This is actually a good question to ask yourself, if you are working in a native-English speaking environment yet your first language is not English. Here are some common questions, and my answers to them:
1 - Does accent reduction really work?
Answer - yes and no. What I suggest is to start off with a comprehensive English pronunciation assessment, to identify your challenges with spoken consonants, vowels and stress. That in itself is pretty valuable. Next you can target those specific weaknesses, instead of going through a whole course or book. That's good too. Finally - to answer the question - it does work to reduce your accent, but it will not make you sound 100% like an English native speaker, unless you are under the age of say 14 when you start. So yes it allows you to analyze, modify and reduce your accent, and if you put a lot of work into it (i.e. do your homework!) you will make great improvements, but just don't expect to sound like a native English speaker overnight. Not gonna happen.
2 - Is it really important to reduce my accent? What's wrong with an accent?
Answer - Depends on 2 things: Confidence and Clarity. If you are a confident speaker, who understands how to speak clearly with or 'through' your accent, then you may never need to work on it. I say 'need', because many 'want' to improve their accent, for self-improvement purposes. How do you know if you have clarity? Ask yourself this question "Do people often ask me to repeat myself when in conversation or in meetings?" If yes, then you do not have clear speech.
3 - Can I improve my accent from home?
Answer - yes - there are a handful of good English pronunciation textbooks out there, complete with listening CDs, and there are private companies who sell accent reduction CDs and books as well. Also you can watch TV, repeat after your favourite movies and TV shows using DVDs (so you can pause and repeat) and of course get acquainted with native English speakers. Make friends, socialize, and pick up on their pronunciation, as well as their slang and idioms. Studying at home is not as intensive or directed as studying with a qualified coach or tutor, but it's better than nothing and is cost-effective for sure.
I hope this has been helpful. Accent reduction is a specialty of mine, and I have been teaching it since 1997. More info can be found on my website (below) under the ESL page. Thank you!
Ric Phillips is a Communication Coach & Trainer, and President of Toronto-based 3V Communications Ltd.
Ric has been teaching English and ESL since 1997, and has taught in China, Russia and in Toronto. Accent reduction is one of his specialties, and you can find out more information on how his accent reduction program works by visiting this page on our new 3VC website: