Should you ditch your accent?

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.

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.

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.

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