What should we call it?

People don’t always understand me. I have to repeat myself. We want it to be easier to understand what this person says. This person’s speech is not clear. We can’t always understand what this person says.

So what is there to do? Find a way to improve. Improving means solving a problem. Let’s start with recognizing that this is, in the first place, about improvement. Improvement is a process. What should we call this process of improvement?

Here are some terms:

  • Accent Addition
  • Accent Modification
  • Accent Neutralization
  • Accent Reduction
  • Pronunciation improvement

You could probably add “training” to any of these and it would be okay. What we call it makes a difference. It affects our perception. There’s meaning in a name. It’s not just a name. So let’s decide what to call this process.

Accent Addition

I came across the term “accent addition”, which seems to be the latest addition to the short list of terms people use to refer to the process of improving English speech so that it’s easier to understand.

The idea with the term accent addition is that we are adding and not removing. I suppose the idea of removing something is too negative, so in walks “accent addition”. But why should we need to think of it this way? If removing something causes someone’s speech to be easier to understand, what could be wrong with that?

I don’t like the idea of “accent addition” because, to me, it’s not true to what is really taking place. Improving English pronunciation is what’s really happening. An accent can be more than pronunciation, but as a practical matter, that’s what it is at first for most people.

Accent Modification

The term accent modification, of course, means change, as in changing an accent. But this suggests that a more lateral move is taking place, off to the side that is. People might feel better with that term because it can remove the idea that what really has to occur is improvement and progress. With accent modification, there’s less pressure. People tend to think of improvement and progress as going up or higher. The term accent modification does not really do justice to what’s happening because modification, meaning change, does not automatically mean improvement and progress.

Accent Neutralization

I was going to skip this one, but that wouldn’t fair. What is accent neutralization? Certainly, the people in the accent addition camp don’t like the idea of neutralization. Why should we neutralize an accent when we can just keep adding on to it? Maybe, if we keep adding enough to someone’s speech, all the stuff that makes it difficult to understand someone’s speech will just, somehow, magically disappear. Or, maybe, all that stuff will just get buried by all that additional other stuff that accent addition is able to provide. Keep adding on until it’s  buried or hidden. That’s  the idea. Maybe, this is accent addition’s way of neutralizing an accent. You never know. Maybe, accent addition and accent neutralization are the same thing. What a scandal that would turn out to be!

Accent Reduction

Accent reduction means removing qualities of speech that transfer from a person’s first language to English speech. These qualities, from a person’s first language, can sometimes make English speech difficult to understand. The idea is to reduce those qualities so that speech is easier to understand. But I know. Some people don’t like the term accent reduction. That’s another discussion.

So we’re back where we started. What should we call it?

Accent Addition Modification Neutralization Reduction or Pronunciation Improvement

Improving English speech so that it’s easier to understand, for the most part, means improving and developing English pronunciation skills. There’s a change that has to take place, and that means modification. So there’s accent modification. Changing could mean eliminating habits that cause speech to be difficult to understand. And if we eliminate something, it’s possible to say that we neutralize something. This provides us with the term accent neutralization. Now, change or modification can, also, mean adding on to what’s already there, or what’s left after the modification and neutralization processes. This is called accent addition. It’s important to understand that those who undergo accent addition treatment might have probably opted out of the modification and neutralization processes altogether. And if accent addition has not come to their city or town yet, then they’re probably going with accent reduction.