Accent Reduction and the Global Workforce: 2018
Organizational Success Requires Effective Communication
It goes without saying that effective communication is a key determinant of an organization’s success. According to Harvard Business School professor Dr. Tsedal Neeley and author of The Language of Global Success, the only way to share knowledge, leverage talent, and glean marketing insights from around the world is to have all employees at all levels engage with one another. Without a common language, any language, collaboration with colleagues and clients is virtually impossible.
Yet all too often the global economy is divided by a common language: English. While our diverse accents add richness to our workforce, the complexities of English pronunciation make communicating expertise somewhat challenging. The results frequently effect the organization’s bottom line: from the inability to create high performance teams, to a level of customer service that doesn’t align with the professionalism clients expect and demand.
As a solution, organizational leadership across industries have turned to accent reduction classes as a means for bridging the language divide.
What Is an Accent and Who Has One?
The definition of “an accent” is more straightforward than one might imagine. An “accent” is a distinctive way of pronouncing a language. Similarly, “pronunciation” is a particular person's way of pronouncing a word or the words of a language. The words ‘accent’ and ‘pronunciation’, therefore, are one and the same. Both include the vowels, consonants, rhythm, stress and intonation patterns of a language. (Dialect is different than accent. Dialect is pronunciation/accent as well as the vocabulary and grammar usage specific to a region.)
It’s essential to remember that everyone has an accent. Accents are neither good nor bad, accurate nor inaccurate, right nor wrong. They say nothing about character, work ethic, or intelligence. Accents tell us one thing, and one thing only, about the speaker: the linguistic background of his/her caregivers, the people who most influence a child’s language acquisition process. In the wise words of Dr. Roberto Rey Agudo, professor at Dartmouth University and author of The New York Times article, Everyone Has an Accent:
“An accent is simply a way of speaking shaped by a combination of geography, social class, education, ethnicity and first language. I have one; you have one; everybody has one. There is no such thing as perfect, neutral or unaccented English... The standard accent... is simply the dominant accent, the one you are most likely to hear in the media.”
Along with grammar and vocabulary, pronunciation/accent is the third leg of the communication stool. If any one of these three components are missing, communication breaks down. At Accents International, accent reduction (or pronunciation training) is taught with a firm belief that accents are an integral part of each person’s culture. Yours, mine, everyone’s.
The objective of accent reduction classes is to minimize language barriers while maintaining each person’s unique cultural identity. At the end of the training program, alumni will still have a non-standard English accent. What they won’t have is a communication barrier.
A Case Study: The Payoff of Accent Reduction Classes
In a 2018 LinkedIn survey of 2,000 business leaders, 57% identified soft skills as more important than hard skills. A similar survey of nearly 1,000 employers who recruit on business school campuses shows that oral communication skills top the list of most sought-after skills, outranking even technical skills.
A recent client of ours, an upper level manager and lead scientist at a Fortune 100 life-sciences corporation, exemplifies the critical value of having first-rate communication skills. Dr. A (for our purposes here) is a global expert in newborn screening tests for congenital diseases. He was hired to lead a team of R&D scientists to create a breakthrough device and, then, help the company take the product to market. After years of cutting-edge discoveries and innovative applications, Dr. A and his team successfully invented a first of its kind product. Then came the hard part!
Dr. A, a native Chinese speaker, needed to present the device to additional teams for further refinement, to the company’s Board, to its investors, and to the FDA. While Dr. A was fluent in English, in terms of grammar and vocabulary, his pronunciation wasn’t at a proficient enough level to present to the company’s internal stakeholders, let alone to the FDA.
After completing Accent International’s Powerful Pronunciation® training program, Dr. A began presenting his team’s product with clarity and precision. In his own words:
“My communication is now easy to understand. I communicate effectively and precisely. My colleagues understand me better and that improves our work efficiency. I’m more confident and that helps build my network and relationships with colleagues and clients.”
Referring to one of Dr. A’s key presentations, his director stated that Dr. A:
“...presented fluidly and clearly. He got some challenging questions and would have in the past become nervous and less understandable, but he kept his pronunciation to a clear level despite the challenge.”
Dr. A now fields questions with ease. He speaks ‘off script’ like a natural. Most important, he got buy-in for developing a one-of-a kind product in a highly competitive industry. Dr. A is excelling, and so is his company.
Everyone has an accent. The objective of accent reduction classes is not that we all sound the same. Not only would this be impossible, it would demean the multiculturalism of the United States.
The key is that we understand one another. When leaders enable their employees for whom English is a second language to master pronunciation, they create an organization where every constituent engages, contributes, and moves their company forward. At Accents International, together with companies dedicated to taking their talent to the next level, we’re creating a world where everyone is heard®.
Learn More About Accent Reduction Classes
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Accent Reduction Classes Inclusive Listening:
Tuning Your Ear to Accents®
Industry: Information Technology
My boss said sometimes people don't understand me because of my accent. This was my first experience with distance learning and it went great. I now feel the improvement in every aspect of my life, both personal and professional.
From Our Clients
"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!"
- ARI Participant and ESL Student