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7 Myths About Accent Reduction – and Its Benefits

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

If you're a non-native English speaker looking to reduce your accent and improve your English pronunciation, you've likely come across a lot of advice and information about accent reduction.

But.. not all of it is accurate, and it can be hard to separate fact from fiction.

In this blog post, we’re going to…

  • debunk some of the most common myths about accent reduction

  • share its benefits

  • and give you some resources so you can get started on improving your speech today

7 Myths About Accent Reduction

Myth #1: Accent reduction means getting rid of my accent entirely

One of the biggest myths about accent reduction is that it involves completely eliminating your accent in hopes you will sound exactly like a native English-speaking American. However, this is simply not true!

Everyone has an accent, a unique way of speaking that is often regional – even native speakers of a language have a distinct accent.

Accent reduction (also known as accent modification, accent neutralization, or accent softening) is simply about making your English easier for others to understand. It's not about erasing your cultural identity or trying to sound just like a native speaker.

The true goals of accent reduction classes are to improve your clarity, how well others understand you, and how confident you feel when speaking English.

Myth #2: Accent reduction is only for ESL speakers

While it's true that accent reduction is often associated with non-native English speakers, it's not exclusively for this group.

Native speakers of English can also choose to take accent reduction classes, particularly if they have regional accents that can be difficult for others to understand. Additionally, accent reduction can be useful for actors, public speakers, and other professionals who need to communicate clearly and effectively.

Remember, accent reduction is all about adding clarity to your message so you and your listener can connect quickly and easily and stay on topic without all of these questions getting in the way…

  • “Can you repeat that?”

  • “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

  • “Huh?”

  • “Where are you from?”

Though accent reduction can be for anyone, here at EK Accent Coaching, I do work exclusively with non-native speakers of English looking to improve their speech and pronunciation.

This is due to my own professional background! I have over 16 years of experience teaching languages and I’ve learned a second language myself – Spanish. In 2007, I even worked with a linguist to reduce my own accent in my second language.

So that’s why I choose to focus 100% on speakers of English as a second or additional language. I also love meeting and helping people from all around the world!

Myth #3: Accent reduction is a quick fix

Unfortunately, accent reduction is not a quick fix. But nothing good or worth having in life is, right?

It takes time, practice, and dedication to improve your English pronunciation and form new speech habits. You won't see 100% improvement overnight, and you'll need to commit to ongoing practice and feedback in order to make progress.

However, the fastest way there is to make improvements in your speech is to work with an accent coach 1-on-1. Your own accent coach can customize the sessions exactly to your own needs.

As an accent coach, I can tell you myself – EVERY client is different.

One client will need extensive work on the /L/ sound while another doesn’t need to spend any time on it at all! But maybe their vowels need a lot of work, so that’s what we’ll focus on in our 1-on-1 sessions.

Similarly, one client will specifically ask for help with conversation coaching to feel more confident about small talk and sharing weekend anecdotes with their colleagues on Monday morning. I often hear that clients “just don’t know what to say” and they freeze up in these kinds of situations!

But, on the other hand, I’ll have other clients who love to talk and share stories and I need to teach them how to use intonation and pauses in their speech to give their listener a chance to take a turn or really let the story sink in and connect with it.

So, working with an accent coach 1-on-1 can help you be more efficient with your time and see results sooner because you’ll get targeted feedback and personalized guidance on your speech that is just right for you.

In this way, we accent coaches provide a service that just can’t be provided by hours of interacting with other people, an AI-powered app, or a YouTube tutorial.

Accent coaches also know that any new habit or change to your speech is going to take a lot of repetition to stick and become automatic.

That’s why, between accent training sessions, I give all of my students an independent practice schedule with 10-15 minutes a day of tasks to really help solidify their learning and their new speech and pronunciation habits.

If you want to read the complete guide on what kind of practice you need to improve your English pronunciation, take a look at this article: The #1 Secret Ingredient You Need to Reduce Your Accent

Working on your accent takes practice, but it can be done!

