The most common fear I hear from ESL executives when they come to me for help with their presentations is that they are worried that their performance is being judged based on their accent. According to many studies, they are correct to assume this bias. But are these studies really accurate? Is cultural bias based on speech the same in Wisconsin as it is in New York City? In the Northeastern U.S. and especially in New York City, there are many, many people with accents. Nearly 37% of the population of New York City was foreign born, and nearly 50% grew up with a language other than English spoken at home.
What does this mean for you, seeker of English excellence? It means if you live in New York or New Jersey, it’s likely you are being judged by your accent by your peers, but not much. How could you be? It’s likely your peers (and your boss) have accents too.
The only reason to adjust your accent if you live in the Northeastern U.S. is to improve your ability to be understood. If you are regularly misunderstood, it’s imperative that you run your presentations by a coach, and get accent reduction training. If you have an accent, but you are not regularly misunderstood, don’t waste your time on accent reduction. Accents are beautiful things, and wonderful conversation starters (not to mention attractive, let’s be honest) so why try to get rid of it? Sometimes the best way to get over an accent is to simply accept it.