CHECKLIST FOR CHOOSING ACCENT REDUCTION TRAINING
By Georgie Harding – Founder & Head Speech Pathologist
Checklist for Choosing Accent Reduction Training
So, why are you thinking about accent reduction training?
- Is it because you want people to understand your English more easily?
- Is it because you want to speak English with more confidence?
- Or is it because you want to sound more like a native English speaker?
For many people’s it’s all of the above : )
This post will help you chose Accent Reduction Training that best suits your needs.
It’s important for you to choose a course that’s at the right level for you and is going to get the best results.
I’ve met so many non-native speakers who have spent WAY too much money on courses with poor content. Sometimes it is quite shocking how much money people have wasted on basic training that has unsurprisingly resulted in poor outcomes. You can avoid this by asking the right questions before you start.
It’s a great idea to read this whole article as it gives important background as to why these things are so important for your learning.
Your Checklist For Choosing Accent Reduction Training:
1. Check the training is tailored for speakers of your first language.
2. Check the training has online resources so you can practise when it suits you.
3. Check the materials used for practise are for the advanced / professional level.
4. Check what teaching methods are used and how they will assist you to transfer new skills to your everyday conversations.
5. Check the training is excellent value. Review the cost and ongoing value of what is provided.
6. Check how much experience your teacher has working with speakers of your first language. (Ask them the right questions and check they are a reputable provider).
These questions will help you find out more about the quality and quantity of your accent reduction & pronunciation practice resources and how relevant the training is to your life and your career. You’ll find what you need to know about how customised and flexible the accent reduction training is. You’ll also check that your accent reduction training utilises systematic teaching methods from a reputable, experience and trustworthy service provider.
Now, accent reduction training can be called quite a few different things. So now’s a good time to talk about which terms are best to use. You may already be aware that ‘Accent Reduction Training’ can also be called ‘accent training’, ‘accent modification training’, ‘English Pronunciation Training’ and ‘English Accent Training’.
Which term do I think is best? For my training and with my clients I use ‘English Pronunciation Training’. Actually, I recommend everyone uses ‘English Pronunciation Training’ instead of ‘accent reduction’, you can find out why here.
So, for your research I recommend you use ‘English Pronunciation Training’ going forward, but for today we will stick with ‘accent reduction’.
Once you find a few training options that you are interested in, write them on a list and pick up the phone.
It’s a great idea to call the accent reduction tutor and teacher or course provider that you are researching.
At the very least, you should email them to ask them these questions!
1. Is This Training Tailored?
Is this accent course customised for people who speak my first language?
A general, one-size-fits all course is usually not a good choice when it comes to English accent and pronunciation training. Why? Because accent reduction training course for a Mandarin speaker needs to be different to a Vietnamese speaker, Spanish speaker or Russian speaker, for example. Speakers of different languages need different accent training content that addresses their specific problem areas.
A general accent reduction course often works through every sound in English – rather than focusing specifically on the particular sounds and stress patterns that each student needs to change. While this might be an OK option for a beginner, it’s not a good choice for a speaker with intermediate or above level of English.
It’s important to realise that you will already be pronouncing many vowels and consonants and stress patterns correctly in English. So why waste time working on these areas when you don’t need to change them?
It’s important that your precious time and effort be channelled into focusing on areas that you DO need to change and improve. For example, working to correct vowel sounds that you are mispronouncing and consonant sounds you are not pronouncing correctly and the stress patterns that you are making too flat or incorrectly.
So, the first question on the list to ask about your accent reduction training is: Is this training tailored specifically for speakers of my first language?
2. What Practice Recordings Are Provided?
What practice resources in audio and video are included so I can practise daily at times that suit me?
Your course needs to be flexible and fit in around your busy schedule. Juggling life, family and work is very challenging for many people.
Life is so busy. Finding time to practise is the biggest challenge many people face when doing accent reduction training.
