How important is an accent?
A student on one of our Executive English courses once asked me “what accent should I have?”
I love accents so I was a little surprised by the question and gave a quick reply “well, you are German, so I suppose a German accent .” After some discussion it became clear that he felt his accent sounded, in his words “unprofessional” when communicating with his American and British colleagues.
People often confuse fluency with accuracy, and I think it is the same with accents and pronunciation. For most of the Business English students we meet at Trebinshun House, I have realised the main focus is on improving their pronunciation and not their accent when communicating with international business partners.
So, how can you improve your pronunciation?
Some students say that speaking slowly will help.
Over many years teaching our Business English course, I have found that speaking slowly is not the real answer because it sounds unnatural and mechanical.
The real answer is to speak clearly. This means that more attention needs to be paid to intonation and stress patterns. It is not uncommon for some students from some countries to use their own language patterns when speaking English. For example, French and Italian people often forget to pronounce the ‘s’ in the 3rd person and plural forms. The ‘th’ sound is pronounced more like a ‘z’ e.g. ‘zis is’ instead of ‘this is’, in areas of Germany. This is shown with some humour in the ‘German Coastguard‘ sketch on You Tube. The usual response is “we don’t use it our own language”. The teachers at Trebinshun pay attention to these details when helping our students reach their target.
What are the main tips to help you with your pronunciation?
- Speak clearly.
- Use your friends and colleagues as a sounding board. You don’t always need to speak to native speakers.
- Read a familiar document such as a speech or presentation and record it. You will be pleasantly surprised.
- Watch television and listen to the radio. You will realise that accents are everywhere!
- So, don’t worry about changing your accent, just work on your pronunciation. You will surprise yourself!
- Join one of our Residential courses at Trebinshun House and meet a variety of like-minded professional people, people who want to improve their English language communication skills.