His Unwanted Accent Almost Cost Him a Promotion
The noise in the office was deafening, so poor TJ had to shout to be heard, which he hated. When he spoke people laughed, looked away, grimaced, and worse. TJ grew more and more depressed at his job. His boss, a native speaker of American English with pronunciation fit for a TV news broadcast, made it quite clear that if he didn’t improve his pronunciation, the promotion to
The noise in the office was deafening, so poor TJ had to shout to be heard, which he hated. When he spoke people laughed, looked away, grimaced, and worse. TJ grew more and more depressed at his job. His boss, a native speaker of American English with pronunciation fit for a TV news broadcast, made it quite clear that if he didn’t improve his pronunciation, the promotion to manager would go to someone else.
TJ watched TV and listened to the radio in English but he couldn’t figure out what the speakers were doing that he should be doing when he came to speaking English. He wrote excellent reports. He understood everything people said, even the crazy idioms. But when he spoke no one understood a word he said.
He knew as manager, he’d have to speak for his department in meetings and at conferences. During last week’s staff meeting, he wasn’t even asked to contribute. Maybe it had something to do with the presentation he had given in February. During the question and answer period, it was clear no one even understood he was talking about a carbon tax!
At last, one day he found someone who could teach him what he needed to do that native speakers were doing. The teacher helped him build his jaw, lip, and tongue muscles. He had never even thought about his tongue before. It turns out he had a “lazy tongue” that needed to move in ways he had never imagined before. He learned to open his mouth much wider than he thought polite. Weirdly, people started to understand him just by his flexing his new muscles.
Soon his teacher taught him the music of American English and TJ danced a little jig he was so happy. This was the secret that had been kept from him all these years! The Americans sing when they speak, he declared. I, too, shall sing when I speak! He started to jump up in pitch on the important words and step down on the less important words. When he burst into the office in the mornings, he’d sing “Good MORning!” His new found confidence and proper pronunciation soon had everyone captivated to work with him. Who knew his voice held such power!
TJ redoubled his efforts to speak like his American colleagues. Now when he watched TV or listened to the radio he parroted phrases until he sounded indistinguishable from the native speakers. He joined a Toastmasters club to practice in front of a supportive and helpful audience.
In October he volunteered to present a new proposal to the department. If he aced this one, he knew the promotion would be his.
He made a list of all of the important words and learned their idiosyncrasies in pronunciation. He outlined and rehearsed what he wanted to say several times. He recorded himself for his teacher to comment on. His Toastmaster club heard his speech and evaluated it. Soon he was ready.
On the big day, he channeled his nervousness into excitement and focused on conveying the message. He made the points stand out with his voice. It was an amazing presentation. Yes, when he wanted to, he could make his unwanted accent disappear. He got promoted!