Accent Reduction, Or: Intriguing Post-TEFL Job Opportunity

Having lived about four years now in different Eastern European countries, I bet I could trick 9 out of 10 Americans into thinking I’m from there by speaking English with an appropriate accent. I think EFL teachers who have lived in a country or region for a while would probably make excellent Hollywood dialect coaches…has anyone tried this?

This topic comes up because I’ve recently come across an article on foreign accents and one on accent reduction. I’ve never focused explicitly on accent reduction – obviously pronunciation and listening practice play a role in this – but an accent is different from just “bad” pronunciation. In the general English classes I’ve taught, even the higher levels, there is usually a syllabus to cover with items students and administration consider (perhaps rightly so) more important than accent reduction.

There’s also an argument for leaving an accent alone – if people can communicate, why should they have to sound exactly like Brits, Americans, Canadians, South Africans or Australians? English doesn’t “belong” just to native speakers.

Sometimes, though, accent reduction is precisely what people say they want, or the reason they go to English classes – for example in call centers in India. What do you think: Is teaching “accent reduction” part of an English teacher’s job, or is it that of, say, a speech therapist, as brought up by the article linked to above? Should teachers focus on this in general English classes, or should students simply “sound like” themselves?