I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do what I love most, work with people from different cultures. I've found that everyone I've worked with, no matter what their proficiency, is motivated to learn conversational English to get an edge in the marketplace. They're so driven to better themselves despite extensive work and family commitments.
I think accent reduction is different from therapy, although there's overlap. Accent reduction is much more comprehensive, a global approach. I feel it gives participants a bonus while enhancing their strengths. When they learn the rhythm and stress patterns, all of a sudden this language that seems random begins to make sense; it's as if a light bulb suddenly turns on. This is different than therapy, which focuses on setting very targeted goals and objectives that have to be met in a set time to help with specific difficulties.
My work with ARI makes me appreciate online learning. The format is very effective for giving visual and auditory feedback. Yet it's most rewarding for me to hear how pronunciation training has impacted the lives of our participants in a meaningful way. It's wonderful to see their excitement at getting complimented on their speech, something that had never happened before. They tell me they've noticed a change in the way people react to them, so then they have so much more confidence.
- ARI Instructor
My company sponsored a nine week small group program with ARI. Together with four of my co-workers, I participated in online sessions, which incorporated live visual cues in the pronunciation training. I also used audio cues to "tune my ear" for accurate pronunciations. Each week, I came to the session and also submitted multiple personal recordings for assessment and coaching. The practice assignments were self-paced and allowed me to work on my specific areas of difficulty. I improved my nasal consonant sounds and intonation, learned to eliminate extra vowel sounds, and began to recognize words with silent syllables.
After the training, I was able to self-correct mispronunciations. In fact, during my recent performance appraisal, there were comments on my remarkable communication skills improvements. I now have a better understanding of spoken messages due to correctly identifying pronunciations, and my speech improvements have enabled successful working relationships with other business groups.
I began training online one-on-one with an ARI instructor, and I found that distance learning was a very effective way to learn. It was extremely interactive, and my instructor was always very "present" and accessible to me. I liked being able to practice by bringing up cultural questions with my instructor. For the last ten minutes of each class we just talked about my questions and I practiced in context. For instance, we discussed idioms, and I had questions about the way people talk and think in the US. My instructor understood where I was coming from because she's traveled all over the world.
I knew the program was a success when I had a conversation with the VP of my company shortly after training ended. We were discussing critical approaches our company is taking and he commented on how much easier it was to understand me. He was really happy for me, and probably for himself as well! He wondered what I'd been doing to make such a noticeable change, and I knew it was thanks to the work I'd done with ARI.
Additionally, and in alignment with a robust diversity initiative where everyone shares the challenges and works to eliminate them, the Building Bridges course opened up an entirely new dialogue. Employees who only spoke one language were able to examine their own responsibility and have an opportunity to understand accents of their non-native English speaking clients and peers. The training leveled the playing field and built relationships where there was previously discomfort with the most basic communication.
After offering both courses, employees continued to reach out for more classes. When finances precluded that, many, at their own expense, reached out to Judy to embrace the gift of her training programs to help themselves and GM be more effective and efficient. I can't say enough about Judy's attention to the customer and commitment to a high quality experience for learners. I highly recommend ARI. Engaging in this learning is a powerful tool for employees and the business as well. A side benefit to a Diversity Strategy is that offering these courses opens a robust and important discussion for leaders on the business impact of diversity in the workplace, and Judy has statistics to show bottom line impact too!
During my program, I met online with my instructor once a week for three and a half months. Learning online was just right. It felt the same as going to class, and it was as effective as being onsite in a physical classroom. Yet, the flexibility of participating virtually was easier. I greatly enjoyed learning why I had difficulty with my English pronunciation and where my particular challenges came from. My gratitude goes to my instructor, who always made the material interesting for me.
I believe my program was a complete success. When I think back on my initial concerns, I realize I made an extraordinary amount of progress. Also, the practice was so structured that I was able to make progress everywhere I needed to. I know I will continue to improve because I self-assess after every conversation, meeting, or presentation. I go over in my head the words and sounds I stumbled on and then practice, practice, practice. During the conversations, I stop and re-start with the right pronunciation. I now have the tools to keep improving in my personal and professional life.
I loved the structure of the program, from the initial and final assessments that provided a metric of my progress, to the design of the weekly learning sessions. I've taken other language training in the past, and it was mostly based on memory. This program is different because it emphasizes practicality and teaches you how to use your skills in the right way.
I believe this program will help me in terms of my ability to engage people and allow them to understand my points and want to adopt them. I know the program was a success because when I DON'T use my new skills and am not mindful of my pronunciation, the OnStar system in my car can't understand me. This is particularly true with numbers. But when I speak paying attention to the ways my instructor taught me, then OnStar understands me perfectly.
I could communicate before, but this program took my English to the next level. I'm more confident, and that makes a HUGE difference. I no longer hold back, and speaking comes more naturally. The program also allowed me to open up to a different perspective on language. English used to just be something that I had to learn. But now I think it is a beautiful language. I like discovering its nuances. This course woke me up to having an interest in English, not just because I have to use it, but because now I love it. I feel totally different now.
I believe that I now have the tools I need to continue building my proficiency. It's been one month and I continue to practice. My boss even gave me feedback and says he hears the improvement in my pronunciation. I believe that, due to the 'deep' study we did on individual sounds and pronunciation, I now feel the improvement in every aspect of my life, both personal and professional. Other accent reduction programs don't have this kind of 'deep' guidance and teaching of pronunciation. It's always secondary to conversation, grammar, and vocabulary.
"I used to dread talking on the phone. I was always trying to find ways to write; if I write then the person can read it. Talking on the phone was so awful, but now I have a telephone conversation and nobody asks me to repeat myself. It's really exciting!"
- Yasmin Zakari, ARI Participant and ESL Student