To change your accent and pronunciation we need to change habits that you’ve had for many years. To successfully change habits regular practise is essential. Practising once a week won’t get great results. Ideally you need to practise every day, at least every 2 days.
The accent reduction training or course that you choose should make practise as accessible as possible for you. You’ll need resources that you can access easily when it suits you, such as practise exercises in audio and video.
The amount of time you spend practising directly affects how much you will improve. With regular practice you will achieve improvement.
Think about your schedule. When are you most likely to fit in 15 minutes of practise each day? Most of our clients fit in practise while they are travelling to work, while they are in between meetings or on their lunch break.
Quality accent reduction training includes both audio and video to support their learners with easy to access listen and repeat exercises. If these aren’t provided, how are you going to get the daily practise you need in between your lessons?
Great audio and video practice resources gives you flexibility and that’s crucial for all busy professionals.
Ok, the next question that should be checked off is: What audio and video practice resources are provided in this accent reduction course so I can practise regularly and at times that suit me?
3. Are The Practice Resources Career Relevant?
Is the practice content relevant to my life and my career?
Many students enrol in accent reduction training that have tongue twisters and rhymes as their base for practice exercises. Practising these will not help you nail the presentation you have next Thursday or the important interview you have coming up.
Your accent reduction training needs to be real and relevant. The practice words, phrases and sentences should be relevant to your everyday life. They should prepare you for both the casual conversations you have with colleagues and friends and the professional conversations you have at work.
There is a huge difference between LEARNING new skills and USING new skills.
Your aim with accent reduction training is of course, not just to LEARN new speech skills, the aim is to successfully USE new speech skills and to do this, you need relevant, life-like practise.
- Your accent reduction training should provide you with loads of guided practise in real life conversations.
- English speakers tend to use a relatively small number of words often. Great accent reduction training covers the words or vocabulary that are most often used in professional English speaking workplaces. These words are called ‘high frequency vocabulary’ and your course should include them.
Some accent reduction training courses also offer resources that cover vocabulary used in specific industries. For example, many quality training providers will have extra resources created especially for key industries such as engineering, finance, IT and for medical professionals. So some courses will have extra accent reduction training resources for engineers, nurses, doctors, International medical graduates (IMGs) and so on.
Many Engineers enrol in our courses to improve their English accent and pronunciation so they can communicate better with their colleagues and clients. For many of these engineers, an accent reduction course that offers flexibility is a must. This is because many of the engineers we work with are based out of cities, can’t take time off to attend 1:1 training and they travel a lot for work.
The best accent reduction training providers will provide some training to target commonly mispronounced English words. Words with unusual spelling patterns in English are like traps for non-native English speakers : ) Many people benefit greatly from targeting these challenging words as there are many of them and they are words that we use often too.
OK – so the third key question to ask about your accent reduction training is: What sort of English language is focused on in the course? (It should be at a professional level, be relevant to you and your career and cover ‘high frequency’ vocabulary and commonly mispronounced words).
4. What Teaching Methods Do You Use?
What methods do you use to help me master new pronunciation skills and help me successfully transfer these skills to my everyday conversations?
Quality accent modification training will guide you through the specific stages of learning that are required for learning new pronunciation skills. The method takes you from ‘easy’ and moves up to more challenging stages. It builds on your skills in a systematic and organised way.
It’s great to believe that a person can learn a new speech sound in 10 minutes and then actually use it correctly when speaking to their boss at work. BUT unfortunately, of course this isn’t what happens in real life. That is similar to expecting someone who has just learnt a new cord on the guitar to be able to use it correctly in the middle of a song like a pro after a few minutes practice! No way, for most people, it isn’t that straight forward : )
Like learning any new skill there are steps we need to move through. The best accent reduction training will move you through these stages.
We need to start by developing your awareness. You can’t change something if you’re not aware of it in the first place right! So, building your awareness of your accent and speech is the first step. To do this, many courses will have some auditory training (listening training) and include an assessment.
For example, Speech Active courses include the auditory training that are required for your to learn to hear your problem areas in your own speech and other people’s speech. We make it very clear to our students, exactly what to do and exactly what not to do.
