Accent Reduction? Myths and reality

As a voice and pronunciation coach, I help English speakers achieve clear, effective pronunciation. This process is sometimes called accent reduction. I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with this term and I no longer use it because I think it implies some myths:

Myth 1: Accent and pronunciation coaching reduces something

Reality: The process reduces nothing. On the contrary: learning new vowel & consonant sounds and rhythm & intonation patterns adds a whole new skill that, with practice, we can switch on when we like.

However, the original accent habit does not disappear – we can access it at any time. This can be useful, as different ways of speaking may serve us better in different situations e.g. social gatherings vs work presentations. When and how we use our new choice is up to us!

Of course, I encourage my clients to practise regularly so that the new choice becomes stronger and easier. I want them to leave the training feeling equipped with a new skill rather than trying to ‘squash down’ an existing habit.

Myth 2: ‘No accent’ or ‘less accent’ exists

Reality: Everyone who speaks has an accent, which is usually influenced by first language(s), regional associations, travel, and individual quirks!

When people talk about speaking ‘without an accent’, they mean closer to what is considered the standard. That standard is also an accent. We can work towards a standard accent if we choose.

In the training, we need a target accent framework, so the ‘standard’ one is an easy and obvious choice, but not an obligation. I often (not always) use a modern RP accent model, but always discuss this with my client at the beginning of one-to-one training.

We can speak clearly in any accent. 

Myth 3: A ‘reduced’ accent is better

Reality: Each individual may speak how they like! We can choose to stick with our habitual accent and pronunciation habits, or we can respectfully explore other speech systems that serve our needs. All of this is okay.

Accents are beautiful and enjoyable, and the world would be so boring if we all spoke the same way. Personally, I probably use about three accents in one day! Nobody has to undertake accent or pronunciation training, but it’s equally okay to choose to. It’s your voice and your choice.

A large part of my work is helping people to speak English as clearly as possible – native and non-native speakers alike. After the training, my clients often report that they feel more confident that friends and colleagues understand them first time, every time.

I do this via one-to-one training or my self-study online course.

Not sure what’s right for you? Get in touch to arrange a chat!