Los Angeles Times – October 14, 2003
“How to Reduce an Accent in 10 Weeks”
(written by Sara Singer Schiff)
With Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger winning the California governor’s race, it might seem that having a foreign accent is a secret to success. After all, much of Schwartzenegger’s cinematic fame has come from his renowned delivery of lines.
However, most immigrants to the US are not quite as lucky when it comes to using their accents as assets.
While many immigrants learn to speak English, not all English as a Second Language (ESL) courses automatically teach students clear and correct pronunciation. As a result, many people who learn English still have difficulty being understood, including those who have lived, studied and worked in the US for a long time.
Accents can be a problem for those looking to get ahead in their careers, said Gail Moore, who has worked in human resources for 40 years at a variety of companies. “If you are interested in working in corporate America, you would have to work on elocution,” she said. “If someone is looking to move up the ladder, they know what they need to do to get there and will seek to better themselves in all areas. Just like you need to dress for success, you also need to speak for success.”
Apparently, a lot of people don’t realize that accent reduction courses exist. Many students say they had always wanted to reduce their accents but didn’t know how until they found a school – often by accident – while searching on the internet.
Lisa Mojsin, director and head trainer of L.A.-based Accurate English Accent Reduction Training School, has an extensive background teaching ESL courses. While she agrees that mouth positions are important in accent reduction, her program emphasizes accuracy in pronunciation and grammar.
According to Monica Cass who took Mojsin’s Accurate English course, it’s unrealistic to think you are going to master an American accent in a couple of classes. Cass, who left Peru at 21 and has been living and working in LA for the past 10 years, said she believes the longer you speak a language incorrectly, the longer it’s going to take to correct.
“I wish I had been introduced to this in the beginning as I would have been better off, but in school they don’t emphasize these things,” said Cass, who is currently looking for work in the financial field.
Whether students achieve flawless speech, one of the most significant effects of such a course is the impact it has on confidence.
As Cass said: “For a while I didn’t want to apply for any jobs. But I got over my complex about my accent so I am applying… I’m much more hopeful now. My English wasn’t so bad before but the course helped me a lot.”