Every Speech Active course includes a full guided self-assessment. This English pronunciation evaluation helps you gain a full understanding of your pronunciation and accent, what your strengths are and your weaknesses and what areas are the highest priority.
After your built up your awareness, you’ll work on improvement!
It’s important to remember that some speech sounds affect how clear you are in English and some don’t! This should be factored in to your accent reduction training.
For example, if you tend to use flatter word stress than a native speaker or put the stress on the wrong part of English words, it is very likely this will make your English unclear sometimes. So this is a high priority. Or if you speak very quickly, this is also a high priority to change.
Other issues such as making /t/ instead of ‘th’ (eg tink for ‘think’) is not a high priority to change for clarity. We understand people perfectly well if they say ‘I tink’ instead of ‘I think’. The ‘th’ sound just affects accent, so for people who find sometimes people misunderstand them, this should be a low priority. On the otherhand, for people who want to sound more like a native speaker, the ‘th’ sound is an important sound to work on.
What areas you need to work on will depend on what your first language is! For many non-native English speakers the high priority areas are often:
- word stress.
Are you using emphasis and rhythm well in English?
- vowel length.
In English we have long vowels, short vowels and double vowels and many non-native speakers don’t distinguish between these correctly. For example, the words ‘coat’, ‘cot’ and ‘caught’ should sound very different. Do you know which one has the short vowel, long vowel and double vowel and are you confident with these?
- moving and opening your mouth!
English has more open sounds than many other languages. We need to open our mouth and jaw to pronounce many sounds like /o/, /a:/, /ou/ etc clearly. If you don’t, you’ll sound like you’re mumbling. Are you using good mouth movements for clear English?
- rate of speaking.
Some non-native speakers speak English too fast (listen up Spanish speakers and speakers from India). When you speak English very fast, it is likely your pronunciation and clarity will become worse. Often people’s word stress gets flatter, the might drop sounds and their vowels get shorter. Are you using a good rate of speaking in English?
- word endings.
The ends of words in English are very important. It’s often where we mark grammar like the past tense, plurals etc. Are you using past tense endings correctly? This is SO important in English. In particular, speakers of Cantonese, Thai, Vietnamese and Burmese need to be aware if this! Are you sometimes dropping off the ends of words in English?
A quality accent reduction course will systematically guide you through working on the right areas in the right way!
You’ll need loads of practise for each area in words, sentences and conversations. Good accent reduction training will give you loads of practise to help you master these new skills AND transfer them to your everyday conversations.
So, question number 4 that you will ask the accent training provider is what teaching methods do you use and how will these help me reach my goals?
5. Review The Cost.
How much does this course cost and what is included in that?
Low cost accent reduction training (so this is anything under $150) is likely to be very general and lacking in content. Training that provides only 20 – 30 minutes on each problem area is not including enough targeted practise to make real changes.
There are many courses like this available and in my experience they are usually not very effective. If your budget is under $150, you would be better off saving your money and going to your local library and borrowing the DVD’s on accent reduction that they offer.
At the other end of the scale, there are many high cost accent reduction training options advertised at over $1000. Research these properly and check they will provide you with the support you need. Some of these are good options, some of them are not!
Think carefully about your goals before you start and complete this checklist when you research them.
Remember that this is an investment in your skills. If your English is sometimes unclear and people don’t understand you easily, then it’s a course that you really should take. Unclear English will hold you back at work and it is probably causing you some frustration! If you need to improve your English clarity you should spend a decent amount on a quality course. Just make sure you spend an hour or two researching it to make sure its quality training.
Question 5 is “How much does the course cost and what resources does this include?”
6. Review the Teacher’s Experience.
What experience do you have working with speakers of my first language?
Pretty much anyone can offer online courses these days. You need to check you are dealing with a reputable and trustworthy accent reduction training provider. To do this, spend a few minutes checking out their online credentials. Look them up on youtube, check their facebook page and followers, check their reviews and also have a good look at their website and read their testimonials.
