How It All Started

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Years ago, a friend of mine confided in me about her struggle to get a job here in New Zealand. She described one experience interviewing for a marketing role with a particular company in Auckland. Her story went something like this:

I walked in, sat down, and within three minutes I knew I didn’t have the job. Not because I didn’t have the right skills or experience. But because I didn’t have the right accent. I could see they had tuned-out and no longer had any interest in what I was saying.

This was really difficult to hear. It seemed so unjust. She did have quite a strong accent but I knew she would've been perfect for the job. 

This became a big part of my personal motivation for choosing a career working with non-native speakers of English. I really believe all accents are beautiful - they represent us, our personalities, our families, and our cultures. They add a wonderful richness to our relationships and our day to day interactions.

However, there are many ways in which we can learn to use our voices more effectively to make our messages better understood and feel more confident when communicating in English.

 

One more thought...

Clarity when speaking English is obviously important if you are a non-native speaker, but I'd say it's equally as important if you are a native speaker. English is a global language and it is the responsibility of anyone speaking the language in a global context to make themselves understandable to others.

I would imagine that as a non-native speaker you may feel the pressure to make every conversation successful and you may feel responsible when communication break-downs occur. However, I'd like to remind you that native speakers have to repeat, rephrase, and reorganise what they say all the time, and this doesn't mean they are any less fluent in the language.

On a daily basis, I meet so many dynamic, innovative, capable and just plain AWESOME people who are unable to achieve their career dreams because of the stigma sometimes associated with foreign accents. Despite being a country with immense cultural diversity, we still have a long way to go in terms of embracing such diversity in the workplace!

I'm optimistic that with time and a little encouragement both native and non-native speakers alike will learn to see the value in learning to speak clear Global English.

Annika Brittenden

The Accent Studio, Auckland