Tips for Teaching When You Have an Accent

One of our clients recently earned her PhD  after many long, hard years of study.  Since she knew she wanted to pursue a career in academia, she took accent modification and presentation skills training to prepare her for her oral dissertation and job interviews. As busy as she was, she devoted as much time as possible to her independent self-study between sessions. She made tremendous progress and was able to secure a faculty position at a university of her choice.

Although she was a “listener-friendly” speaker by this point, she wanted some pointers to maximize her "understandability"  in the classroom setting.

The following are some useful tips if you or your students are in a similar situation:

  1. Acknowledge your accent and give your students “permission” to request a repetition or clarification if they don’t understand something you said.
  2. Make sure you are FACING THE CLASS while speaking. DO NOT talk while writing on the board or looking at the screen!
  3. Speak at a slightly slower rate than normal. This may be difficult if you are nervous, so be sure to PAUSE after important points, and use deep slow breaths to calm you down.
  4. Practice your lecture ALOUD ahead of time. Make a note of any particularly challenging words, and make sure you are using the correct stress pattern.
  5. If you have to use unfamiliar words that are difficult to pronounce, either write them down or provide additional information or context, e.g., “The test will not be cumulative; in other words, the exam will only cover content from the midterm to the final.”

By following these tips, you will enhance the quality of your presentation skills. Let us know if you have any other suggestions.