The Listen and Repeat Method: Does It Work?

Quick and easy doesn’t exist in accent training, but it doesn’t stop people from trying to find a magic pill.   Many language learners end up in large group classes, in courses with trainers who don’t specialize in accent reduction, or in online programs.  The main problem with these courses is that they don’t provide the student with specific feedback.  Many teachers (and students) fall into the trap of “listen and repeat,” “listen and repeat,” “listen and repeat.”

A client of mine just sent me a video clip of a “student” trying to correct his pronunciation of “I want to buy a hamburger” that illustrates this perfectly.

Would this type of training work for you? It would be extremely frustrating, to say the least, and completely ineffective.  If only learning a new accent was as easy as listening and repeating! Talk to people who have lived in the U.S. for a decade, or two, or three who still have strong non-native accents and you will quickly realize that being exposed to English is not always enough. The critical factor is feedback.

I tried Rosetta Stone for Spanish a while back.  For those who aren’t familiar with this language learning program, you can record your pronunciation of words and phrases and get “feedback.”  Feedback consists of the program telling you whether your pronunciation was “correct” or “incorrect.”  Rosetta Stone did not like my production of the Spanish “s” sound.  Why? I may never know, because I never got specific feedback! An effective trainer can give you detailed tips, such as “your tongue was a bit too far back- try sliding it forward” or “make sure that you don’t round your lips while making this sound.”  This is how you make real, substantial changes to your pronunciation.

Look for a speech therapist who specializes in accent reduction to help you learn English pronunciation.  Make sure to find out how much experience they have in working with non-native speakers on their accents. Not all “accent trainers” are created equal.

What have you tried so far to change your accent?

About the Author: Jane Rupp is the owner of Voices of the World Speech Therapy, a business in Austin, Texas that specializes in accent reduction training.