Should I Modify My Accent?
The topic of accent modification can be controversial in some ways. Why should a person need to modify their accent when moving to another country? They already speak English, so why do they need to sound more American or Canadian? I agree with the skeptics in some ways. People who move to other countries shouldn’t have to give up their accents, which are part of their cultural identities. Why should they have to fit in to match some standard? They could be standing out and celebrating who they are instead. I understand this point of view. But I want to take this debate a little further by discussing who would be a good fit to start accent modification therapy. Here are three types of situations when I believe accent modification therapy would be a great idea.
You’re not intelligible when you speak.
Not everyone’s accent it equal. Some people have a very mild accent, which doesn’t hinder their ability to be understood when speaking English. They can communicate their thoughts clearly and without having to repeat themselves. They can strike up a conversation with most people, without thinking twice about it. However, some people’s accents are very strong. It impacts their intelligibility or how well they are understood. It can also affect their self-esteem or their will to strike up conversations with native English speakers. It can affect which jobs or opportunities they choose to pursue, affecting their finances and their families’ future. I think that someone with such a strong accent is the perfect person to participate in accent modification therapy.
You’re afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
Having an accent can be intimidating. I still remember when I first moved to the United States. I knew my accent was heavy, and whenever I tried to talk to someone, I’d get multiple corrections on the way I said something or some comment about my pronunciation. It was rarely just a typical back and forth communication. It frustrated me when that happened. I chose to withdraw myself and not participate in conversations that weren’t in my native language or with other immigrants like myself. It was not an easy time for me. Once I modified my accent, I could feel my stress levels go down when I spoke, and I made friends who didn’t speak Polish or from my ESL class. If your accent is holding you back and keeping you in your comfort zone, I recommend you do accent modification therapy. It can help you come out of your shell.
You get passed on for promotions or job opportunities.
This is unfortunate, but studies have shown that people with foreign accents are viewed as less intelligent, less competent, less employable, and less proficient in English by native speakers. This has been shown in studies to be irrespective of appearance, knowledge of past experience, and the presence of interpersonal skills. I think it’s completely unfair, especially in the world, which tries to be progressively bias-free. However, the bias still exists. It’s out there, hunting immigrants with accents and taking away career opportunities. If you would like to get a promotion, find a job in an American company or start your own business, it will be much easier to do if you modify your accent. I wish it wasn’t so, but the reality is, this is the world we live in right now.
To be clear, having an accent is not a disorder. It’s not something that needs to be treated. However, it’s something that could be addressed if it affects your quality of life. I have to be honest here. I am thrilled I modified my accent. I don’t think I would have been as effective as a speech pathologist if I haven’t. I also don’t think I would have had the same opportunities that I’ve had if I spoke with a heavy accent. I also don’t believe I would have been treated fairly. It pains me to admit that, but this is the world we live in right now. If you have a strong accent, don’t worry. No matter your age, occupation, or native language, you can modify your accent to help you succeed.