what is neutral accent?

 HiI am an engineering graduate. I have started to teach english for very beginners. There are some students who come to learn spoken english. They find it very difficult to make out the accent of native speakers. How to make them acquainted with the accent. Any valuable suggestions are appreciated.regardsnisha 

neutralaccent's picture

A 'neutral accent' can be defined as a way of speaking (tone, intonation etc) where people from any geographical location is able to understand you.A neutral accent is one that is grammatically correct, but has no regional characteristics.Ref: http://www.neutralaccent.com  

girishseshamani's picture

Neutral Accent is nothing but globally understandable and comprehensible English. Your priority should be to remove the mother tongue influence of your students and bring them to a level where they speak in a neutral accent. The best option for you is to make your students listen to BBC news everyday. The language used is very simple. You can also download conversations and stories from this website and play it to your students.You have to ensure that you do not make any deviation from the aforesaid process. This process will require lot of patience and constant inputs at your end. Gradually you can start recording their voices and keep on making the corrections. The students also get to know where they stand when you play back the recording for them. The biggest challenge for a trainer as far as the English Language goes stems from the fact that the spelling and pronunciation are totally different.All the best.

nishanthini's picture

hello sir,      i really appreciate for your valuable suggestion. thats a good solution. ill work it out to get a better result.thanksnisha

Heath's picture

"Neutral Accent is nothing but globally understandable and comprehensible English. Your priority should be to remove the mother tongue influence of your students and bring them to a level where they speak in a neutral accent."People from Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, England and South Africa all have their own accents.  They do not all have 'neutral accents' and yet they produce language that is understandable and comprehensible to the other speakers.  As such, I do not think that your priority should be to "remove the mother tongue influence" or to "bring them to a level where they speak in a neutral accent".  A better priority would, for the vast majority of learners, be to bring them to a level where their communication is understandable and comprehensible, whether or not they use their own accent, a neutral accent, or adopt a new accent.If a learner wants an American accent, a British accent, or  a neutral accent, then it might be worth while helping them.  But many people are perfectly happy keeping their own accent, their own identity, and are yet perfectly capable of communicating. Or perhaps "a fairly neutral accent" might be a more balanced aim.

Martin Harris's picture
Martin Harris

I very much agree with Heath. To "remove the mother tongue influence" is I believe an impossible and pointless goal, and would also be a great shame as there is much richness in the variety of English accents. There are very few people on this planet who have removed "the mother tongue influence". I would say 98% of 2nd language English speakers have some kind of accent, but this really doesn't matter so long as they speak clearly.I have met people who have put so much effort into mastering a 'neutral accent' that their spoken English is very stiff and unrelaxed, and as a result difficult to understand. Some people are gifted and can emulate accents very well, but most people can't. Good pronunciation, clarity and intonation are important, but forget about perfecting a 'neutral accent', there is no need.Does 'neutral accent' perhaps refer to home-counties UK English? - a sort of 'BBC' English? To think that this is what you get from the BBC today is a mistake. Even the BBC are deliberately employing newsreaders and presenters with a variety of accents.

girishseshamani's picture

Thank you very much for your inputs on Neutral Accent. Let me clarify that neutral accent is globally understandable and comprehensible English. I do appreciate that within the country itself the dialect or pronunciation for the same word may vary from city to city. Moreover a city by itself can have its own colloquial expression. Drawing from my experience of being a trainer for Voice and Accent With BPO's for over 8 years, let me tell you that Indians have an extremely strong mother tongue influence which makes it extremely difficult for the listener to understand. The consonant P is pronounced as B. The consonant T becomes a D. I have also seen people swallowing the last 2 or 3 letters which leads to confusion. This is because Indians have a very high rate of speech. I mentioned BBC NEWS  because the news readers use simple English but the pronunciation and intonation is top class. The bottom line is whether the word is clearly pronounced without swallowing any letters or mispronouncing. As my friends have interpreted, I never said you need to imitate an accent.   

rebecca.ellertson@fcps.edu's picture

Hello Nisha,
I agree that anyone who wishes to teach ESOL has the goal of creating learning experiences that provide practice for their students to ensure that they both understand spoken English and can easily make themselves understood to other speakers.  In the U.S. all individuals who studied broadcasting in order to become news reporters or radio announcers used the Mid-western accent because it proved to be the clearest and most understandable by other English speakers and listeners.  Now that the world is smaller due to computers and global media, individuals have an opportunity to listen to world English accents with ease and regularity.  I have been teaching English to speakers of other languages since 1980 and I myself learned several languages as a child and adolescent.  I think it is especially important to provide one's students with the opportunity to LISTEN to many non-English native speakers as well as teaching them a lexicon and pronunciation which can easily be understood by others.  I hope this will allow our students to know that they don't need a "word perfect" approach to pronunciation, just to maintain the goal of universal understanding.
Good luck with your teaching and your engineering studies.

SoniaM's picture

Hi,Usually YL copy easily but try to speak slower, repeat if they are wrong.  Practice seperate sounds and words. Show how you pronounce different sounds. Do a lot of listening. Sing songs, chants, etc. Regards,Svitlana

nishanthini's picture

hello rebecca, i really appreciate ur valuable suggestion. i would be grateful if u please let me know the academic and teaching qualification to become a trainer. since u r a teacher for the past 28 years u will have a very good experience, i believe. and u please guide me for the same. thanksnisha 

Tati Bauso's picture
Tati Bauso

I think that is important for the students to try the more neutral accent as possible. Mainly for the ones that are just having english classes with the purpose of conversation. But if you think about the way you talk, and its own characteristics, you´re going to see that it carries a lot of information about yourself and it says a lot about your personality. More than that, it carries a lot about the culture and society that you belong to. So, it´s kind of "utopic", I mean, it´s kind of a dream to have the native accent. You´re learning a language, you don´t need to become one of them. And If you tell the students that they can really achieve the native speaker´s pattern, they can be very frustrated at the end of their learning. Even though you´re learning a new language, you still carry your own way to talk. As long as the student are being understood by any english speaker without any problem, just let him keep going with their "way to communicate".