Wall Street Journal


Accent Reduction in the News
An Article from The Wall Street Journal


By Jolie Solomon

Lose That Thick Accent To Gain Career Ground

BARRELING ALONG in a sales talk, a systems engineer at Sverdrup Corp. in Cleveland, suddenly noticed the group looked “puzzled.” When the engineer, Thanh Nguyen, asked what the problem was, he found the customers had missed a key word five minutes back because of his pronunciation.

The Vietnamese-born Mr. Nguyen was soon headed for “accent reduction” classes at Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center. Like speech experts around the U.S., those in Cleveland are seeing more foreign-born professionals whose careers have stalled because of thick accents, even though their grammar and vocabulary skills are good.

“We have companies saying, ‘we’d love to promote him, but he won’t be able to function at higher level,’ “says Shellie Bader, director of LA West Speech Communication in Los Angeles. Rockwell International has put more than 100 engineers through LA West classes.

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Foreign-born Professionals Head for Accent Reduction Classes

One top financial officer found his English skills adequate when he worked for a U.S. company in his South American homeland. But when he moved north to head-quarters, he needed “self-confidence” talking to security analysts and bankers. “If you’re trying to sell something,” he says, an accent interferes.

Sometimes an American inflection is necessary not because of clarity, but because listeners tune out what they don’t like. Latins and Asians face the most barriers, says Ron Brown, a cultural consultant; “Americans have difficulty listening” to those accents. Says Susan Lippman Saltzman at Cleveland Hearing, “Face it, prejudice exists.”

Since publication of this article, Ms. Saltzman has left CHSC and started a private practice in Shaker Heights, Ohio.Individuals interested in participating in an Accent Reduction Program Online, may contact the ARTA at PH: (844) Speak-Well.

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