Myth #4: Accent reduction is only about changing the way I speak

While improving your speech and pronunciation is a key component of accent reduction, it's not the only factor. In order to truly work on your accent, you'll need to work on your listening skills as well.

Actively listening to native English speakers can help you internalize the sounds and patterns of English, which will make it easier for you to produce them in your own speech.

It’s also through conversational speaking that we train the habit of pronouncing the sounds you’ve been working on in your accent reduction journey.

To make any change to an accent…

  • First, you have to be able to hear the difference between the way you say something and the way it’s said in the goal accent

  • Then, you need to train your mouth to physically make that new sound or express your words in that way

  • And finally, through conversational speaking and corrections – over time – you can train your brain to produce it automatically in context

This is the cycle of accent reduction and speech improvement! And that is exactly what I offer my own clients.

Myth #5: Accent reduction classes are a waste of time and money

Some people believe that accent reduction classes are a waste of time and money, and that it's better to just practice on your own.

While it's true that you can make some (limited) progress on your own or using free resources like YouTube, accent reduction classes & coaching can be incredibly beneficial for several reasons.

First, you'll get targeted feedback and guidance from a professional who can help you identify the exact areas of your speech, pronunciation, and communication that can be improved.

Second, you’ll have access to an experienced teacher who is motivating and supportive. Some people may feel embarrassed about how they speak and hesitate to seek help for fear of being judged or ridiculed. But 1-on-1 accent coaching provides a safe space to make mistakes and form new speech habits.

Finally, accent reduction programs & classes can provide structure and accountability, which can be helpful for those who struggle with self-motivation.

You know yourself best. Are you the kind of person who can go to the gym five days a week on your own? Or do you need to book an appointment with a personal trainer or claim a spot in a fitness class to ensure you’ll show up?

Rather than thinking about the cost of accent reduction lessons, think of it as an investment. An investment of time and money that, if done efficiently and effectively, can lead to big improvements in the clarity and power of your communication.

You may be surprised at the amount of accent training lessons that I recommend to my 1-on-1 students – just one 50-minute session a week! Yes, just one session a week, with 10-15 minutes of daily practice between sessions, is enough to make a big improvement.

Myth #6: I can't reduce my accent if I learned English later in life

While it's true that it can be more challenging to reduce your accent if you learned English later in life, it's not impossible.

Plenty of adults have reduced their accents later in life – I even did it in my second language, Spanish!

With practice and dedication, you can make significant improvements to your pronunciation to be more clear and confident when speaking English.

Of course, everyone’s journey is different. Every client’s list of accent and communication goals is unique. Some sounds take longer to master than others and some come quickly to my students.

But…it can definitely be done!

Myth #7: Accent reduction is only about the sounds & pronunciation of English

While the sounds of English are a key component of accent reduction, they're not the only factor.

Accent reduction also involves learning the rhythm, intonation, and stress patterns of English, as well as the cultural context and idiomatic expressions.

I’ve helped my students in ways you may not have realized were part of accent training:

  • learning and using idioms

  • grammar

  • how to break up with someone

  • how to be a stronger leader at work

  • how to write an email in a tone that’s firm…but not too firm

  • words that are offensive and should be avoided

  • American curse words

  • …and the list goes on!

By working on all of these aspects of English, you can improve your overall communication skills and become a more effective and confident communicator in English, no matter what your reasons are for wanting to reduce your accent.

5 Benefits of Getting Accent Reduction Classes

Now that you know the truth behind some of the myths about accent reduction classes… What are the goals and benefits of an accent reduction program?

1. Improved Communication

Clear communication is hands-down, the #1 goal of accent reduction.

Clear communication is essential in both personal and professional settings. Reducing your accent can help others understand you more easily, which can lead to better communication and fewer misunderstandings, like…

  • getting the dish you really ordered in a restaurant

  • avoiding having to repeat yourself in conversations, whether in person, on the phone, or on Zoom

  • avoiding saying an offensive word due to a subtle difference in its pronunciation (think “sheet,” “beach,” and “peace”...)

