Breaking The Mould - How To Escape The Accent Black Hole

By Ashley | Ease

Aug 27

I've worked with a lot of amazing people over the years and at some point in the coaching many of them express how difficult they feel it is for them to transfer their newly found pronunciation skills into their real lives and real conversations.

But there was one particular person I was coaching a number of years ago, who found it almost impossible. Interestingly, she was a Southern American speaker who had lived, worked and raised her family here in England for the past 25 years (over half of her life) and she felt stigmatised by her southern accent and still felt as if she was treated differently as a result.

So, she began sessions with me, and when she told me how she found it almost impossible to use the new pronunciation in live speech, it came as a complete shock to me. Why? Because she was amazing in the sessions. She took on the new sounds with ease, she was able to hear and imitate the use of inflection and change in rhythm immediately and my impression was that she was making huge progress. I tentatively asked what her family thought about it and she said, 'I haven't told them', so I said 'well, what about your colleagues at work or friends' to which she replied, 'I haven’t told them either - I haven't told anyone Ashley - it’s a secret'.

Turns out, the fear of breaking the identity that she felt others had of her based on her old vocal identify, and the pressure and shame that she felt about keeping the coaching a secret was stoping her from transforming and reinventing herself. In a way she was pigeonholed and stuck! So I asked what it might be like to share this secret about the accent coaching with just one person. She looked horrified and I was sure that she wouldn’t have the confidence to do it.

But, she came back the next week and with a proud, beaming smile she said, ‘I did it Ashley, I told a friend of mine, and I was so surprised because she was fascinated and completely supportive. And since then, I’ve been starting to use some of the coaching in conversations and no-one has looked at me as if I’m weird - I’m was really shocked!’.

So, I would invite you to share with people what you’re doing, even if it’s just one person? And if you can, you might find that you don’t feel so alone in this journey and that it gives you permission somehow to change. It’s a sort of declamation which in someway also makes you accountable to keep going and achieve your goals.

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> Want to learn more about pigeonholing?

Here are some links about pigeonholing, labelling and stereotypes.

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