HOW TO FIND THE PERFECT ACCENT REDUCTION LESSONS AND CLASSES FOR YOU?
Recently I was presenting at a University and during my class a student asked “What should we look out for when choosing accent reduction lessons? So after I answered the student I wrote together article to help people make the best choice when choosing accent reduction lessons.
So how do you find the perfect accent lessons or classes? There are a range of factors to consider including:
- The learners’ language level
- The teacher
- Length of time the training can be accessed
- Learning materials provided for the long term
Weighing up each of these factors will help you make a more successful choice.
When most people commence accent reduction lessons they are committing two things; money which is always important, and time which is probably the most important. Time is something most of us feel short of, if you’re going to make the effort and spend the money. Below are nine factors you should keep in mind when making your choice.
How do you access the accent reduction lessons? This is one of the largest factors that will influence the success of your training. As humans we have a habit of assuming the future will be easier – that we won’t be as busy in the future as we are now. Many people fall into the trap of committing lessons or classes failing to recognise that over an 8 week period it’s very hard for them to attend weekly lessons in person. People often attend the first few lessons, but can’t make the rest of the course. Missing the last few lessons is often where the most important training is provided so students don’t actually see a lot of benefit from their accent reduction lessons. Secondly people lose their enthusiasm and drive. If they don’t see results soon after starting it can be much harder to get motivated in the future and do something about changing pronunciation. Last of all, nobody likes wasting money.
A quick web search will show you there are several methods of people undertaking accent reduction lessons.
- Face to face tutoring
- Face to face classes
- Online accent reduction lessons
- Podcasts How to guides and books
The accessibility – how you access the training – varies, those that involve more technology are usually less expensive than a face to face approach and are much easier to access. People need to be very aware that real change to accents and pronunciation takes time – usually months rather than weeks, so you need to make sure you can commit to studying regularly over a longer period rather than intensely for a short period of time.
“OK, I hear you say… I get it! It needs to be easy to access.” Tell me something else.
2. Cost – how much do accent reduction lessons cost?
Lessons range from $100 or less to over $3,000 depending on the type of training you choose. So many people have wasted money on ineffective programs. In my view purchasing accent reduction lessons is one thing you shouldn’t try to get a bargain for. There are lots of options out there for less than a hundred dollars and there are full face to face sessions that might cost you around $3,000 for 8 to 10 weeks. Most likely the sub $100 option will be a one size fits all book or audio lessons – these can be tricky to get a good result with. It’s hard to learn without being shown how to do something – via video or face to face and reading has even more issues.
I advise people to look at things from a ‘time invested’ perspective. How much time do you need to learn and practice? Realistically people don’t see real change for a couple of months from when they start. This is a big investment in your time, so don’t try to skimp with a cheap course that will make learning harder.
Other things to consider is the amount of practice materials available – a lot of courses only have limited practice options for each sounds, it actually takes a lot of practice to change the speech for each sound. Also most courses are designed to cover all areas of pronunciation difficulty. Some courses offer a degree of tailoring to the student’s first language – so someone from China will study different English Pronunciation lessons to someone from India or France.
Finally, how much is clearer English worth to you? For many people clearer English pronunciation directly translates into career success. Choosing one course over another to save a small amount of money and getting a worse pronunciation outcome doesn’t make sense when you consider what you’re investing in.
3. What are the features and which ones matter?
I’ve taken a look online and reviewed features that are available. Here are some of the features different courses offer. I’ll summarise the options and then point out which ones I think are most valuable to help someone achieve great accent reduction outcomes.
- Make sure you can get there. First, you need to be able to go to your classes to get the benefit. So many people used to pay me for 6 sessions and then only go to two or three. If you choose face to face just make sure you can get there!
- You get live feedback – this is definitely helpful. But hopefully the online course you choose has come up with a solution to provide feedback
- It costs more. Online courses are usually a lot cheaper than face to face training
- Lots of access. Online training, especially in the form of video lessons allows people to repeat content as much as they need to.
- Assessments. We think these are great – some courses offer a detailed assessment – a breakdown of the pronunciation areas you need to improve in a written report which allows you to focus on the accent reduction lessons that really need work.
- Interesting content. I know this is kind of obvious but some of the lessons out there can be really boring. Make sure you find your teacher’s style engaging – you’re going to spend a lot of time watching them.
- Make sure you can see what you need to do. I’m saying here is avoid an audio only course. It’s very hard to change your speech without seeing the correct mouth positions
- Allows for easy practice. Make sure the course you choose has content you can practice without an about. I suggest an approach using video and audio so you can practice what you learn in a video using audio files,
- Is the course mobile friendly – yep, a lot of courses out there are pretty old. Make sure whatever you choose will work on your mobile.
