Does Your Accent Change How Others See You?

As a professional speech coach, I see people who want to improve their communication for a variety of reasons. One of the most common reasons people seek my services is to reduce their accent. An accent is definitely not a bad thing in and of itself; in almost every case there’s no reason to try and eliminate your accent entirely. But clear, confident communication is essential to professional success in any field. If your accent is getting in the way of others understanding your message or affecting your confidence, learning to change the way you talk could help your career.

Some studies have shown that your accent can also affect the way people see you. I recently read an article in the Journal of Applied Psychology that reported on two experiments that suggested when all other factors were equal, individuals with non-native English accents were significantly less likely to be recommended for management positions and less likely to receive new-venture funding. This bias is unfortunate — no one should be discriminated against because of the way they speak. But the article did provide some food for thought on how a non-native accent may affect professional perception.

As I’ve said, having an accent in and of itself is certainly not a negative quality. An accent can be charming, and many people feel that their accent is a part of their identity, reflecting their heritage and culture. However, in some cases, a particularly strong accent can not only affect how you are perceived, but more importantly, can impact the clarity of your communication.

As an accent reduction specialist, I don’t try to “get rid” of a person’s accent. Accent-modification isn’t designed to eliminate an accent or hide the fact that you are a non-native English speaker. What I do is work with a person’s particular accent to make sure that you are understood and able to speak with clarity and confidence, so that your accent impacts your professional work as little as possible. As trained and certified speech-language pathologists, my team and I are able to pinpoint the specific sounds that are interfering with your clarity, provide feedback on individual communication patterns, and provide strategies to modify problem-sounds.

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