Losing a heavy accent can be a challenge for foreign workers, especially Asians whose native language doesn't use certain "phonemes" - the individual sounds that form the building blocks of speech - that English does.
"Try to ask to ask someone from Vietnam to put their top teeth over their bottom lip and blow air and make an F sound," says Diana Canant, an accent specialist in Silicon Valley. "It's like asking them to write with their left hand."
The goal of accent reduction, then, is to help employees break down the language into phonemes and pronounce them clearly by shifting slightly the mechanics of the mouth.
If you or someone you know decides to seek professional help, here are some places to go:
* The Institute of Language and Phonology (www.800 language.com) Site aimed to help improve your accent, or find a speech pathologist in your area.
* Allied Rehabilitation Associates (www.lexingtonweb.com/ alliedrehab/accent.html) This site offers a 16-hour course on accent reduction in the Boston area.
* MacNeal Health Network (www.macneal.com/specialty/speech/ accent.html) Based in suburban Chicago, its speech pathology department has an accent reduction program for businesses with international employees.
* Jepsen International (www.jepseninternational.com/JI_ Ac-cent.htm) Seattle-based programs focus solely on reducing foreign and regional accents.
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