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Can Having a Foreign Accent Hurt Your Career?

Can Having a Foreign Accent Hurt Your Career?

Association for Psychological Science

January 15, 2016

English is increasingly considered to be the global language of business. But people who speak it as a second language are generally passed over for top managerial jobs and executive positions, studies have shown.

New psychological research reveals the factors underlying this glass ceiling. A trio of researchers led by Laura Huang, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, hypothesized that non-native speakers of English are perceived as having weak political skills — which is considered essential for career success. The scientists suspected that this impression of non-native English speakers impedes them from obtaining executive jobs, as well as venture capital to develop their own businesses.

To test this theory, Huang and her colleagues — business professor Marcia Frideger of Holy Names University and organizational behavioral scientist Jone L. Pearce of University of California, Irvine and the London School of Economics and Political Science — conducted two experiments. In the first, they recruited business students of various ethnic backgrounds and told them their school was helping a company gather feedback on its hiring procedures. The study participants were given a job description for a middle-management marketing director, along with résumés and photos of job candidates.

Participants were then randomly assigned to listen to one of four scripted audio recordings of a male candidate interviewing for the managerial job. Each participant heard a native-born White American, a native-born Asian-American, a Japanese immigrant who spoke English with a Japanese accent, or a Russian immigrant who also spoke with an accent. Identical photos were used for both the Asian-American and Japanese candidates, and for the Russian and native-born White candidates.

After listening to the recording, each participant filled out a questionnaire, judging the applicants on their ability to influence others, sense other people’s motivations, communicate with clients, and collaborate with peers and supervisors, among other skills. The participants also rated the likelihood that they would recommend hiring the candidate for the management job.

As predicted, the participants rated both the native-born Caucasian- and Asian-American candidates as more likely to be hired than the men with the foreign accents. And compared to the native English speakers, the non-native speakers were rated as weaker on political skill, regardless of their race and their rankings on communication and collaboration abilities.

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Charismatic speakers ‘manipulate their vocal frequency’

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Scientists say they now understand what makes a voice sound charismatic.

Some people have an innate ability to manipulate their vocal frequency to give their voice a richer quality, the US-based researchers said.

Such people can then apply additional vocal techniques to take advantage of this.

The researchers also found that political leaders with lower voices were perceived as more dominant and attractive.

Conversely, those who spoke with higher frequencies were viewed as submissive and benevolent. These findings are in line with previous research.

Controlling vocal frequency is an innate ability dependent on the size of a person’s larynx.

A large larynx and long vocal fold result in a lower voice vibration. In a similar way, the same musical note will sound different played on a cello and a violin.

How Accents Affect Hiring Decisions

Do You Sound Right for the Job?

Everyone knows it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity and national origin. But what about an English-speaking candidate with a foreign accent?

The answer is no. Well, maybe un poco.

Dianne Markley, a professor at the University of North Texas at Denton (UNT) whose graduate research focused on how accents affect the hiring process, says it is “almost impossible to speak any language acquired later in life without an accent.” A UNT study showed “an incredibly strong statistical correlation between judging someone as cultured, intelligent, competent, etc., and placing them into prestigious jobs,” based on the lack of a readily identified accent.

Accents Trigger Emotional Responses

“A professional tries not to let an accent get in the way of hiring decisions,” says Victor Arias, co-managing partner of the diversity practice at executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. “But subtle emotions can come into play, and they may make a difference. Clearly, people make judgments based on accents.”
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The 5 Myths About Accent Reduction


Myth #1 – You can change your pronunciation without the help of a native speaker.

The Truth- You must work one on one with a native English speech professional to help you hear new sounds, intonation, and speech rhythm.

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Vireo Accent Reduction featured in Dallas CEO Magazine


Not Just What You Say, But How You Say It

Addison-based Vireo Accent Reduction helps doctors, priests, flight attendants, and even Dallas Mavericks drop their accents and improve communication.

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Vireo Accent Reduction Endowed Scholarship Fund at the University of North Texas


The University of North Texas Department of Linguistics and Technical Communication is pleased to announce the Vireo Accent Reduction Endowed Scholarship fund in Linguistics.

Karen Yates, owner and founder of Vireo Accent Reduction, provided the first donation of $5,000 for the fund. The scholarship once fully funded will provide scholarships to linguistics students at the University of North Texas. Karen Yates currently serves on the LTC Advisory Board.

With speech lessons, international priests take new tone

Source:  The Texas Catholic

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Language pros help foreign doctors speak English more clearly

Source:  The Dallas Morning News

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Foreign Priests Get Help Preaching in English

Source: National Public Radio (NPR)

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Loud and Clear

Source:  Dallas CEO Magazine

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