  • and having others hear what you have to say rather than focus on how you said it

2. Increased Confidence

Knowing that you can speak clearly and with impact can help you feel so much more confident.

Being able to express yourself in a way that is easily understood by any listener will help you feel more comfortable speaking in front of others and taking more risks to get what you want, whether professionally or personally.

I know this feeling firsthand! In 2007, I went through my own accent reduction journey with my second language, Spanish.

I remember the feeling before… I knew I had an accent when I spoke Spanish, I didn’t know why I had one, and the way I dealt with that was by… not speaking up and hiding.

I was too shy to speak Spanish in front of groups of people, even though my level in the language was very advanced.

But, I also remember the feeling after reducing my accent.

My confidence came back. I expressed myself with ease, better than I ever had before. I spent a year living in Spain and attended a Spanish university. After graduating, I had a very successful 12-year career teaching Spanish to thousands of students. I was eventually promoted to create trainings and materials for language teachers and support them full-time.

Basically, after reducing my accent and improving my communication skills in Spanish, my whole life opened up as my confidence soared. I was able to reach new professional opportunities and new levels of success.

This is the gift I love to give to my students!

3. More Job Opportunities

In many industries, having a strong command of the English language is essential. By reducing your accent, you will likely be able to expand your job opportunities and advance in your career.

I have accent coaching clients from both inside and outside the US. My US-based clients want to improve their communication skills in English for obvious reasons since they live here and interact with native English-speaking Americans all the time, at work and in the community.

I also have plenty of accent coaching clients come to me from outside the US who need to use English in their work. These clients who seek accent coaching have been graduate students, software engineers, sales representatives… you name it.

These clients who live and work outside of the US may need to have strong English communication skills because they interact a lot on the phone or via video call with US-based clients and companies.

Some of my accent reduction clients outside of the US work at international companies that employ people from all over Europe (for example) and they use English as a lingua franca (or common language) at work with each other.

There may not be a native English speaker in sight at the company, but everyone is still expected to use English!

As you can see, wherever you go, English is often being used these days in international companies and among people who simply don’t share a common native language.

Working on your confidence, fluency, and effective communication in English can only bring you benefits in the future!

4. Better Integration

If you are living in the US or Canada, as you can imagine, reducing your accent will help you integrate more easily into the local community.

Improving your clarity, the quality of your expression, and also your conversational skills in English can also help you build stronger relationships with native English-speaking Americans.

When you remove barriers to effectively using English to express yourself, your authentic personality, skills, and experiences can really shine through.

Accent and communication coaching can help you gain the confidence to get out there and share your true self with others.

5. Challenging Stereotypes

Like I mentioned, improving your expression and communication in English can really allow your authentic, true self to shine through.

When language becomes less of a barrier, you can share your personality, your life experiences, and your skills with others, even when speaking in English.

Unfortunately, some people make assumptions about peoples’ abilities or intelligence based on their accent. It’s an ugly reality.

Of course, these people would benefit from a wider worldview and they are often monolingual, so they have no clue how much intelligence, bravery, and work it takes to become bilingual like you.

Although I wish the world would become a kinder place today to all non-native speakers of any language, improving your own communication can help you challenge and overcome these stereotypes. You’ll be able to share your true, authentic, smart, funny, capable, competent, and confident self to anyone – even in English.

In conclusion, there are many myths and misconceptions about accent reduction, but there are just as many benefits to starting this work.

I wish you the absolute best on your journey!

Ready to Get Started With 1-on-1 American Accent TRAINING?

Here are a few ways you can start now!

  1. Subscribe to get EK Accent Coaching content! You’ll get a free accent training lesson (PDF & audio) sent straight to your inbox, as well as free content with more awesome tips and strategies related to accent & communication improvement!

  2. Feel free to contact me or comment on this blog post if you have any questions about accent reduction.

  3. You can also book a free 15 minute consultation with me so we can discuss your goals and how I can help you improve your communication.

  4. Ready to get some guidance and feedback as you work to improve your speech? Enroll now in one of my courses or a 1-on-1 coaching package so we can get right to work on improving your speech & communication!

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