When Jean Eloi spoke English at work, words like “probably” often sounded more like “pwabably” and the-51-year-old’s accented speech was too fast for his colleagues to keep up. So when his manager gently suggested an accent-reduction course to help him express himself more fluently leading meetings he jumped at the chance.
吉恩·埃洛伊 (Jean Eloi) 今年 51 岁，工作中当他说英语时，"probably"这样的词通常听起来像 "pwabably" 。他说话有口音，语速又快，同事们很难听明白。他的经理委婉地劝说他参加一个纠正口音的课程，以便更流利地表达自己的意思。他欣然接受了这一建议。
Eloi, a native Creole speaker and project manager at a biotech firm has lived in the US for more than 32 years but says he wasn’t offended by the suggestion and instead appreciated the offer of some help.
埃洛伊是个土生土长的克里奥尔人，现在在一家生物技术公司担任项目经理，在美国已经生活了 32 年。他说他没有因为经理的建议而感到不快。相反地，他感谢这个建议带来的帮助。
Accent reduction, sometimes called accent softening, is controversial and being singled-out over the way you speak can be upsetting to employees. And managers risk deeply offending team members if they pick on one person over the way they speak, in particular if that employee is often working in multiple languages or their English pronunciation has little to do with their capability to do their job.
After 15 hours of one-on-one coaching, Eloi, who lives in North Carolina, in the US, says he’s now aware of the mistakes he makes in English when speaking. As a result of the course, he now slows down his speech, clearly enunciates vowels and keeps his desk computer covered with sticky note reminders to incorporate what he’s learned during the course.
埃洛伊现居住于美国的北卡罗莱纳州。在 15 个小时一对一的教学之后，他说他现在意识到了自己在发音上的错误。课程结束后，他现在说话放慢语速，清楚地发出元音，并在电脑上贴满了便利贴来提醒自己把课程中学到的付诸实践。
“There are small things that you don’t know [about your speaking skills] until you talk to someone,” said Eloi, whose firm covered the cost for training. “Now I’m really conscious of it.”
As more workers move across national borders for jobs, English-speaking accent-reduction courses are becoming increasingly popular. They help non-native speakers who need to speak clearly for business improve their communication skills. Weekly courses last two to three months with several follow-up sessions and are sometimes paid for by the employer. Pricier, intensive one-on-one courses can take less than week. While accent coaches prefer in-person meetings, many also offer virtual courses through Skype.
随着越来越多人为了工作跨越国境来到另一国家，英语口音纠正的课程也越来越受欢迎。这些课程帮助到了母语非英语的人们。他们需要在工作中用英语清楚地表达以提高沟通能力。每周一次的课程会持续两到三个月，再加上一些后续的课程。这些课程的费用有时由雇主支付。集中的一对一课程价格较高，课时不超过一周。尽管口音老师们更喜欢面对面教授课程，但许多老师也通过 Skype 提供网上教学。
In most cases, candidates interested in accent reduction courses have great command of the language but simply can’t pronounce certain sounds or lack appropriate diction, says Kym Godfrey, founder of AccentWest in Perth, Western Australia. Those who commit to the course “are continuously asked where they are from and are sick and tired of being asked,” said Godfrey, adding that without intervention, an accent can change only subtly over time.
金·戈弗雷 (Kym Godfrey) 是西澳洲珀斯“西部口音”的创办人。她说，大多数情况下，对口音纠正课程感兴趣的人语言使用能力很好，只是有些特定的音发不出来或者措辞不够恰当。这些参加课程的人“经常被问他们来自哪里，他们已经厌倦了别人这样问。”戈弗雷还补充道，没有外界的介入，随着时间的流逝，口音的改变只能是微乎其微。
For those who learn English as adults, it’s nearly impossible for a non-native accent entirely disappear after such a course — even after years of practice. However, even small improvements can boost self-confidence in the workplace. Improvement comes from focusing on the most glaring problems, according to Brian Hickey, director of the English Language Institute and English for Professionals Program at Pace University in New York.
对于那些成年后才学英语的人来说，他们的非母语口音要在这样一个课程结束后完全消失几乎是不可能的——即使是经过多年的练习也是如此。但即便是小小的改善也能增加他们工作时的自信。布莱恩·希基 (Brian Hickey) 是纽约佩斯大学英语学院和“专业英语项目”的主管，他认为，口音得到改善是由于他们重点解决那些最突出的问题。
“The course focuses on the repeated patterns of error in their speech and the objective is to prove these errors in a short period of time,” he said.
Taking a course over several weeks at a time can be beneficial because some English speakers improve through repetition, he said. At Pace, the most popular group option is a seven-week 21-hour small group course that costs $500; one-on-one training costs $120 per hour. Course takers need “to develop habit formation, so when they leave they can self-correct,” he said.
