Korean Engineer Case Study

A Korean engineer, San, had problems being understood in English because of his very poor accent and this lead to real problems when he was talking to his colleagues and bosses.

Because it was so hard to understand him, it took his team too much of an effort to work with San when they had to talk about, for example, a bug in the software. Therefore, his fellow employees [international professionals from France] tried to skip meeting with him because they felt they lost too much time explaining things and then again while listening to him – and not understanding much of what he said. Unfortunately he was left out of the picture very often and missed key pieces of information.

First I recorded him and when he listened to himself,  I think he finally realized how hard it was to understand him. He realized he had to put in real work to speak good English so people around him were comfortable working with him.  We held intense English grammar and vocabulary sessions several times a week, with a strong emphasis on speaking [accent reduction] and on clear communication skills. There were many words that, although they were important to his work, he just couldn’t pronounce. But, I recorded the words for him and by his listening to them two times a day for a couple of weeks, he did learn them. His English improved noticeably and San was so relieved to finally be included in all meetings, even the informal ones.

After many months of hard work and as a result of having a better pronunciation, he developed more confidence speaking and I thought we had conquered his “English “ demons [as he called them]
However, when he had to stop the training due to quite a lot of international travel, he also stopped practicing and working with the audio tapes and his written materials. https://professional-business-communications.com/accent-pitfalls

Unfortunately our training was over by this time, his company had only given him a limited number of hours to work with me.  Sadly, when I saw him half a year later, he had slid back to almost where he had been at the beginning of our training and once again, his team was having problems understanding his English.

What he had failed to understand was that he had to continue to practice and keep being aware of how he would sound before he opened his mouth to speak. In his defense, this is really hard to do when you’re by yourself. Paying attention to your accent has to be an ongoing process over many, many months and usually requires professional help to keep you focused and on track.

Because his company was willing once again to give San some extra training, we were able to pick up where we had been when we had stopped and we focused on his accent once again.

With dedicated work, he was able to improve his English. I think that this difficult experience made it clear to him that he wouldn’t be able to slack off if he wanted to rise professionally in the US. He had to keep up working on his English, even when I was not around.

If you are having problems with your accent in English and you notice that people around you don’t seem to understand you, just contact me now and I’ll give you feedback over the phone. Once I’ve been able to make a diagnosis, we can decide on an action plan.

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