare, the less likely you will get stuck trying to pronounce a word your don’t know!