When Jean Eloi spoke English at work, words like “probably” often sounded more like “pwabably” and the-51-year-old’s accented speech was too fast for his colleagues to keep up. So when his manager gently suggested an accent-reduction course to help him express himself more fluently leading meetings he jumped at the chance.
Eloi, a native Creole speaker and project manager at a biotech firm has lived in the US for more than 32 years but says he wasn’t offended by the suggestion and instead appreciated the offer of some help.
Accent reduction, sometimes called accent softening, is controversial and being singled-out over the way you speak can be upsetting to employees. And managers risk deeply offending team members if they pick on one person over the way they speak, in particular if that employee is often working in multiple languages or their English pronunciation has little to do with their capability to do their job.
After 15 hours of one-on-one coaching, Eloi, who lives in North Carolina, in the US, says he’s now aware of the mistakes he makes in English when speaking. As a result of the course, he now slows down his speech, clearly enunciates vowels and keeps his desk computer covered with sticky note reminders to incorporate what he’s learned during the course.
“There are small things that you don’t know [about your speaking skills] until you talk to someone,” said Eloi, whose firm covered the cost for training. “Now I’m really conscious of it.”
As more workers move across national borders for jobs, English-speaking accent-reduction courses are becoming increasingly popular. They help non-native speakers who need to speak clearly for business improve their communication skills.
For those who learn English as adults, it’s nearly impossible for a non-native accent entirely disappear after such a course — even after years of practice. However, even small improvements can boost self-confidence in the workplace.
You’re not alone.
Source: Adapted from bbc.com