What Can the 2010 Winter Olympics Teach Us About How to Lose an Accent?

Many of us are feeling a bit sleep-deprived this week, having spent more hours than usual in front of the television, cheering on our country’s athletes in the Winter Olympics. We hear the stories of determination, overcoming obstacles, hard-earned success….and sometimes unexpected defeat. While they all arrived at the Olympics on different paths, they share the same goal – of doing their personal best and having a chance at going home with the Gold.

But what do the Winter Olympics have to do with being able to lose your accent and improve your spoken English? It’s the determination of setting a goal and doing what it takes to achieve it.

I have been working with a young man named Ashraf, who has moved away from his native Egypt to earn his doctorate at a top university in Japan, where they speak English as the common language. He really wants to speak English like an American, so we have been working together via Skype, with a 14 hour time difference.

It’s not always easy to make the scheduling work out, and I wondered how he would find the time to practice in the middle of his doctoral studies. But, he has the determination and discipline to make it happen. He told me this week that he sets aside an hour and a half every day just for practicing his English vocabulary and pronunciation. All while he is a full-time doctoral student.

He is speaking English more clearly every day, and I am convinced that he will achieve his goal of being able to speak English like an American.

There may not be a gold medal in the Winter Olympics for improving your English pronunciation, but if there were, this man would be a serious contender. Determination, focus, and a passion to do your best – that’s how to lose your accent!

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