Lifestyle / studying

Everything about my English pronunciation/accent reduction classes

Living abroad for over 7 years – and in an English-speaking country – I have always believed in constant evolution when it comes to speaking the language. We are always learning something new – it can be a word, a verb, an expression – and we also build our confidence in that language. And something that has really helped me to be more confident was taking accent reduction classes.

I know that many of us that speak English as a second language are insecure about it, as a result, sometimes we end up being shy and depriving ourselves of experiences and opportunities because of judgment – a judgment that starts with ourselves because we are our worst critics.

With this belief of constant learning in mind and although I have been super comfortable with my English for the past few years, I wanted more. This year, I decided to take two goals related to English off the paper and invest in them: writing and speaking. Writing because, as a journalist, I love writing and although I know that I’m good at writing in Portuguese, my confidence with texts in English was terrible, mainly due to lack of practice and not understanding some grammar rules. The other thing was related to my speaking because although I felt comfortable communicating, I knew I could still improve, especially in terms of pronunciation.

  • Before you ask about writing classes, I do it online with a teacher through italki –  an online platform that connects students and over 10,000 teachers around the world! You choose the teacher according to your goals and interests and you can book individual lessons or special packages and that’s how I found my teacher. Click here and check it out!

And let me talk a little bit about my constant learning mindset. I chose to live in another country – I have lived here for over 7 years and I have no short-term plans to leave. This is my home, this is where the opportunities I seek are, this is where I live. That’s why I believe in always being learning. Besides, even if one day I leave the USA, English is a universal language, and it is used for the most diverse circumstances. To conclude, I also think that knowledge doesn’t take up space!

Now, returning to the topic of speaking, Thiago and I had an experience with pronunciation classes in the first year of  living in New York. We had a private teacher and we took classes for about two months and these classes were essential, for example, for me to learn the sound of TH. English has many sounds that we don’t have in Portuguese (and vice versa) and practicing is essential to incorporate these sounds into our everyday vocabulary. Since we took these classes – and we had to stop for financial reasons, after all, we didn’t have a lot of money over the first year living abroad  – I always told myself that I wanted to go back to practicing. But, you know, we procrastinate and time goes by. At the same time, I knew I needed to improve some sounds and wanted to feel more confident! That’s when I decided to look for a pronunciation teacher and found Claudette Roche, The Accent Coach.

About the classes and the method

I found Claudette through a Google search. I wanted someone who specializes in this and who could focus 100% on my needs – and who could do it online. I even found some options for recorded courses, but I wanted someone to commit with me, having an appointment, giving me homework, that sort of thing. Otherwise, I knew my success rate would be low, I would procrastinate, and the chance of not finishing would be high. I contacted Claudette to understand more about the classes, her method, and prices. After receiving more information, I gave it a thought for a couple of months and decided to get in touch again to arrange a free 15-minute online consultation, where we talked more about my needs and what I was looking for. Then, I decided to close a package of 12 lessons.

Claudette has over 15 years of experience as Accent Coach and she won Backstage Magazine’s Los Angeles Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite Dialect/Voice Coach two years in a row. And in 2010, she was named as One of The Top 5 Voice Coaches by Hollywood Weekly Magazine. Yes, she specializes in accent reduction – I wasn’t exactly looking for that, but I really enjoyed her proposal and knew that accent reduction classes would offer what I was looking for: a clearer pronunciation, diving into some sounds that I don’t know. And the most interesting about Claudette: she is British-but she speaks English with a PERFECT American accent.

Listen: I know this accent conversation can be controversial, but I wanted to make it clear that: accent has never made me ashamed to speak English. And I don’t even think an accent should inhibit anyone. I believe in always learning something – but never being paralyzed by the learning process. After all, it is by making mistakes that you learn too!

Classes last one hour and I choose to do it once a week. The frequency is put to you and also depends on your availability to practice after class as well. In each class, we work from 1 to 2 sounds, depending on my difficulty with that sound. Generally, the class involves training the isolated sound, then practicing with a list of words, and finally with sentences. At the end of each class, she always gives me homework – which usually involves recording the words and sentences and sending them to her for analysis. After that, she always gives me feedback on how I did and which words/phrases I pronounced well, and which ones I need to improve. In 12 lessons, we have worked on more than 15 sounds. Also, all classes are recorded (Skype or Zoom), which is great as I can watch again and focus on what I have the most difficulty with and practice on my own. She also offers all the teaching material – sound instructions, words, and phrases files.

My impressions about the classes

One of the best investments I made for my learning in English, without a doubt. What I like most about classes with Claudette is that she explains the technical details of sounds in a very simple way. Tongue position, speed, air – all these aspects influence the pronunciation of words. I also love the fact that I have all the lessons recorded and, these days, reviewing the first ones, I was happy to see how I’ve improved with a lot of sounds. She is a very patient, easygoing, and fun teacher – and she will encourage you and make you do your best. There are many times that I get stuck in a word and I can’t speak at all and she creates other words and sentences to facilitate my understanding and construction of the sound.

I learned so much about sounds during these lessons with her – and some of the lessons were simply mind-blowing! Do you know when you think you know about something and find out that you really didn’t know anything? So it is! I discovered so many sounds that I didn’t know in the English language and learned and incorporated several others. It’s been a really amazing and fun process! After each new sound I’ve learned in class I also have started to pay more and more attention when watching a series or movie or listening to someone speaking. It is amazing how our mind pays attention and I think it even helps to learn even more.

We have just completed the 12 lessons package and now I have closed another package of 7 lessons that will take place every 3 weeks. According to Claudette, my performance was very good and she said that there is no way for me to “go back” in learning – and I agree. There are words that I can’t pronounce like I used to do it before. Once you learn, absorb and practice, there is no going back.

But, remember: you can’t deposit all your expectations in classes alone. Like almost anything we study in life, it takes dedication and time after the classes as well!

About the prices

Unfortunately, Claudette has retired from the world of accent coaching and has announced that Jay Alexander Poulton is now the new Accent Coach. She has said that Jay’s method uses many of her same techniques and he has the same fun, organic way of approaching accent reduction classes. You can contact Jay directly to find out about packages and fees per class.

I saw accent coaching as an investment in myself and it was worth every penny. I think the expensive/cheap depends a lot on your budget and how much you value this type of service.

Another thing to remember is that I would only recommend an investment like this to someone with an advanced/fluent level of English!

Click here to access his website and access more information!

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