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Accents International Blog

Accent Reduction for Executives

by Judy Ravin | | Accent Comprehension, Diversity

According to the Wharton School of Business, communication is the second most important skill needed to succeed in the C-Suite. This poses a unique challenge for executives who speak English as a second language. Specifically, it’s the difficulties of English pronunciation that often impede rising stars from advancing to executive leadership positions.

Here’s why: Accents make speech more difficult for the brain to process. Unfortunately, this processing difficulty impacts the speaker’s message in three significant ways. First, heavily accented speech causes the listener to remember less accurately what the speaker says. Second, people have a natural tendency to ‘fill in the blanks’ when they don’t understand something. This causes inaccuracies and compromises effective knowledge transfer. Third, research shows that the heavier the accent – in any language – the less credible the speaker’s message is perceived. This jeopardizes the executive’s ability to persuade and influence, two hallmark skills required of every leader.

Accent Reduction for Executives: A Proven Solution

A mispronunciation is a sound that’s literally missing. An accent is a pattern of missing sounds that are filled in with non-standard sounds. Once executives acquire these missing sounds (in essence, when they ‘fill in the blanks’), their communication becomes clear, accurate, and more effective. They speak with greater impact and lead with confidence.

The process of acquiring the sounds in English missing from a person’s first language is known by their three interchangeable terms: accent reduction, accent modification, and accent neutralization. The road to clear communication requires a few key components. The following are five tips for creating an outstanding accent reduction program for executives:

    1. Coaches must be expert linguists AND experienced corporate trainers. An accent reduction coach for executives needs to understand the ins-and-outs of the American accent as well as be an exceptional corporate trainer. They need to be results driven and understand that success is measured by the executive’s ability to apply newly acquired communication skills to everyday speech.
    2. Begin with the most difficult sounds. This gives the executive the greatest number of opportunities for instruction, guided feedback, and skill acquisition. The most challenging sounds are typically ‘th’, vowels followed by ‘r’ (er, or, ar, air, etc.), and ‘v’ and ‘w’.
    3. As early as the second coaching session, practice pronunciation techniques within the context of the executive’s industry specific terminology. Have the executive share a presentation or talking points for an upcoming meeting.
    4. Competence equals confidence. Soon your client will begin self-correcting. This is an important step in skill acquisition. When you notice an improvement, let your client know.
    5. Assess performance. Executives are performance driven, and they measure results. Make sure your program includes pre- and post-program assessments. Be sure to provide a Final Report that reflects a statistically accurate progress metric.

Use these five strategies to create a powerful accent reduction program, or, to ensure the program you’re considering includes these core components. Because everyone deserves to be heard.

For more information: Accent Reduction For Corporations Page or visit our Home Page for a complete list of services.

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