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Accent Reduction for Indians: Pronunciation Problems for South Asians

Susan Ryan

Many Indians (South Asian English speakers) are puzzled when they realize that Americans have difficulty understanding their spoken English.

If this sounds familiar you may find yourself wondering, “Why is my English so difficult for Americans to understand?” One reason is because most Indian English speakers are not aware of American English syllable stress patterns. They use syllable stress incorrectly.

One of the most significant features of American English is its use of syllable stress. Syllable stress patterns create a speech rhythm that American listeners use to identify words. Here is a true story that illustrates why stressing syllables correctly is so important.

In my accent reduction coaching program I have an Indian client who works in information technology. He is brilliant at his job but he has problems with American English pronunciation.

While he and I were having a discussion about audio files he asked me if I could compress some of the mp3 files that I was going to send him. When I heard the word compress (stressed on the first syllable), I was momentarily confused. That is because the word compress, when stressed on the first syllable is a noun. It means a warm or cold compress that you would apply to a swollen body part after an injury.

The verb compress, (to reduce in size) is what he meant. The verb compress is stressed on the second syllable. The vowel sound in the first syllable is articulated as a schwa sound.

This true story illustrates that simply by using the wrong syllable stress pattern, my Indian client unknowingly said the wrong word.

Many non-native English speakers, including Indians, Chinese and Korean speakers don’t realize that 60% of two syllable American English verbs are stressed on the first syllable. That means that verbs such as compress, produce and review are stressed on the second syllable, not the first. When these very same words are stressed on the first syllable, compress, produce and review they are recognized by Americans as nouns.

If you are a South Asian professional who would like to learn more about accent reduction for Indians I invite you to take a look at my website below.

(Susan Ryan helps professionals reduce their foreign accents so that they can communicate clearly andAccent reductioneffectively in the workplace. Visit her website at Accent Reduction Coaching to learn more about her one on one accent reduction coaching program. Susan also offers Accent Reduction Classes for Indian language speakers.)

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