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Misunderstandings Due To Accents

By Lynn Bo

America is a melting pot. That is what they say. New York City is certainly proof of that especially Queens NY. We have Greeks, Peruvians, Italians, Korean, Spanish and Indians. We in fact have people from over 120 countries, many recent arrivals. And together we all must work, play and get along. Certainly it can get confusing. Miscommunications and misunderstandings abound. It is a challenge pretty unique to American life. Many immigrants are speaking English, it is just there own version of English with there own accents and speech patterns. These accents can make a Chinese person sound angry when they are not, or a Korean person sound more diminutive than what they are feeling. How often does the Italian or Spanish person sound more emotional to our ears than how they are feeling? Many of our stereotypes do come from the person's accent.

The Spanish and Italian languages have a pattern of rising intonation, while American English has more peaks and valleys, so when they apply there natural stress pattern to English they sound emotional to our ear. The Russian intonation goes down at the end of each sentence. When this is applied to the English language they can sound depressed. How many impressions are we receiving incorrectly due to accents? And what must it be like when two heavily accented people talk to each other?

Learning English is no easy task; we speak figuratively and use a great deal of idioms. Many have to learn English while trying to earn a living or get a degree. How much time can they put into English pronunciation? Well in all honesty in this age of information and service industry growth they may want to find some time to put into it. People spending money on services want to be able to communicate clearly with the waiter, the sales staff and the tech support person on the phone. Promotions and jobs are going to those who have the communication skills.

Attending accent training classes can be inefficient as they usually have students with many different language backgrounds in one room. Each background has there own challenges and it is difficult for the teacher to get to everyone and allow everyone to get enough practice. For some following a school schedule would just be impossible. Textbooks for self study just don't cut it. You need to hear the sound before you can copy it! Tapes and videos involve rewinding and cueing to hear the examples repeated, which can be frustrating and a waste of time. Now however, accent training has gone high tech. You can now work on your accent with the help of your computer. This is ideal as so much information can be packed into one software CD-ROM. These CD's contain animated graphics, video clips, waveform graphs, and lots of practice games. The other feature that the software contains is instant feedback. You just click the button and you can record yourself and play both yourself and the model speaker to assess how well you have done. You can here the examples over and over again with no rewinding or cueing. It does seem to me that the high tech solution to accent training has finally arrived!

About The Author
Lynn Bo is an expert in the field of accent reduction who posses advanced training in accent reduction and phonology. She is also the founder of a line of accent reduction software programs. She can be reached at


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