Do you have difficulties understanding and/or being understood? The ability to participate comfortably in a conversation depends upon language and context. Understanding the culture, being familiar with the topic and concepts being discussed, knowing the idioms and vocabulary being used – all these increase the ease with which communication takes place. But if I find it difficult to understand your pronunciation, I may lose interest, get frustrated, misunderstand and, unfortunately, misjudge you.
All of us have an accent, regardless of where or when we learned a language. In Canada, we have a predominant accent which most people are familiar with and find easy to understand. If your accent is very different, many people will find it difficult to understand you, even if you have been speaking English all your life.
Language is like music –the individual notes fit together and take on a completely new feeling and meaning. Many people think, if they can pronounce the sounds, they have done all they can do. But, like music, you must learn how to move between the sounds — run words together, use stress and intonation, reduce or drop vowels and parts of words – and, in this way, begin to harmonize with your conversation partner.
In my opinion, when prospective employers ask about “Canadian experience”, they want to be sure of two things: that you know enough about Canadian cultural norms and that your language skills are good enough for comfortable, efficient communication. If we have to struggle to understand each other, it is uncomfortable, inefficient and, possibly, dangerous.
Most people will never be able to completely eliminate a foreign accent. But with some time and commitment, it is possible to moderate your pronunciation enough so that you can be easily understood. The speed with which you improve and the degree of improvement depends on several factors:
- The quality of instruction
- Your openness to change
- Your desire to improve
- The time you spend in focused practice
- Your innate ability
So what is the first step? Find a good teacher! Computer software is useful for teaching individual sounds but not very effective for creating the awareness you need for more fluid speech. Classes can be a good starting point but refining your accent may require private instruction. Either way, you must be open to change and willing to put what you learn into practice. Moderating your accent may involve adjusting your public image, your self perception and your personality. Be open, use the tools provided by your instructor and be patient – your pronunciation can and will improve.
VOICE TO WORD can help you refine your English. Read more…