As an accented speaker you may wonder why you should change? You may think it is up to the listener to figure out what you are saying. After all you’ve had to work to understand the person speaking English.
The reason why you should modify your accent isn’t about the listener, it’s about you! It’s about your ability to get a job, to be more confident in sharing your ideas at work, to be successful in social interactions.
An accent impacts the way others perceive you. A 2010 study done by The University of Chicago found that foreign accents reduce the credibility of non-native speakers. Because these speakers are more difficult to understand, listeners perceive them as less truthful and this perception increases with the severity of the accent. Read more about the study here.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate based on accent. However, if there are legitimate business related needs for a employee to speak English clearly, it is legal to not hire an accented speaker. In other words, you may lose out on a job because of your accent.
You can understand that. Suppose you wanted to hire someone to sing at a party. Two people applied for the job. One had a beautiful voice and one couldn’t carry a tune. You would hire the one who could sing. You wouldn’t be discriminating against people who can’t sing, you would be hiring the person who had the skills needed to do the job.
So if a job involves talking to the public, clients or co-workers, the ability to speak English clearly is probably an important skill to have.