Looking for a new job? Want to advance in your career? Don't let your accent hold you back. In this recent article, Monster.com advises job-seekers to practice answering questions prior to interviews, using their best English grammar and vocabulary skills. But an accent can still interfere with your interview, if your speech is difficult to understand. Both regional and foreign accents can be at play when it comes to your job search. Despite being native American English speakers, some job candidates may be considered less qualified for the position based on their strong regional accent, according to researcher Dianne Markley.
Whatever your accent, learning to speak so that others understand you clearly is in your best interest when looking to advance in your career.
Americans speak with a wide variety of regional accents. American accent training will help you have a Standard American Accent, but there's no reason not to enjoy hearing the different accents people speak across the United States. Here's an audio clip from Robert Blumenfeld's "Accents, A Manual for Actors," where he demonstrates regional differences in the pronunciation of the words "pork chop."
photo from porkbeinspired.com
Venture capitalist Paul Graham took some flak recently when he stated that a CEO with a foreign accent was less likely to succeed (see original INC Magazine Article). He clarified his message with this column on his website. The first article's editor latched on to inflammatory language used about the choice to speak with a heavy accent. The follow-up written by Graham points out that an accent is not a problem in business, but not being understood because of a heavy accent is clearly a problem.
It's important to note that professionals have a choice: speaking with an accent which contributes positively to their career, or impedes their progress because they are not communicating clearly. The difference? American Accent Training with a professional.
Indian English has many features which make it different from American or British English. Not only do Indian speakers have different pronunciation, they will sometimes use words which can have different meaning in American English. The grammar of Indian English has some differences from American English grammar. There are also words and phrases in Indian English which are commonly used which are not used or understood by Americans. To read more, check out this article in the Language of India Journal.
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Ever have an American tell you they “just can’t understand the Indian Accent”? You are not alone. Despite having excellent English language skills, many speakers of Indian English experience difficulty with American listeners, especially over the phone or when speaking with people with little or no foreign language experience.
Here are a few tips to make your speech more easily understood by Americans.
Watch the consonants “t” and “d.”
Indian speakers of English have what we call a “retroflex” pronunciation of these consonants, meaning they use a different part of their tongue in a different location in their mouth than American English speakers. Try using the tip of your tongue on the bumpy ridge behind your front teeth for a more American sounding “t.” Americans also aspirate the "t" at the beginning of a word, meaning they allow the air to escape. Indian English speakers often hold in the air, making the "t" sound more like American “d.”
Be careful not to interchange “w” and “v.”
Words with the “v” sound at the start of the word or syllable are frequently mis-pronounced as “w.” Practice common words such as very, even, over using your top teeth against your bottom lip to produce American “v.”
Words with “w” sometime sound more like a “v” in an Indian accent. Practice common words such as what, when, where, why, we, were, was, with by rounding your lips and not allowing them to touch your teeth to make the American “w.”
Stick out your tongue when saying “th.”
This may seem awkward at first, but “th” in American English is pronounced by putting the tongue between the teeth. Indian English speakers often make a sound which sounds more like a “d” or "t" to American listeners. The sound “th” is one of the most frequently produced sounds, as it is in extremely commonly used words such as the, this, then, with, other, that, they, through, them, these, there, three, thing. In fact, 20 of the 250 most frequently used words in English have “th,” making it a very noticeable error when mispronounced. Learn how to pronounce American TH here.
Learn American Intonation
American English uses a pattern of rising in pitch to the important word, and then falling off at the end of the phrase. A typical Indian accent will have more of a rising and falling within the phrase or even within the syllables of the word. This makes the speech sound odd and disconnected to the American listener. They may interpret the meaning of the words differently based on intonation. For example, a rising pitch on the last word or syllable of the sentence can make it sound like a question to an American listener. Listen to some examples and read more here.
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