Accent Acquisition for Workplace Success

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Throughout history, people have been drawn (and repelled) by certain accents.  The difficulty lies in how much your accent prevents others from understanding what you are trying to communicate. 

Customers may hang up in frustration and turn away from company representatives that cause clients to strain to understand.  Peers may practice some exclusionary behaviors based on the level of discomfort they feel from the perceived inability to hold a dialogue.  Supervisors may fear promoting, sponsoring, or placing an employee to be client-facing, if the employee’s accent sounds convoluted.

Yet, the marketplace is changing and must be accommodated in order to stay competitive.  US businesses require a vastly diverse workforce to represent all market segments of its demographics.  Call centers for USA-headquartered international organizations are springing up around the globe in places like India, Costa Rica, the Philippines, etc.  If Americans can’t understand you the first time, they may think that you are unable to get their job(s) done quickly &/or correctly.  Accent acquisition is critical for workplace success.

And, according to U.S. Labor Law, businesses have the right to dismiss employees if their accents get in the way of effectively performing their work. The U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) states, “Treating employees differently because they have a foreign accent is lawful only if accent materially interferes with being able to do the job.”

WHAT TO DO, MY FAIR LADY?

Insert Joel Kindrick, Accent Reduction Coach extraordinaire, who is the modern-day Pygmalion.  This phonetics expert has worked with clients in every populated continent of the world via Skype and in person.  Over several years of honing his craft fit for the King’s Speech, Mr. Kindrick developed his published material Pronunciation Supplements (BrooksideEducation.com) as a set of instructional tools on the different sound patterns that plague a variety of specific language groups.  His book instructs ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers, non-Standard American dialect speakers (such as the Aussies), and other instructors to use the same techniques he employs with business people and actors.

Decades-long reinforcement.  An Argentinean businessman who had been living in the United States for over 20 years expressed surprise at Mr. Kindrick’s instruction, “Really? That’s the way it’s said??  I’ve been saying it this way for 20 years!” Habits form neurological pathways in the brain and one’s ear becomes accustomed to the sound being “right.”  And, native language speech patterns are challenging to unlearn.  For example, placing the adjective after the noun (instead of before) can indicate that you either like to wax poetic or perhaps speak a Romance language as your Mother tongue.

Mr. Kindrick teaches his clients to learn the tools for new sounds which mimic the Standard American accent. Because of the Argentine’s determination, he significantly modified his accent.  Prior to his accent acquisition, most of his contacts were native Spanish-speaking clients; now, his roster of native English-speaking clientele is expanding rapidly.

toe-MAY-toe, toe-MAH-toe.

Thank you.

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Sources:

Eeoc.gov

Joel Kindrick, MMH, Pronunciation Supplements, (Brookside Education, 2010).

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About Rossina

Thought Partner & Corporate Primatologist

Posted on July 31, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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