Accent Reduction Course

Posted on | January 5, 2007 | 8 Comments

Everyone thinks he speaks his native language without any accent. Ask around and you will see how true this statement really is.

A few years ago, I took an English improvement course offered in my company which was provided by an external language consultant company. The course was called the “Accent Reduction Course”. Its purpose was to help non-native English speaking employees to ‘reduce’ their accents when speaking English.

I actually asked the representative on the phone, “What do you mean by ‘reducing’ my accent? What can it be reduced to?” I cannot remember exactly how she replied, but I remember she felt a bit embarrassed. I think she kind of got what I meant.

As expected, the course turned out to be a “Speak English with a North-American accent” course, or more precisely Canadian accent. But overall, it was a useful course. One important thing I learned from the class is the importance of intonation and stress in English.

I also observed a few interesting things from my classmates, too. For examples, Mandarin speakers tend to have problem pronouncing the ‘ng’ at the end of the word. They tend to stress the nasal sound too much. Eastern Europeans tend to have difficulty pronouncing the ‘h’ sound, which somehow comes from too far back of the mouth.

As for me, I feel unnatural to pronounce the rhotic ‘r’ sound and flapping the double ‘t’. English speakers in most parts of the world don’t do these things.


8 Responses to “Accent Reduction Course”

  1. Sara
    January 6th, 2007 @ 11:32 am

    I have a friend who, as part of her job, helps foreigners with accent reduction. In her case, these are professors and students who are trying to reduce, not their accents per say, but the misunderstandings caused by it. These are people who are completely unintelligible in English and are required to do a certain amount of public speaking for their careers or education. She does the same sort of work with native speakers who have, usually due to physical problems, developed an inability to speak intelligibly.

  2. edwinlaw
    January 6th, 2007 @ 10:23 pm

    Sara, thanks for your comment.

    This was exactly what the language consultant company I mentioned did. I just want to clarify that I indeed found the course useful, as I have mentioned in the post. The only thing that I find weird is the name. Instead of calling it ‘accent reduction’, they should call it ‘accent correction’, ‘pronounciation therapy’, or something along those lines.

  3. Scott
    January 6th, 2007 @ 11:36 pm

    What are some examples of “flapping the double ‘t'”? I assume we do that in the U.S. as well as in Canada. I’m just curious what the term refers to.

  4. edwinlaw
    January 7th, 2007 @ 8:59 am

    Scott, thanks for your comment and question. This is indeed a very interesting topic. I have been thinking of doing a post entirely on it.

    It refers to the soft sound you would produce in, say, the word ‘letter’. You would say ‘lederr’ with a soft ‘d’. Another example is ‘university’. You would pronounce ‘universidy’ with a soft ‘d’. Come to think of it, may be it does not only happen to double ‘t’.

    You can find more info here:

    From my own experience, I disagree with the article on its claim that the Australians do that.

  5. Hong Kong English Accent « Tower of Confusion
    June 8th, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

    […] word). The series is for getting rid of the Hong Kong English accent. Unlike other typical accent reduction courses, the tutor specifically pinpoints the Hong Kong accent and talks about a lot of its flaws. He does […]

  6. Steve
    July 4th, 2007 @ 10:22 pm

    I think it is difficult to reduce an accent without this being part of a larger effort. Aside from lots of listening, the key is the will to change. You can use your will power to change the messages from your neurons to your mouth. But you really have to want to do it. You have to want to imitate the behaviour of another culture.

    That is what I have done. When I learn a language, and I speak nine, including Chinese and Japanese, and am working on Russian, I see myself as one of them. I become them.

    The other thing is to become observant of the language, of all the little things that happen in the language. You should pick up on the flapping double “t’ on your own. If someone needs to point it out you will not be too good at reproducing it.

  7. Maximus Roberts
    July 12th, 2007 @ 12:44 am

    I am in Hong Kong. A Mainland friend, also here, has a strong Beijing accent and in addition slurs words as do many from Beijing. Extremeness of northern accent and slurring hardly translate into easily grasped English.

    Can any suggest firm(s) or person(s) [plus up-to-date contact information] in Hong Kong whose supportable results have helped East Asians and others speak English in a standard way? In New Orleans, New York or South Carolina I could instantly refer several.

    Some may quibble with what or who determines a standard–interesting questions and to some I suppose good amusement as well. My need is to help a friend. So others who know what I mean may also know someone or several who fit the bill.

    /s/ Max Roberts

  8. More on Accent Reduction Course « Tower of Confusion
    July 13th, 2007 @ 3:36 pm

    […] July 13, 2007 Posted by edwinlaw in Accents, English. trackback In a recent comment from my previous post on “Accent Reduction Course”, Max asks if anyone knows a good course to help his friend on his […]

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