As an accent reduction specialist in New York City and New Jersey, I am occasionally asked by students whether learning English better will harm their ability to speak their native tongue. I usually make my point by way of analogy: if you are good at calculus, you can also be good at composition; learning one subject well does not negate the ability to learn others equally as well.
In fact, as Susan Talhouk points out in her speech above, perfecting your mother tongue can enhance your ability to speak a second language. By expanding your ability to express yourself in your native language, you expand your vocabulary base, and thus the possibility for an expanded vocabulary in your second language. The same applies to sounds. Most languages share a core set of sounds, so by learning the specific sounds of your native tongue well, you increase the likelihood of pronouncing the sounds of your second language accurately.
So don’t be daunted by the prospect of being bilingual! Excellence in more than one language is possible.
As the video above attests, more and more people are seeking out accent reduction classes. Initially, accent reduction was popular in large cities like New York City, but it is growing, and reaching into bedroom communities all across the country. Many professionals in states like New Jersey, Washington, and Arizona are signing up for accent reduction.
So what should you look out for while considering a class? Here are three things to avoid:
1) No relevant experience – Anyone can call themselves an accent reduction coach, so it’s important to check on your teacher’s credentials. Validate that your teacher has experience teaching at the collegiate level or a Masters Degree in Speech Pathology.
2) No lesson plan – if you’ve spent any time researching options for accent reduction classes, you are probably aware that there are many teachers who tend to wing it when it comes to the lesson plan. Not so good. A solid accent reduction program will take between 8-12 hours and will involve a full evaluation to start. Your syllabus (yes you should have a syllabus) should cover core vowel and consonant sounds, but also more advanced concepts like sentence and syllable stress, and intonation.
3) No patience – is your teacher rolling his or her eyes at you every time you struggle with a sound change? Acting dismissive or disdainful toward your questions? Not good. In fact, that’s very, very bad. Accent modification takes time, and it is imperative you study with a teacher who is willing to explain concepts calmly, and answer your questions enthusiastically.