What is accent addition?

Put simply, it is a systematic approach to taking on a new accent.

It is also known as:

Accent Reduction

Accent Training

Accent Neutralization

Accent Modification


Why Accent Addition?

Many people speak languages other than their native language with an accent. It is common to speak an additional language with similar traits to one’s first language. However, many people who have spent years learning a second language may speak a third language with the traits of the second language learned.

For example, English is my native language, but I speak Spanish with an accent- one that is definitely English. I’ve also studied Russian quite a bit, but German less so. I’ve been told that when I speak German, I speak it with a Russian accent.

Is there anything wrong with my English accent?

No! Absolutely not! When I speak English, that accent is perfect. I never want to lose it, no matter how many languages I learn. It is nothing to be ashamed of or to try to “lose” or “reduce.”

In the same way, there is nothing wrong with my Russian accent. When I speak Russian, it is perfect! The only problem comes when features of my Russian accent show up when I’m speaking German and make comprehension difficult for native German speakers.

Accents Are Nothing to be Ashamed of

The benefit in saying accent addition rather than accent reduction is simply this: accents are nothing to be ashamed of. By telling a native Chinese speaker that she needs to get rid of her Chinese accent, we are telling her there is something wrong with a Chinese accent. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Her accent is something others long and strive their whole lives to develop for their Chinese speaking. She would never want to lose her accent but to embrace it every time she speaks Chinese. What she needs to do in learning a second language is to take on a new accent for when she speaks that new language.

Best Practices for Choosing Accent Addition Programs

Avoid Pronunciation Programs that View Accents as Pathologies

If you desire to increase your expertise and qualifications by taking on a new accent, search for pronunciation programs focused on accent addition. One example of programs like this are the Purposeful Pronunciation programs designed by Purposeful English.  These programs are designed specifically for those seeking to take on the American English Accent. Whatever your target language, look for programs focused on accent addition.

It is far preferable to avoid programs that view accents as “pathologies” or defects of some kind.  Avoid accent reduction programs. Instead, select a program built on the premise of accent addition.

Avoid Pronunciation Programs that Focus Entirely on Individual Sounds

You also want to avoid programs that focus almost entirely on individual sounds of your target language. Individual sounds are very important, so they should be covered comprehensively and effectively. However, you also want the program to thoroughly address overarching patterns of the language as well, such as:

  • Intonation
  • Stress,
  • Connected speech
  • Speed of speech.

Avoid Pronunciation Programs Not Founded on Cultural Awareness

Be sure to evaluate the credentials of the trainer or company presenting the accent training. Accent training requires a depth of cultural awareness. So much of language and culture are linked to accent and this understanding can help you make faster and better progress.

Consider factors such as:

Are they trained in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) or Speech Pathology?

TESOL professionals are trained much more thoroughly in the cultural component. They also offer more comprehensive programs rather than focusing primarily on individual sounds. At least for English, choosing a TESOL trainer experienced in pronunciation training is a great way to go. For other languages, simply seek a program that includes the cultural component and covers the overarching patterns of language extensively along with individual sounds.

Was their training a degree program or a certification program?

Certification programs are much shorter and cover less. Bachelor’s programs are better. These often include required cross-cultural experience as a component. Masters and PhD programs are also better than certification programs.

Do they have cross-cultural experience?

Find out whether the course designer and/or trainer has had experience in other cultures. Have they traveled and taught in other countries? Teaching international professionals gives them some inter-cultural experience, but actually going other places is far better.

Avoid Pronunciation Programs that Promise Native-Speaker Ability

Also, don’t be deceived by programs promising to have you speaking exactly like a native speaker after X number of sessions or months. According to research, the majority of people over 16 or 17 learning a new language will have an accent when speaking that new language. If you are an adult, you will likely always retain some features of your accent. Again, remember, accents are not bad. Choose a program that doesn’t over-promise, but significantly increases your intelligibility in that new language.

Enjoy Learning a New Accent!

As you learn any second language, you have the joy of being able to take on a new accent. Enjoy this process! It can be incredibly fun.