High School Students Enroll in L2 Accent Reduction Classes to Ensure Future Employability

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Immigrant students who find ways to get higher English scores only struggle later on. Some high school students are taking accent reduction sessions to help with employability later in life.

Attendees learn techniques for improving their English communication skills

Jeff Madigan teaches the stress and rhythm patterns of English.

What good are high marks if you can't communicate well enough in a job interview to get hired?

On September 4, 2012 over 500,000 high school students will return to the classroom.    According to the BCTF (British Columbia Teachers’ Federation) nearly 50% of those students do not speak English as a first language.    Many of these students come from cultures that place a high value on education and these parents and pupils have only one thing in mind - bring home the A’s at all costs. In a recent article ,Vancouver Sun journalist Janet Steffenhangen, brought to light the, “growing number of immigrant students who fail high-school English classes but get the credits they need to attend university by taking inferior courses at little-known independent schools where everyone passes.”

According to Jeff Madigan, an Accent Reduction Specialist at L2 Accent Reduction problems with English language fluency can cast a shadow throughout someone's entire career when left unattended. "In my line of work, I have seen clients such as Kai, who attended university for four years in BC and is barely intelligible . He now works in the Silicon Valley, but struggles in his daily interactions and takes accent reduction lessons online so people can understand him." says Madigan.

The L2 Accent Reduction Centre provides training on the nuances of English and intelligibility issues connected to accented speech. Training is predominately given to internationally trained professionals who may be fluent in their understanding of English, but never made aware of the subtleties of English when they learned it in their home country. "And we are starting to see more high school students take our training" says Madigan, "even though the skills we teach won't necessarily help a high-school student to get an A, they will help a student to communicate better so that they can negotiate, present, and lead others; skills that often lead to higher grades and better job opportunities."

There are some parents who do understand this situation and see the value of investing in their children's future success. Ivy is currently a high school student who is preparing for her university interviews in the USA. Her father, a Chinese businessman, believes that his daughter’s ability to adopt the same rhythm and speech patterns as a native speaker can be a great advantage to her communication skills and future job success.    

Still, a majority of new immigrant parents from Asia are more focused on the letter grade. Madigan feels it is almost a kind of Jacques Demers effect. By finding ways around literacy issues, there is a short term success, like getting into university. But the problem never truly goes away. What good are high marks if you can't communicate well enough in a job interview to get hired?

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Jennifer Madigan
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