Accent reduction: what is it and how does it work?

Accent Reduction / Coaching / Elocution

Accent reduction: what is it and how does it work?

“People don’t understand me”

“I have to repeat myself every hour at work”

“I’ve lived in the UK for 30 years and I still don’t feel like my accent has softened at all”

These are comments made by the majority of my accent reduction clients during their consultation. No one should ever feel like their accent is holding the back, whether it’s in personal or work life. However, for some it feels like it’s a massive stumbling block which is incredibly difficult to budge. But what is accent reduction? Is it the same as accents softening?

To put it bluntly, accent reduction (also known as accent softening) is the process of reducing someone’s natural accent down to another accent of their choice. Although it is possible for someone to completely adopt a new accent, it’s more likely that most people will find their dialect is softened. I would always recommend that anyone considering accent reduction looks at self-help options first. For example, immerse yourself in the world that accent – watch television programmes, listen to the radio, jump on YouTube and get your head around phonetics. But if you still find that you are in need of help, what does the coaching side of it involve?

The very first step in someone’s journey through accent reduction is a voice assessment. As a coach, I customise every single programme, class, conversation and plan to my client. People often ask me whether I could provide group classes on the subject, and although it is perfectly possible to give people a rough idea of how to help themselves, I would need at least ten students all from the same country (and city/town) who have lived in the same place for the same amount of time and are all the same age in order for it to be remotely successful. And even then, it’s down to a person’s psychological make-up as to whether they can adopt a new accent fully or not. In the voice assessment, I can essentially break down someone’s entire voice onto paper which gives me an overview as to what twangs they have picked up over the years and realistically where we need to start the work.

After a voice assessment, it’s then about the work. I teach clients in one hour slots, maximum once per week. This is because your brain needs the time to adapt and work on the exercises from each session before we move onto the next one. During each session, I tend to look at one main element (e.g. the STRUT vowel) looking at a range of exercises to get a client to create the right shape perfectly. Then it’s a case of age-old parrot-fashion repeating followed by implementation work. Once this is complete, I hand the work over to the client to do just 5 minutes per day of practice.

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