Close this search box.

Do Accent Reduction Classes Work?

If speaking a second language was easy, many more people would speak several fluently. Although it’s not a short path, the road to second language proficiency is filled with interesting patterns. One fascinating pattern is that although non-native speakers may have a larger vocabulary and better grammar than some native speakers, they may still speak with an accent. However, targeted accent reduction training can reduce a foreign accent.

With pronunciation practice like an accent reduction course, a speaker or learner can realize their speaking potential. Sounding more like the natives with whom they normally talk has its advantages.

Language learning patterns are different for everyone. Abilities vary for the skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and pronouncing. Language learners should rest assured that at most levels of speaking, accent modification is possible.

Language Reduction Training Effectiveness

Most students of a language spend most of their time learning vocabulary and grammar. However, just like learning the past tense, second language learners can improve their word stress. Pronouncing words more clearly is within most people’s ability. Both native English speakers learning another language and non-native English speakers can reap huge benefits from an accent modification program.

Many non-native speakers wonder: can you drop your accent with targeted classes?

The answer is a resounding yes. Accent modification training should be more popular and widespread. One study demonstrated that vowel-focused foreign accent reduction training dispensed in 16 sessions improved pronunciation. Learning the sounds of a language and repeating them can pay off.

In his bestselling book “Fluent Forever,” Gabriel Wyner emphasizes the importance of learning sounds. Not adapting to the sounds of their new language holds many people back. He recommends that people learn the sounds of their language early. Early adoption prevents bad habits from forming.

An interesting reason that pronunciation training, particularly individual training, is superior to relying on a foreign language classroom for pronunciation practice relates to the main language of fellow students. If most students share a mother tongue, the common pronunciation of classmates will drift toward the mother language. The instructor may be a native speaker or close to a native. They may use native recordings and videos in class. Nevertheless, witnessing other students’ similarly tinged pronunciation can impede progress. Hearing other students practice aloud and give presentations can reinforce non-native patterns. Depending on their language background, students may not even realize the drift in pronunciation.

Can you train to change your accent quickly enough to make classes worth the investment?

Yes, some effective accent reduction courses are counted in hours, not months. The benefits can ripple throughout a person’s life. With a reduced accent doesn’t just come clearer communication. People can form impressions about other people very quickly based on their non-native pronunciation. Those speaking their language for work or leadership positions can benefit. Reducing evidence of their maternal language background’s influence on their pronunciation can help them seem more professional.

How long does it take for accent reduction training to improve communication?

The effectiveness of different programs and instruction can vary, but good ones help quickly. People have varying abilities to distinguish sounds and pronounce them. Many people see benefits right away. The differences in sounds between a person’s first and second language can play a large role too.

Many people never learned to make the sounds of their second or third language properly. If someone hasn’t spoken the target language for a long time or is very receptive to sound changes, lightning-fast change is possible. Pronunciation tendencies can change within a day. However, permanent accent elimination may require consistent accent-softening work for many people.

Types of Pronunciation Exercise

There are a few factors that can contribute to better pronunciation. Someone who has great auditory processing skills, meaning their ears can distinguish sounds well, is likely to improve quickly. Many people don’t realize that auditory skills can be strengthened like muscles. Pronunciation can also improve with practice.

If a person exercises their “muscles” for both auditory processing and pronunciation, they’re likely to succeed quickly with accent reduction classes. Depending on how much time has passed, some long-time speakers’ non-native pronunciation may be more ingrained. Targeted, consistent accent-reduction work can help.

Nevertheless, for a person who never really adopted the sounds of their language, correction and practice can help quickly. Someone may pronounce textbook-style sentences decently. However, if they didn’t learn slang, fast enunciation, and colloquial ways of pronouncing, they may start reaping the benefits of pronunciation right away. Not all types of speech are the same. In most languages, certain syllables get munched together.

How does accent reduction work in more specific terms?

Accent reduction classes work by microtargeting sounds in ways that normal practice or speaking doesn’t. Participants may listen to sounds broken down into smaller parts. Then they learn to make the sounds with better form.

This can involve practicing different mouth positions in ways a speech pathologist might direct. While a foreign accent is a completely normal challenge for non-native speakers, many people have a rough idea of how speech pathologists in schools help children pronounce. Accent reduction classes help adults expand their pronunciation abilities. They do so by teaching new lip and tongue positions that cut down reliance on common mouth-based patterns in their native language. People can form new habits of speaking movements; this is the essence of accent modification.

Pronunciation Example – The Spanish “r”

For example, in second language learning for Spanish, a famous pronunciation task is rolling a long “R” sound. As the cartoon character Speedy Gonzalez would exclaim with a long, rolled “R” sound when two of the letter “R” occur in a row: “¡Arriba, arriba! ¡Ándale, ándale!” It’s hard for a person not to get energized—or at least attentive—after listening to his vibrating call. Kids love it and can make an effort to repeat it. Moreover, speaking Spanish is much more fun once a person can say the rolled “R” sound with confidence. Not losing the rhythm of speech and correct sentence stress while rolling a double “R” can feel like a big accomplishment.