- What support is there? A bargain basement course might offer very limited support if you have questions. Just check on exactly what support is available.
4. Length of the course.
Changing pronunciation takes time, you need your course to allow you enough time to do the practice before moving onto the next pronunciation area. In my view 10 weeks or more is a reasonable time to achieve great pronunciation outcomes. Look for an option that gives you plenty of time to practice.
5. Repeating lessons
If your course is online, make sure you can watch the lessons as many times as you like. You will probably find that some pronunciation areas are easy to change while others take a more focussed effort. To make the most out of your training make sure you can repeat your accent reduction lessons as often as you like.
6. Your level of spoken English
Make sure you have a medium level of grammar and vocabulary before starting to work on your English pronunciation. Some people start studying too early, it’s hard to work on how to say words when you’re still getting the basics – what to say – under control.
7. How general is your course?
When you are choosing a course look for something that is or can be designed specifically for you. There are some pronunciation areas that everyone should review, but there are others – like some syllables, that only people from particular language backgrounds need to work on. Choosing something tailored, ideally to your first language will save you time and get results faster.
8. Free or Paid English Pronunciation Lessons? What should I choose?
There are loads of free lessons on Youtube, 5 minute lessons working on a particular pronunciation area. These certainly have a place. I view them as an excellent place for people to get started and get an understanding of the pronunciation areas that need attention and also watching a lesson and practicing what you learn. But for real changes most people need a structured course that works through the different pronunciation areas, provides practice materials and the option for assessments. Like everything you get what you pay for – so don’t be afraid to ‘cough up’ (which means to pay something), for quality accent reduction lessons.
Key point – your accent reduction improvement is driven by your engagement – how much you practice!
9. Online vs Face to Face English Pronunciation lessons
So we’ve covered this a bit already. My view is simple, both options have their place. It really comes down to how engaged you can remain over a longer period. How engaged you are, or how driven you are to achieve clearer English is the main determinator to the success you will achieve. From your motivation comes the amount of practice you will undertake and from your practice comes your success.
Other questions people often ask us:
Will I benefit from accent reduction lessons?
There are a lot of benefits from working on your accent and learning to speak more clearly. In discussions with my clients I think there are three main areas including:
- More confidence – over 90% of the people who undertake our accent reduction lessons report being more confident speaking in groups and to native English speakers after completing our English pronunciation course.
- Success at work – being understood in your workplace by your clients, customers or colleagues helps a huge amount. Doing a better job leads to career success. It’s that simple. For most people doing a better job results in pay increases and more responsibility.
- Happiness – increased confidence and the ability to speak to local English speakers changes lives and makes people happier.
When should you start accent reduction lessons?
In a perfect world you would learn good English pronunciation as you learn English. Most of non-native English speakers tend to learn English from someone who speaks English as a second language, learning this way can mean people learn some incorrect pronunciation right away. As a general rule I suggest people gather a good understanding of grammar and vocabulary and then move onto working on their speech. Learning what to say is more important at the start than learning how to say something. We suggest people consider accent reduction lessons when they feel comfortable their vocabulary and grammar is at a medium or advanced level.
How much will I need to practise when I take accent reduction lessons?
It will depend on your course. But as a general rule I recommend people take about 15 minutes of practice daily and complete 1 to 2 hours of video a week. Courses can vary in length, so I can just comment on our course. We say to allow around 4 months to undertake the lessons and practice. So it’s a big undertaking.
What courses are available?
We spent three years developing a series of accent reduction courses to help people speak more clearly and be better understood. To learn more can I suggest you take a look at our Tailored Accent Reduction Course List. They will help you get familiar with our teaching style. Or, if you want to get started right away take a look at our course list and you can get started right now.
Take away messages
In this article I have summarised what I think are the major questions to try an answer for yourself before choosing which accent reduction lessons you decide to enrol in. Key things to consider include; accessibility; cost; learners language level; the teacher’s qualifications; length of time to access the training, is the course general or tailored; what level of face to face contact is required; and what take away learning materials provided for the long term.
The most important thing is getting started and staying motivated. Your level of motivation is the single biggest factor that will determine the results you achieve.
A great, free place to start is with our free 5 day English Pronunciation Online Course.
Or if you would like to speak to someone talk with us about your English speaking goals and find out how our courses will help you speak English with clear pronunciation and sound more like a native speaker.
Keep up the great work.
Founder of Speech Active