Final Installment: Mini Case Studies

Part 3 in a Series of 3

July 14, 2023 Rochel deOliveira

This is the final chapter in our 3-part series of Mini Case Studies: snapshots of some of our real-life students working hard on their American accents and voice. Check out some of the approaches we used with a Ukrainian marketer, a Columbian C-level executive, and a Japanese engineer.

We take a personalized approach with each of our students, creating a curriculum that aligns with their unique learning style and addresses their specific needs by providing customized home exercises.

Mini-Case 7:  Unleashing a Marketer’s Sales Superpowers

Meet T., a marketer from Ukraine with a desire to improve her American accent for client interactions. T. felt that her communication skills were impacting her success as a marketer. She wanted to make her American accent easier to physically connect with, no matter how she felt, what the conversation was about, or who she was talking to. Most of all, she wanted more confidence while speaking to potential clients.

We crafted a strategy for her sessions that brought movement and emotions into the mix. The first thing we did was ask T. to move away from her computer and get on her feet. She grabbed her exercise practice sheets and roamed around her apartment, voicing the practice sentences aloud while exploring an array of tones and emotions – almost like an actor would practice their script.

T. and her instructor made long lists of practical phrases from her everyday marketing discussions and worked on correcting the key pronunciation points. She then made it a ritual to repeat those phrases over and over before bedtime to prepare her for her next working day. T. was up for any new take on practicing that would heighten the challenge and bring results.

Within a few weeks, T.’s transformation was substantial. With a more flexible accent and a heightened emotional range, she’s now more in tune with her global audience.

Mini-Case 8: Survival Word Party

One of AccentsOff’s strategies, in addition to gradually improving a client’s overall speech, is to assist in correcting mispronounced words that are important to a client’s professional or social world. It’s like “first aid” for everyday terminology.

For example, if a client works in the catering business, and we discover they have trouble with a word like “party”, we get on it. The instructor adds the word to the client’s “Survival Words” list. This is a list of words that the instructor and client develop together. Many of our students already know a few “dreaded words” that they avoid, so the list can grow quickly.

Once a new word lands on the list, we help the client pronounce it correctly and send them home with the list and the instructor’s recording. The following week, the game begins. We give a point for each correct pronunciation – but there are two rules: 1. they must get the pronunciation of the word right on the first try  2. while at the same time embedding it into a sentence they make up. This adds a little increased challenge. In real life, no one gets to “rehearse” a word before they use it in a sentence, so the rule applies here as well.

After 3 successful attempts following the rules of the game, the word is considered mastered and crossed off the list.

We once had a Spanish-speaking client from Columbia who held a C-level position at a major international financial institution. The first word on his Survival Word list was a very important one that he could not pronounce clearly at all: it was the name of his bank! Fortunately, he racked up the points quickly and got that crossed off the list. 😅

We have created thousands of Survival Word lists for our accent reduction clients over the years. Three words that land on many students’ lists are: “won’t” (it is tricky and often comes out like “want”), “decision” (the “s” and “zh” sounds tend to get mispronounced), and “world” (the combination of the W with an /rld/blend just make this one a nightmare!).

Mini-Case 9: Japanese Accent Chameleon Channels American Coolness

Finally, let’s give a big “konichiwa” to K., a Japanese engineer with an extraordinary talent for mimicking the American accent. Her secret? Binge-watching American TV shows. Despite never leaving Japan, K. learned the American accent “vibe” just by trying to sound as “cool” as the characters she liked watching on TV.

“Vibe” is short for the word “vibration”. While the term “vibe” is more commonly used to describe a general mood or aura, when applied to accents, it suggests that accents can have a particular ambiance or style that conveys a certain impression about the speaker. For example, an accent might be described as having a warm and friendly vibe, a sophisticated vibe, or a casual and laid-back vibe. These descriptions attempt to capture the overall perception and atmosphere generated by the accent, rather than specific linguistic features. And it’s important to note that “vibe” in relation to accents is a subjective term and can vary from person to person.

Intrigued by K.’s talent, we took advantage of her interest in imitation and combined that with exercises to help her perfect her pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation. This helped polish her already impressive American accent. Imitation (also known as “mimicking” or “impersonation”) is a great way to become more flexible learning an accent – the point is not to sound like anyone else, but rather to explore all the things you can do with your speech and voice.

K. brought that passion and imagination to her American accent classes – what a great student! She’s now speaking English like she’s walked the streets of Manhattan all her life. Who said you can’t be in two places at once?