FAQs for All Interested Individuals
For FAQs of interest to HR Professionals and managers, please also refer to answers towards the end of this page.
Have a question that is not answered here? Please write to us. If we feel your question is a common concern, we will post the answer here for future reference.
What kinds of communication challenges can you help me with?
We can help you with any aspect of English or culturally-appropriate communication you require. We start with a needs assessment which can be either one person or an entire department. Based on this, we propose a program for you – content and length. Training can include aspects such as accent modification, presentation skills, voice, conversation, cross-cultural training, interpersonal skills, writing, grammar and English proficiency test preparation. If you have several of these concerns, we can blend them into one program.
What is accent modification?
Accent modification (also called accent reduction and elocution training or pronunciation training)refers to the process of teaching a client how to adjust their accent. This involves learning how to correctly form the individual vowels and consonants and adapt to the rhythm of English – the music of the language, syllable and sentence stress, phrasing, joining words and reducing unstressed sound.
How does the training work?
With accent modification, we generally meet weekly for one hour. (This takes place at our office at Christie and Bloor but we can also come to you if you prefer. There is a charge for this service.) We suggest meeting regularly at first. Later, if you’d like, training can be spaced out to meeting bi-weekly so as to give you time to integrate the lessons.
For other skills training, we may suggest longer sessions of 1.5 to 2 hours. This is particularly true for grammar, writing and cross-cultural training. All of this is negotiable. Our programs are customized, not only in terms of the content but also the delivery. We aim to meet your needs in terms of skills development as well as practical needs such as scheduling and travel.
What is an attainable goal with regards to accent modification for most people?
Generally the goal is to speak clearly. We do not recommend attempting to sound “Canadian” as a goal for most people since it takes great commitment and skill to come close. A non-native English accent shows you speak more than one language, can be a strong part of your identity and is not, in and of itself, an issue generally. We emphasize the importance of clarity and ease of listening from the person you are communicating with. We believe this is an attainable goal for most people.
What is an attainable goal for people who work in the media – actors, announcers, etc?
In contrast to what was said above, people who work in the media – actors especially – often want to sound native-like in order to fill more roles. Given the speech training and motivation that these clients tend to have, plus the fact that they are often working with scripts and therefore can memorize the correct accent more easily, this is a goal we can work with. It is important to note the difference between working from a script and free-form speaking; when you have to think a lot about what you are saying, the focus is deciding what to say which results in less focus on the accent.
How long will it take to improve my pronunciation and accent?
You will notice some changes immediately if you focus and do the required homework. Often we suggest a baseline of 15 weekly sessions with some follow-up sessions during the year. This varies depending upon the starting point and need of the client. Nevertheless, accent modification takes time. We can teach you the sounds and theory, share tools to use and an approach to integrating your speech with the new accent, but you need to do the work.
Think of it like learning an instrument. You can take some lessons and learn a lot but it is the practice, the repetition to make a movement habitual, which is needed to play well. If you stop practicing, your abilities will weaken. If you practice enough that you develop new habits of speech, then simply speaking this way constitutes further practice, much like regular playing stabilizes technique. But first you need to develop the habits. How much time you dedicate to the tasks assigned, how much attention and involvement you have with what you are learning and your attitude towards changing your accent all influence your success and the time needed to make noticeable changes.
Do you have a Registered Speech Pathologist as part of your team?
Yes, we do. Voice to Word’s Julie Cohn is a Speech Therapist and trains in accent modification, voice and grammar. If you have a benefits program which covers speech therapists, you may be able to claim any accent modification training you take with her.
How do I make an appointment?
You may call and leave a message or email us. Generally it is a good idea to specify when you might be available for sessions so we can match you with a trainer who can adapt to your schedule. If you would like to work with Julie, our Speech Language Pathologist, please let us know that also since she will need to do the assessment herself (due to her professional requirements.) Once we have this information, we will put you into contact with your assessor via email, providing both of you with your email addresses and telephone numbers. Then you can arrange between yourselves a convenient time for both of you.
If I take the assessment, do I need to commit to training?
When you take an assessment, you are free to accept or reject the assessor’s recommendations. There is no commitment unless you choose to commit. We understand the importance of commitment and the time needed to improve your English skills, especially when it comes to accent modification. The assessment will give you an overview of the key issues to address according to your concerns. You may decide to stop there, start the training immediately or leave the decision for later. It’s up to you.
Do you have sessions outside of regular business hours?
We offer sessions every day and evening except Saturday evening and Sunday, but not all trainers work outside of regular work hours. This is why we ask you to specify your time restrictions at the beginning so you initially meet with the same person who is available when you are, should you decide to pursue training.
How much does it cost?
The first step is the assessment which is offered at the promotional price of $60 and you receive a handwritten summary of the issues to be addressed. The price of the ongoing one-on-one coaching depends upon the number of sessions you purchase. The hourly cost is reduced when you purchase more sessions. If you are unsure, you can commit to a small number of sessions to start with. Once completed, if you decide to continue, you pay the difference between the shorter program and the longer one. This way you are not penalized financially for wanting to try it out first before making a major financial commitment. We can give you more exact pricing upon request. If you find the cost of one-on-one coaching not feasible, we also offer some group classes which are considerably less expensive.
Where are you located?
Our office is right at Christie subway station on the Bloor line. The building is on the south side, just a few buildings east of the Bloor-Christie corner. Here is a map. As mentioned, we are also available to travel to your location if needed. As there is an additional traveling cost involved, we generally do this only for corporations.
FAQs for Managers and Human Resources Professionals
What is the Return on Investment on coaching?
According to the Forbes.com Reports on Huge ROI’s for Executive Coaching, “the mean Return on Investment in coaching was 7 times the initial investment, and over a quarter of coaching clients reported a stunning ROI of 10 to 49 times the cost.” This means that the reported ROI is somewhere between 340 to 700%.
How do I approach the topic of language coaching without insulting the employee?
This can be a difficult thing to do since many people are concerned that the employee will be offended or, worse yet, feel there is an element of discrimination present. We suggest framing it within the context of professional development. Many of the communication skills we teach are skills we all learn as we grow and gain experience. We all need to continually learn professional communication skills. So framing the discussion as support to improve and develop professional communication skills in general can be a way to approach the discussion.
Most employees will be happy to have the company’s support to improve their communication skills and professional image. There may be resistance from some people who feel their English is perfectly fine, especially those who have been speaking it all their lives. The key is that people here understand them easily, not that there is anything “wrong” with their accent. They do have to be on board, though, for any progress to be made, especially in the area of accent reduction.
How can our company support the our employees during the learning process?
Supporting them financially is the first step. Making time in their schedule to meet with their coach is also important. Thirdly, there is time involved in doing the homework so the employee needs to have some time for this. In our experience, corporate clients often have so little time, especially those with little children, which can result in slow progress. In an ideal world, these employees would be able to schedule some work time to do what is required, but this is not always feasible.
A second thing to consider is the commitment of the employee. Without commitment, little progress will be made, especially in the area of accent modification which is highly personal. When someone hires a coach themselves, the financial investment shows personal commitment to a large degree. When training is paid, the commitment is not always there. When a corporation decides to support an employee for one-on-one coaching, it is important to negotiate the employee’s responsibility and get their commitment. When a company is offering group training, since the pressure is much less, we find asking the participants to put a deposit down which would be refunded upon successful completion, motivates the employees to commit more. In both cases, there should be some personal investment of some type on behalf of the employee in the training, whether that be a financial or professional one.