FAQs for Learners

  • I went to university in Canada and I don't think my accent held me back. Why should I take the Clear Communications accent classes now?

    It all depends; do people mistake you for Canadian born or assume you have just arrived in Canada? Accent training will help you to finish learning English and to close the gap between silent reading and writing, and speaking with credibility and authority. Being 'good enough' implies that your employer should make an exception for a person whose accent interferes with communication, but not for someone with a Canadian-sounding voice. When you improve your accent, you improve your opportunities for employment and advancement that require excellent communication skills.

  • I’ve been in Canada for many years and took many English classes but nothing has really helped reduce my accent. Why should I try again?

    The old way didn’t work, but the new Clear Communications methods really do work! Thousands of people over more than 20 years have proven it time and time again. In 3-12 months, you will know how to eliminate problems, and be speaking with a new ease, confidence and correctness. You will learn quick tricks that English Canadians use every day.

  • How do accents interfere with communication?
    • If you could ‘see’ an accent, it might look like this:

      cAn yOU reAD tHIs eASilY?

      These spelling mistakes are uncomfortable for your eyes to read just as sound mistakes are difficult for the listener’s ears to understand. Using a random mix of capital and lower case letters slows down reading, interrupts understanding and fatigues the reader. Similarly, sound mistakes, or accents, make listening difficult, speaking stressful and cause unintended misunderstandings.

    • Written English looks the same to everyone's eyes, but when it is spoken, different accents change what is heard. Let’s compare what might happen if a Canadian English speaker and a Spanish speaker were to read these words out loud, “Maria, whenever you say go, I will be ready.”

      If a Canadian reads this sentence out loud, it will sound something like this:
      “Muh-ree-uh, whe-ne-vr you say go, I will be reh-dee.”

      But, if the Spanish speaker says these words, they will sound something like this:
      “Muh dee uh, wheng-eber jou e-say go, I wee-oo vee rrreh-dee.”

      Both people intend to say the same thing, but they are each using the mouth muscles, rhythms and intonations that are unique to their mother tongues. The Spanish sounds are distorted to the English ear. Just as Spanish voices speaking English can be difficult to understand, English voices speaking Spanish are equally difficult to understand. Foreign accents can be interesting but often cause problems, especially in the fast paced business environment.

  • I’ve been working and speaking English in Canada for several years. I think I’m doing fine. Why should I want to change my accent now?

    Good question. Here are four reasons to finish learning English:

    • Learning the tricks to speaking clearly and sounding Canadian.

    • Impeccable technical skills are essential but not always enough. Improving your accent and communication style can reduce barriers to advancement, increasing your ability to manage groups and troubleshoot problems with customers and colleagues. Make it easy for your managers to include you in tasks that require high-level communication skills.

    • If customers ask you to repeat your explanations, or to send them an email after a phone conversation, or talk to someone else after speaking with you, the company is silently bleeding dollars in lost productivity. When your speech is clear and your ideas are logically organized, your customers and peers are happy; they trust what you say and get on with their jobs. You get more done in less time, and so do they.

    • Canadian speech uses very long and very short syllables. Rhythm and intonation convey the attitude of the speaker – friendly, angry, serious, powerful, confused. If you are using the comfortable rhythm and intonation of your mother tongue, your speech can confuse others even when the words you say are otherwise correct. Do people say that you ‘talk too fast’? This often means that your rhythm and intonation do not match the Canadian style. Speaking with local rhythms and intonations will change your communication experiences from alright to awesome!

  • I am tired of my friends making fun of me and people saying ‘pardon me,’ ‘what’s that’ or ‘say that again.’ What can I do?

    I’m sure that you are doing your best, but you may still not be using standard Canadian English sounds. Every language has its own special ways of making sounds, using the mouth, and using rhythm and intonations. Learning to use your mouth in the Canadian way will quickly improve the way you speak English. Training will define what you need to do to speak English and show you how to use your mouth differently from when you speak your native language. You will also learn to hear mistakes and to make corrections. With practice, people might think that you are Canadian-born.

  • People always say I talk too fast. I don’t think I speak any faster than Canadian friends do. What do they mean?

    You are probably right. English uses both long and short syllables; however, in many languages, all syllables are about the same length. In English, short syllables squish words together – moving consonant to consonant – creating a special sound pattern that you cannot see in the written words. Also, the long syllables are higher and louder than the short syllables which are low and quick. For example, if you say “What do you want?” with flat and equal rhythm, you will sound irritated or demanding to your listeners. English speakers would say, “wah-de-oo WANT?” (3 quick and 1 slow syllable on WANT). Matching your speech to the rhythm of phrases and syllables in English will help you sound ‘right’ to your listeners.

  • How long does it take to learn to speak with a Canadian accent?

    If you have been speaking English every day for 2 or more years, it should take you about 6 to 18 months to speak ‘truly Canadian’. Practicing the right things and practicing every day are the keys to learning quickly.

  • How long do I need to practice every day?

    It is best to practice 15-30 minutes per day or about 1.5 to 3 hours per week. A little every day is far more effective than a long practice session once a week. Teaching your speaking muscles to do new things is similar to teaching your fingers to play the piano or your feet to kick a soccer ball. Repetition and frequency teach muscles how to work correctly. Accent training teaches muscles to repeat speech movements in certain patterns and rhythms.

  • How can I say R correctly?

    Many languages use the symbols ‘R and r’ for similar but different sounds that are made in very different ways. Oriental languages lift the front tongue up to the roof of the mouth. This makes R sounds like L in English and makes 'rice' sound like 'lice'. Spanish, Russian and Arabic lift the front tongue to a flatter position and make the tongue flutter or roll rapidly. French uses the back of the tongue near the soft palate to make a ‘gargling’ sound for R. In English, the tongue is mostly flat and stiff. This produces a low-pitched R sound in the throat that sounds like the growl of a dog. Also, the jaw is almost closed and the facial muscles are tight.

  • Why don’t Canadians just listen more carefully? I’m trying hard to speak their language.

    I am sure that you are working hard and I know too that Canadians, for the most part, are trying just as hard, but they don’t understand your accent. Your mouth parts are working differently than the listeners’ mouth parts which inevitably produces different sounds. I recommend that you learn accent and speaking skills with Clear Communications. Take the opportunity to finish learning English, since spoken communication tends to be only lightly addressed in English classes. You will learn what to do with your mouth, what to listen for and how to make sounds that others expect to hear. This will bring you success in speaking.

  • People say many expressions that I don’t understand. How can I learn without constantly stopping conversations to ask what words mean?

    Slang expressions of your co-workers and neighbours are a challenging part of learning what is going on around you. These mysterious groups of words often cause confusion, since many foreign speakers of English listen for the literal meanings of words and miss the meanings of local expressions. Every language has them. If someone said that she was “bent out of shape,” you might not understand that she was very annoyed with someone or something. There are many internet sites with idioms dictionaries which can help you. Here is a site that you may find interesting. http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms

If you have a question, send it in to contact@clearcommunications-ab.ca . Perhaps yours will be posted or you will find your answers in the other FAQs.