John from Little Falls, New Jersey, writes, "My Japanese wife is often concerned about her broken English and accent. Whenever she meets other Japanese women, she is intimidated by their better English. She has been in the United States for 3 years now. Will she ever lose her accent or speak better?"
Learning English for Japanese people has always been a challenge. The other problem that the Japanese people have is that they do not like to make mistakes, and if they are not sure that they have it right, they would rather not say it than say it wrong. It, therefore, takes them forever to learn a new language and reduce their accent.
Since the Japanese language has its own unique, rather strong, accent, it is harder for them to pronounce certain letters, e.g. 'r' and 'l'. Sometimes this accent can cause a lot of strange situations and the Japanese people get discouraged.
Here are a few suggestions for accent reduction training for your wife:
- Socialize more with native English-speaking people.
- Let her be in situations where she will be forced to speak in English only, no matter what, e.g., parent-teacher meetings in school. This will expose her to American accent as average Americans speak.
- Many community colleges or adult education centers offer accent reduction training classes; you must encourage her to join these. She can also buy audio/video tapes and even sign up on the Internet for online accent reduction instructions.
- Try to immerse her into English language, as much as possible. From music to television to real-life interaction, it is best to immerse completely. While stopping her from watching Japanese movies will probably be impolite, but it is good for her to watch a lot of American television.
- Can you find a volunteer who can help her with her accent reduction? Maybe she can teach Japanese to this person as a favor.
- Finally, as the person closest to her, you must try to help her by correcting her accent every time she does not get it right.