L2 Accent Reduction Centre – An interview

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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”.  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.

Here is an interview with Jennifer Yun about her work experience helping new Canadians with reducing strong foreign accents.

An interview with Jennifer Yun

You’ve been working with immigrants on reducing their foreign accent, what is your best success story that you can share with us?

I worked with an Engineer from China who had been in Canada since he was a teenager.  Unfortunately he did not know about accent reduction training at the time and as result, in his thirties, he still had a heavy accent.   Although he was bright, his accent held him back from getting the promotion that he had worked so hard for.  After training with him for twenty weeks, he was able to get his promotion and now has a prominent position in a large Engineering firm. 

Is there a standard or ideal English proficiency level before a student can undertake accent reduction classes?

Since this is not an ESL class, we require at least a high intermediate or advanced level of English.   If one does not know their level we have free testing available.

Many ESL schools offer pronunciation training, but it is important to note that accent reduction training is not the same as learning English.   An individual learns techniques and retrains the muscles of their mouth to produce North American sounds as well as learning stress and rhythm patterns of North American English. 

How old is your youngest student, and your oldest student?

My youngest student is 12 and my oldest student is 55.

Have you ever experienced an instance where you feel that your student is a hopeless case? 

No, but student’s need to realize that their success is based on their own effort.  I can show the student the techniques, but it is up to him/her to practice everyday in order to retrain the muscles of the mouth.   In terms of being hopeless, that can be the result of a student who does not practice.  It is a lot of hard work.  Many students think that if they take lessons they will automatically improve; it’s like taking a magic language pill!!! This is not true.  Practice and hard work will lead to one’s success.   The most successful students that I have had practiced 2-3 hours a day.

In a group class, do you group students with the same problem together?  For instance, a Spanish speaker, a Chinese speaker or a Japanese speaker faces different challenges.

Prior to the first lesson, I conduct an assessment of each individual’s weak areas.  Based on the assessment I am able to discern what kind of problems that individual may have.  So even though it is a group setting, I have taken note of the types of problems that I would need to address with each individual.  Usually a group class consists of four individuals- anything more than that is a little taxing and it doesn’t give each individual enough time to practice their problems.  

Is there a difference between accent reduction, or learning a new accent?

It really comes down to the retraining of the muscles of the mouth.   The difference may be in the approach of the trainer.  A trainer for Accent Reduction should have a background in both Linguistics and Speech Pathology.  In terms of learning a new accent, some trainers would have an intimate knowledge of the dialect that they are teaching. 

Are your classes affordable to the common person, and would you say that there is a great return on investment? 

One of the reasons why I opened the L2 Accent Reduction Centre was to help immigrants have better opportunities in their new country.  I have seen other Accent Reduction Centres charge an astronomical rate that is out of the range of the average immigrant.  My fees are very affordable and were priced with the average immigrant in mind.

The return on investment is that an individual will see an immediate improvement in their professional, social and personal opportunities.

Individuals who successfully complete our program, and consistently apply its principles and lessons in their daily life, will have more and better job opportunities, greater self-confidence, and a more satisfying and varied social existence.

It really is training for a lifetime of opportunities.

Nicole Kidman, the famous Australian movie star had a very strong Australian accent in her earlier movies.  In her later movies she was able to speak with American accent.  Do you know if she took lessons, or did this just come naturally?

According to the internet, there are many dialect coaches who have claimed to have trained Nicole  Kidman.

What can you tell us about people who could adopt different accents and switch back and forth comfortably? 

Some people can do it quite naturally, such as the British actor  Hugh Laurie who plays the Doctor from the TV show “House.”  In fact, Hugh Laurie’s accent is so convincing that Executive Producer Bryan Singer, referred to Laurie as the kind of American actor he has been looking for.  

However, many people are not as talented as Laurie, and do require accent reduction training and many hours of practice.  The key to success is learning the right technique and then practicing.  

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