In the movie “My Fair Lady” based on the play “Pygmalion”, a phonetic expert named Professor Henry Higgins made a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering that he can make a street flower girl named Eliza Doolittle pass off as a refined high-society lady, by teaching her how to speak with a upper class accent and training her in etiquette. Eliza was keen to cooperate because she was a mere street girl, and had the ambition of working in a flower shop. Using Professor Higgins’ teaching techniques, and lots of phonetic exercises, Eliza was able to eliminate her accent and rose to a new social status.
This story may sound like a fairy tale, but it actually makes a lot of business sense. It’s a proven fact that your accent sends a message about your origin, education and intelligence. A strong foreign or regional accent can send a wrong message, making the speaker appear not too smart. The right accent can propel you to higher grounds. In an interview with Glen Beck, the American TV journalist, Michael Buble said he fell in love with Emily Blunt (from Devil Wears Prada) because of her English accent. No surprise there! It seems that every North American loves a sing-song upper class British accent.
Many immigrants face barriers to good job opportunities because of their strong accents. A foreign accent means that you are either new to the country, or not born in this country, which translate to: “No Canadian job experience”. There is help for new Canadians. Many community centres offer accent reduction courses as part of their night school programs. Other private accent reduction clinics offer lessons for immigrant professionals who want fast results and more personalized attention. Jennifer Yun, the co-founder of L2 Accent Reduction Centre, in Kerrisdale, Vancouver knows this problem intimately. Using proven clinical techniques, she has been helping immigrant professionals reduce or eliminate foreign accents in favor of a North American accent.