My client was concerned that she was passed over for a much deserved promotion because of her accent. She said that she often avoided eating lunch with her co-workers because she rarely understood their jokes or references and she thought this might have hurt her opportunity to advance. Accent modification she felt would improve her mobility within her company.
Some accents result from the primary language’s sound system influencing the secondary acquired language’s sound system. My clients for who English is a second language have worked in large 500 companies, corporate law firms, are fellows and graduate students at MIT and Harvard University. They have decided that they need to change their accents, in order to, fit in to their business and academic cultures.
It’s a personal decision, but accent modification is not just about changing individual sounds. It also includes instruction in non-verbal language. In China bowing is a sign of respect. In the United States, especially if you are a woman, bowing is seen as weak and subservient. Leaders in the US are expected to be authoritarianand always knowledgeable. In many cultures, looking down when speaking to someone in authority is a sign of respect. In the U. S., not looking directly at someone can convey deviousness or weakness. The head of a team of co-workers must make eye contact to convey confidence. Additionally, admitting your errors in the U.S. is often seen as weakness in the corporate environment, but in other countries errors are simply seen as something to be fixed. There are many non-verbal language differences that can impact a person’s ability to succeed in a professional setting.
In the U.S. only 30% of communication is conveyed though words, the other 70% is transmitted through non-verbal language. Accent modification works to change individual sounds, but also includes instruction in non-verbal language needed to succeed in U.S. businesses and institutions of higher education.
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