Does accent reduction improve your job prospects? A new study by the University of Chicago suggests it does. According to the authors, speaking with a foreign accent makes the speaker seem less truthful. The research shows that non-native speech is more complex for the listener’s brain to understand. This difficulty causes the listener to doubt the accuracy of what they’re hearing. For example, native speakers will hear a statement such as “Ants don’t sleep” as less true when spoken by someone with a foreign accent. So while presenting, or interviewing, it’s important to speak with a neutral American accent:
“Such reduction of credibility may have an insidious impact on millions of people, who routinely communicate in a language which is not their native tongue.” – Shiri Lev-Ari, Boaz Keysar “Why don’t we believe non-native speakers? The influence of accent on credibility” The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
So how does accent reduction work? The first step is an evaluation of the client’s problem stress and syllable sounds. From there, the client is taught to readjust their articulators (lips, tongue, soft palette and lower jaw) to create neutral American speech. Neutral American speech is achieved by changing individual problem sounds as well as the rhythm and flow of the language. It is intonation (the musicality of speech) that has the most impact on the listener’s ear.
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