Business English: Accent Modification & Writing Skills

Despite recruitment uncertainties surrounding Brexit, a recent report revealed that 27% of candidates, who receive offers from UK technology businesses, come from abroad – a clear indicator that the UK technology industry is reliant on foreign workers to stay at the forefront of innovation. Our client hires data scientists to analyse data and apply insights from shoppers across the globe to create personalised customer experiences.

The Challenge:  The Global Learning & Development team spoke with us about Mr Kim, a recently-recruited employee from South Korea. Mr Kim had learned English for 14 years. However, as he explained to us during his Needs Assessment “I feel people can hardly understand me some days. I have problems with pronouncing ‘n’, ‘l’ and ‘r’ and my colleagues cannot differentiate my pronunciations between ‘word’ and ‘world’. I guess I may have problems with various vowel sounds as well”.

Alternative Description
Alternative Description

Our Solution:  We designed a 40 hour bespoke programme comprising 2 hour sessions, taken twice weekly. The programme focused on pronunciation and accent modification, fluency, grammar, understanding and using colloquial speech and writing skills.

Problem phonemes were identified and worked on through listening and imitation. Mr Kim listened to recordings of his own voice imitating well-known presenters and speakers, as well as to recordings of him reading passages from books and having a free conversation with his tutor. Over the entire programme, he put continuous effort into adopting new speech habits and in good part succeeded in overcoming the linguistic habits of a lifetime, which was a real achievement.

Initially, it appeared that Mr Kim’s ability to use straightforward English structures was impeded by the influence of confused semi-grammatical technology language which he has absorbed over the years, particularly in internal communications and reporting. This had hindered his ability to express himself, whether in speech or writing, in clear, unambiguous structures. It had led, in particular, to sentences sometimes having no verbs or articles. It seemed wise, therefore, to start afresh with grammar and rebuild his language, and only later to phase in the writing of email and documentation once we had the “building blocks” in place. He was then able to choose how grammatical he wanted to be in his internal communications whilst retaining intelligibility.

The Result:

Mr Kim threw himself into the programme with enthusiasm and the course certainly enabled him to identify what he had to do to produce good speech and writing. We recommended that he maintained his newly-gained pronunciation habits by listening to and practising with recordings we had made on his phone in class. He also listened to the BBC Radio as a rich fund of spoken English. Besides this, he was encouraged to read a range of newspapers and short stories, with a dictionary by his side to further increase colloquial vocabulary.

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