May 2015

May 2015

Is Your Accent Getting in the Way?

A very real barrier to securing new employment can be a heavy accent. A hiring manager may be reluctant to bring someone onto the team who is difficult to understand and will generate miscommunication issues and errors on the job. A job seeker can improve his or her chances for employment at an appropriate skill level by increasing his or her control of correct pronunciation and fluency in English. Poor language skills can be perceived as a lack of expertise as well.

Language Directions has worked with many people to improve their pronunciation and English skills. We worked with a computer programmer seeking to move to a higher level position in a prestigious Manhattan company. After only five private lessons with a skilled speech and language professional, he was able to achieve his goal. He realized it was not his skill set, but his accent that was inhibiting his career growth, leading to rejection from higher positions for which he was qualified. He took decisive action to invest in himself to remove that barrier.

Another student is a skilled internet engineer with advanced degrees and an impressive resume, yet he was unable to advance through an initial screening telephone interview. A customized course of instruction, focusing on correct pronunciation and delivery of the specific words related to his expertise and experience enabled him to secure a position commensurate with his skills and actually be chosen to travel to client locations as a consultant. His accent was no longer a hindrance.

Many foreign-born university professors face similar challenges when they look over the lectern and see the furrowed brows of students who cannot understand the important points of the professor’s lecture and therefore have trouble mastering the material. It’s not hard to see the “light go out” when comprehension is not there.

Individual and group classes are increasingly thought of as less of a frill and more of a necessity as a stepping stone to reemployment or career advancement. A typical package of private lessons is a reasonable investment; similar to the cost of a 3 credit course at a public university.

At Language Directions, we strongly prefer to avoid the term “accent reduction.” We assure our learners that everyone has an accent and their accent is what makes them unique and special. It only becomes a problem when it prevents people from understanding them. We don’t want them to lose their heritage… their roots from their native countries. The purpose of the instruction is to make them more marketable and to help them attain their career goals.

Most adult learners who have already taken outside classes to better their speech only wish they had taken them sooner. They believe that improving their pronunciation has given them a competitive edge for a new job opportunity. According to one student, a native of India, “that’s why I took it. I wanted to succeed, to go forward and to get better jobs. And that is necessary. You want people to understand you.”