Sound Stress Patterns

Speaking of the rhythm of speech, accent reduction classes also work on the overall cadence of speech. They teach the proper stress of words and syllables. Accent modification training can also include a component of the stress of certain words in a sentence. Language learners may find they need to spend more or less time (as in parts of a second) pronouncing verbs or nouns.

Italian is famous for the musicality and smoothness of its cadence, sound-stress patterns, and pronunciation. For a somewhat exaggerated version of Italian speaking rhythms, think of the song “That’s Amore” (the chorus sings: “when the moon hits your eye/like a big pizza pie/that’s amore”) by Dean Martin (1953). Putting the right intonation and stress in the right places can help people sound more authentic.

What are the features of effective foreign-accent-reduction training?

First of all, good accent reduction training is interactive, meaning the participant should start pronouncing early and often. It should also be multi-faceted. This means that pronunciation instruction and practice have many parts, modes, and modules. Below is a non-exhaustive list of elements of good accent reduction classes or work.

Components of effective accent training:

  • Interactive lessons
  • Accent testing
  • Live coaching sessions

Although most accent reduction classes and videos will help, some accomplish better pronunciation faster. They tend to be more comprehensive. A multi-pronged approach and flexibility can usually guarantee better results for a wider variety of language backgrounds and foreign accents.

Attributes of thorough accent reduction programs:

  • Combines most of the elements listed above
  • Repeatable components (to allow for individual variation in training needs)
  • Professional accent assessments
  • Research-informed training techniques
  • Highly qualified accent reduction coaches
  • The ability to work with one or few coaches
  • Flexibility to accommodate unique repetition needs
  • Constant access to learning modules to accommodate schedules
  • Offered by a company with many types of language expertise

Foreign accent training – parallel to sports or music lessons

It’s important to remember that accent modification training practices different skills as opposed to recalling vocabulary or grammar patterns. Pronunciation practice is similar to taking lessons for sports skills. Surprisingly comparable skill-based activities are athletics like tennis, golf, or dance. By breaking down movements into smaller parts, sports and dance lessons ensure each individual part is executed correctly.

Afterward, correctly working dance steps, tennis swings, or correctly pronounced syllables can be synthesized into a more cohesive whole. Sentences can flow out faster, with less effort. A few months of language learning will inform you that it’s challenging to use all four skills with ease in a new language. However, real-time feedback in accent reduction programs can start reducing your accent so that your speech may catch up to your grammar and vocabulary abilities if they’re ahead.

Real-time feedback may help you catch up if you have more advanced listening, reading, or writing skills. Save extroverts and those who practice speaking with extreme dedication, most people’s speaking skills lag behind their other abilities. That’s because speaking requires using grammar and vocab skills used in real-time, whereas writing is slower.

Speak English Or Another Language Accent-Free

The most thorough and cost-effective accent reduction classes aren’t offered by individual tutors and coaches. Online videos aren’t reliable enough to incorporate the latest techniques, especially when offered for free. Instead, the best training tends to be offered by comprehensive language service companies. Because ALTA offers a comprehensive program combining constantly accessible learning components with live feedback and coaching, it’s a multi-pronged, superior approach.

World language or English pronunciation training shouldn’t operate in isolation. Companies specializing in language services like interpreter training, professional translation, and certified interpretation are better informed and equipped to develop a stellar accent reduction course for each language. Entrusting accent modification training for languages with difficult pronunciation and tonal aspects, like Mandarin, to an individual tutor or a less experienced company can waste resources.

  • 91 interactive lessons
  • On-demand access 24 hours a day
  • 2 professional accent assessments
  • Live coaching sessions
  • 6 months of unlimited learning

Time and money are better invested in accent training from professional, robust companies. They can offer expertise, flexibility in scheduling, and affordable pricing. As showcased above, ALTA offers over 90 interactive lessons targeting the needed sounds of the language from every angle. Six months of unlimited, all-inclusive learning can accommodate any learning pace or shifting schedule. Live coaching sessions enable people to make the best use of the time they expend. Pronunciation assessments gauge progress in all the needed areas.

Other Resources

Learn to Speak English with a Reduced Accent: Accent Reduction Training

“Pardon, could you please repeat that, I don’t quite understand?” How many times have you said or thought this while on call, in meetings, or directly communicating with a stranger or your boss as a foreigner? So sad. But wait…...

Learn More

Why Don’t Americans Have British Accents?

Anyone who has seen a Shakespearean play or historical drama is probably familiar with the differences between American and British accents. The British accent seems so formal and historical, while the American accent can seem like a casual upstart in...

Learn More

Holistic Approach to Accent Reduction

The United States has long attracted many of the world’s brightest minds – from scientists and engineers to linguists and educators. While the country’s universities and businesses benefit from such a dazzling array of experts, foreign professionals and students often...

Learn More

Contact Us

Get Started Today

Interested in our language services? Complete the form or call us during business hours (9 AM to 6:00 PM ET) at 800.895.8210.

Preparing for your test?

View our test prep materials or FAQ’s for common questions about taking a test.