But the best thing to do is CALL THEM!
Speak to them. Call them to talk about your goals and how they can help you!
You will get an idea very quickly if they know what they are talking about, are able to give you good feedback on your speech and tell you a little bit about other speakers of your first language that they have worked with.
Remember though that if they are good, they are likely to pick up some things that you haven’t been aware of! So be prepared.
A question I am often asked is should I choose online accent reduction training, or face to face. Having provided both 1:1 and online training to hundreds and hundreds of people over 15 years I personally believe people get better results with an online course.
Why? Because they are more engaged with it.
When I did face to face training, many students would come once every 2 weeks to a lesson and do very little in between. With our online course, people are tapping in to their resources once, even twice a day! It’s there and it’s easy for them to use as often as they can. This way they are constantly building their skills, each day, little by little.
If I can’t convince you that quality online training is the way to go and you really want face to face here are some things to consider:
1:1 training with someone who is trained in accent reduction is a good choice. If you are planning 1:1 lesson with an accent reduction tutor or teacher you need to check their experience. A Speech Therapist or Speech Pathologist is a great choice as long as they have experience working with people in the area of accent reduction training. It’s crucial that you check this because accent reduction training is not included in most Speech Therapy / Pathology University courses. You need to be aware that it is a special area that they need to gain additional experience and knowledge in after they graduate from their course.
The main advantage of Speech Therapist for accent reduction training is that they should know and use the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). They will also use proven methods for learning and changing speech sounds and extensive knowledge of mouth positioning for articulation.
Be wary of accent reduction training provided by ESL teachers or tutors with very little training who do not know the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and give students the wrong areas to focus on. Of course there are many highly experienced and qualified ESL teachers and tutors who are providing fantastic training but some don’t and you need to be careful. I often meet students who have been paying a lot of money working with an inexperienced tutor, who is calling themselves an “accent reduction tutor” and it has been largely a waste of time and money. Mainly because they have been working on the wrong areas and they student hasn’t been given the right resources for practise.
So, make sure you spend some time researching the training provider to check they’re experienced, trustworthy and reputable. Contact them to discuss what changes to your pronunciation and accent you are hoping to achieve.
So, the final question I suggest you ask will help you get a feel for how experienced your accent reduction tutor or accent reduction teacher is: “What experience do you have working with speakers of my first language?”
Questions like ‘What are the typical areas that speakers of my first language have difficulty with?’ and ‘What are the most difficult areas for speakers of my first language to change?’. Questions like these will help you get a good feel for their level of experience.
I hope that this article helps guide you to choosing quality accent reduction training…. actually – we are at the end of this article so now we can use “English Pronunciation Training” instead – much better : )
Thanks so much for reading and call me if you would like to know more about Speech Active’s English Pronunciation and Accent courses for professionals living in English speaking countries. I created Speech Active courses with a team of ESL tutors and e-learning specialists to make it the best English Pronunciation online course available.
Speech Active’s award winning courses are tailored for speakers of your first language, include guided assessments, before and after recordings, progress check recording tools in every module, awesome video training with loads of real life practise. I am confident when I say we offer the best quality online training currently available.
You will love it and find it seriously helpful.
But even better, call me on +61 411 295 828 to talk about your English speaking goals and how we can help you achieve them.
Have a great day. I look forward to hearing from you.
Speech Active Founder
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Checklist for Choosing Accent Reduction Training
Georgie Harding has assisted thousands of people from all over the world with improving their clarity and spoken English skills. A Speech Pathology degree (BAppSc(SpPath) and CELTA qualifications and over 15 years of experience providing 1:1, group and online training make Georgie a leader in her field.
Georgie is the creator the world’s leading English Pronunciation online courses that are tailored to the language background of the student and presents regularly at Universities.
If you’ve ever met Georgie or completed her award winning courses you’ll know how passionate she is about helping people move forward with better spoken English and more confidence.
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