Here is a multiple choice question from the latest TOEFL
(After hearing a short conversation between a American woman and a Russian man)
What is the woman doing to the man?
(a) hugging him
(b) slapping him
(c) straightening his neck bone
(d) reducing his accent
I was trained to be very good at the elimination technique, which is the ETS
killer, according to a Kaplan
's test prep instructor. So I quickly crossed out the answer (a), because she can't be that dead serious, and the answer (b) because he can't be that happy about it.
I was about to choose the (c), until I observed she wasn't wearing a physician's standard white uniform. And that left the (d) only possible right answer.
According to a story on the June 5th's New York Times
, I was right (kudos to Kaplan) ! The story is entitled Accents on the Wrong Syl-LA-ble. It's about how several accent reduction professionals using various techniques to reduce, or improve, non-native speakers' accent.
So what's the problem? According to one of the featured professionals:
"Ms. Pawlitschek said the “r” and the “l” are problematic for Asians, and the “v” and the “w” for Indians, who also often have “a mix of their own mother tongue and then a British layer on top of it.” Some problems appear across cultures. “The ‘r’ is fascinating,” she said. “You can go to so many countries, and the ‘r’ is done in different ways.
And how does she take on the problem?
"Ms. Pawlitschek teaches clients jaw exercises and muscle relaxation to reduce “a tightness in the jaw that nasalizes the sound.” Her exercises focus on mouth muscles, and her clients listen to themselves from recordings and practice speaking in front of mirrors.
Well, before you hire someone to drop your jaw, you might want to record "Please Call Stella" at Kantalk.com
. It takes about one minute. After you've done, someone may give you some feedback about--or make fun of--your accent and pronunciation.
But it's fun. It's certainly not as painful as someone twisting your jaw.