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back to index backGLOBALtalk July,  2007


USA: Accent Reduction Seminars Help Break Barriers

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the ability to effectively communicate is the top skill sought by employers. It is even higher than computer skills or a strong work ethic.

As a global corporation with operations in Europe, Asia-Pacific, South America as well as North America, General Motors realizes that the key to successful communication is as much tied to the choice of words as to the listeners’ ability to understand those words. Heavy accents can create barriers that lead to misunderstandings and frustration in the workplace.

That’s why in August of 2006, GM became one of the first companies to embrace an accent reduction program and began offering related seminars. The focus of the program is to teach non-native English speakers techniques to better articulate English vowels, consonants, and patterns of speech rhythm. For example, they look closely at key sounds that prevent free-flowing communication and constructive ways to address. The objective isn’t to eliminate accents but modify them so speakers are better understood. Already GM has seen how this service can help a team work effectively, and it also brings a team closer together.

In addition, there is a seminar called, Breaking the Language Barrier Between Native and Non-Native English Speakers” that is designed to help professionals understand and communicate more effectively with their colleagues and clients for whom English is a second language.

GM realized early on the importance of being able to effectively communicate,” said Karen DeCuir-DiNicola, manager, GM Diversity Initiatives.  These classes were a great opportunity for everyone to learn a new skill.” 

Ravin working with a student during an accent reduction class.

Both seminars were taught by renowned accent reduction specialist Judy Ravin, president of the Accent Reduction Institute. She says that the ability to modify an accent is just as essential as someone understanding your accent. I feel that communication is a two-sided street. Both the listener and speaker are equally responsible for breaking down the language barrier.”

Ravin stresses that the point of these classes is not to eliminate a person’s accent, but rather to help them become better understood. Everyone, whether you are a native or non-native English speaker has an accent. It makes up an important part of who we are and that is why I help people hone certain sounds, so that rather than getting rid of their accents, they are adjusting certain words so that they can be better understood. We don’t want to eliminate an accent, rather we want to eliminate a barrier,” said Ravin.

Krishna Murali, a native of India, was one of 80 individuals who participated in the accent reduction seminar. I feel that modifying your accent is a practical and business necessity, even though you might feel like you are able to say the words correctly. If you can change your accent, just a little bit, so that people can understand you better, it can make a big difference,” said Murali.

Source: GM Diversity newsletter - GAI


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INDIA: Further Substantial Salary Increases in 2007
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CHINA: Employment contracts must be registered
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ASIA: Korean CEOs the Highest Paid in Asia Pacific
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EUROPE: Average Wage in Russia Tops $500/Month
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CANADA: On the job perqs are sought by majority of employees
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USA: Accent Reduction Seminars Help Break Barriers
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