Monday, August 18, 2008

Does the Way You Speak Turn Off People?

People have accents – distinct ways they pronounce words. And I’m not just talking about accents of people now living in the U.S. who are foreign-born. Almost all of us born in the U.S. have some kind of regional accent if not neighborhood accent.

These accents can often be quite appealing. Other times, however, an accent can work against you either by the image the accent unintentionally conveys or in making it difficult for others to understand you.

When I worked at a newspaper office years ago we had an intern with a particularly grating Philadelphia accent. (It’s hard to describe this accent basically it consists of mispronouncing words in a very distinctive manner.) The other reporters laughed at her accent behind the intern’s back.

I called the intern into my office and suggested that, if she wanted to get ahead in journalism, perhaps she should work on her accent. Her reply: “My parents think my accent is fine but my boyfriend says it’s awful.”

I gently told her that her boyfriend, not her parents, were correct. She needed to lose her particular Philadelphia accent.

How to get help for an unappealing accent?

First, voice pronunciation tapes are available for actors to eliminate their troublesome accents. You can get such tapes from a store catering to actors (such as Samuel French) or from a library to practice on your own.

Second, you can find a friend with the accent you’d like to have and practice how the friend speaks. The friend can record troublesome words and sentences so that you can practice on your own.

And there’s also the internet. Type “eliminate foreign accent” or “eliminate regional accent” on Google and you’ll get several websites.

First impressions in interviews for internships or jobs are so important. It’s a smart move to make sure that you don’t lose out the moment you open your mouth.

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