希基还指出，有些说英语的人通过重复来改善口音，他们一次参加几个星期的课程是比较有利的。在佩斯，最受欢迎的是持续七周共 21 小时的小组课程，该课程共需要 500 美元。一对一的课程每小时 120 美元。他说，参加课程的人“需要培养语言习惯，这样等课程结束后他们就可以自我纠正。”
You’re not alone
In general, non-native English speakers who speak the same native language face similar pitfalls. For example, teachers say students from India often speak too quickly and have problems pronouncing “V” and “W,” while those from China and Japan can have difficulty differentiating the “L” and the “R” or tend to drop the last vowels in a word.
一般来说，母语非英语的人说英语会面临相似的问题。比如，老师会说，来自印度的学生经常说话语速过快，而且很难发出 "V" 和 "W" 两个音，而来自中国和日本的学生很难区分 "L" 和 "R" 这两个音，而且他们容易漏掉单词的最后一个元音。
For French speakers of English, it can be difficult to pronounce “TH” words and German speakers find it difficult to differentiate between the “V” and “W” sounds, Godfrey added. In her courses, Godfrey teaches participants to speak with a “general Australian accent” similar to Naomi Watts or Nicole Kidman, she said.
戈弗雷补充说，对母语为法语的人来说，他们说英语时很难发出 "TH" 开头的单词。母语为德语的人很难区分 "V" 和 "W" 两个音。她在授课时告诉学生用“一般性的澳大利亚口音”来说英语，这与娜奥米·沃茨 (Naomi Watts) 或妮可·基德曼 (Nicole Kidman) 情况类似。
In some parts of the world, accent-reduction coaches must be more discreet about their clients. In Singapore, for example, speaking with a perfectly accented British or American accent can carry a certain cachet and signal a higher level of education, but knowing that the accent was acquired as a result of a course can be frowned upon, says Alicia, a Singaporean who worked with Godfrey on a polished Australian accent despite being a native English speaker.
在一些地方，口音纠正的老师们对待客户必须更有区别地对待。比如，来自新加坡的艾莉西亚 (Alicia) 说，在新加坡，一个人用完美的英式口音或美式口音说话可能会说明他受过较高等的教育，但是如果别人知道他的口音是参加培训课程后的结果，那他们肯定会对此心生抵触。她曾经和戈弗雷一起研究优美的澳大利亚口音，尽管她的母语就是英语。
“It is not something I would like acquaintances or peers be aware of as I prefer to have them think that it comes naturally to me,” said the 26-year-old communications consultant who declined to give her last name. “There’s a stigma attached to speaking with fake accents, so I don’t want to be associated with that.”
这位 26 岁的沟通顾问不愿意透露自己的姓氏。她说，“这种事情我不想让我认识的人或我的朋友们知道，因为我更想让他们认为这种口音是与生俱来的。用装出来的口音说话会有一种耻辱感，而我不想牵涉其中。”
A matter of tone
Even with practice, results aren’t perfect. Katie Schwartz, a corporate speech pathologist in Durham, North Carolina, who worked with Eloi, says many non-native speakers still have problems with English intonation, the pitch level of the voice, said Schwartz. When it comes to intonation participants “need to have a very good ear for it,” she said. On the other hand, most participants see improvement with their pronunciation and the rate of speech, she added.
即使是勤学苦练，结果也不会十全十美。凯蒂·施瓦兹 (Katie Schwartz) 是北卡罗莱纳州杜伦的一位企业语言病理学家，她曾和埃洛伊共事过。她说，许多英语非母语者在说话时的语调和音调方面依然存在着问题。就语调而言，会话参与者“需要仔细去辨别”。她补充道，大部分参与者可以在发音和语速上取得进步。
For many students establishing a routine after the initial accent-reduction course can be the biggest challenge. For Japanese woman,Yuki Nakast, a stage and event-lighting designer in New York, it’s meant spending 10-minutes during her morning routine repeating after a DVD to focus on her English trouble spots such as dropping the last sounds at the end of a sentence. Nakast, who took a two-week Pace course after moving from Japan seven years ago, says the extended practice has helped what she quickly learned in class become second nature.
对许多学生来说，在最开始的课程结束后培养一个习惯是最大的挑战。来自日本的友纪·那卡斯特 (Yuki Nakast) 是纽约的一名舞台和灯光设计师。对她来说，这就意味着每天早上要花十分钟跟着 DVD 重复发音来解决她英文发音中的错误点，例如漏掉句子最后的音。那卡斯特七年前从日本过来之后在佩斯参加了一个为期两周的课程。她说，长期的练习帮助她把从课堂学到的发音转变成了她的第二天性。
“Now I’m taking time to focus on saying my words,” she said.