How did Sofia Vergara get on Modern Family without losing her accent? Do Americans have a double standard when it comes to accepting foreign accents?
Why are accents sexy and appealing coming from movie or TV stars, but aggravating or unacceptable coming from our co-workers or professors?
Or is it simply that some accents are more acceptable than others?
Last week while being interviewed on Regis and Kelly, Sofia Vergara admitted her own surprise at being so successful on American television in spite of her Colombian accent. When asked if she was disappointed not to have won an Emmy, she replied, “I won already just to be there with this accent! I never thought I was going to be part of a show like Modern Family or have a role that was going to be able to be nominated for anything with this accent!”
Despite her beauty and acting talent, she still believed that her accent would prevent her from being truly successful. So, why did it work for her? Are Americans more forgiving of her accent because she is famous, or is there something different about her accent compared to, for example, the teachers in Arizona being forced to reduce their accent to stay in the classroom?
I believe that it is because some individuals’ accents are easier to understand than others. Some people have mastered the ability to speak English clearly while still retaining parts of the intonation and pronunciation of their native language. Sofia has studied English long enough to master the necessary pronunciation while still revealing her Colombian heritage. So, even though we clearly hear the accent, we also easily understand what she says.
And this is, or should be, the goal of accent reduction training: to learn to speak English clearly enough to be easily understood, without losing all traces of your heritage.
Exactly what that looks like will be very different to different people. As an accent reduction specialist and speech coach, my job is to help non-native English speakers achieve their personal goals in American English pronunciation. For some, that means sounding “as American as possible.” For others, it means being easily understood but still having an “accent” from their home country.
Neither one is right or wrong; the important goals are being easily understood by others and feeling comfortable and confident when you speak.
So whether your dream is to be as successful as Sofia Vergara on Modern Family, to blend in inconspicuously with your American neighbors, or something in between, if you take the steps to work on your American English pronunciation, you are headed toward your dream.
If you’re ready to take the first step towards your dream of clearer English pronunciation, be sure to get your FREE guide to American pronunciation when you visit www.losemyaccent.com .