How Your Accent Affects

Your Career, Salary and Credibility



Poor speech intelligibility  has become the new glass ceiling.  If you speak English as a second language with a pronounced accent,  it can roadblock a career opportunity regardless  of your academic capability or skill level.  It seems that those who speak English well have a competitive advantage  over those who do not.  And research tends to confirm that premise.  There is a direct relationship between your ability to speak English well and your career status.  And speech ability can also affect how much money you earn.  HR managers and recruiters report that those with exceptional English earn 30-50% higher salaries!

Companies throughout the world are thinking globally...they're realizing their business potential is not limited to the borders of their country.  And major companies have selected English as the global language of business.  It is only logical, then, that those who speak English well are positioned to become the preferred candidates for employment and promotion.  Simply put, the better you speak English, the more marketable you are.  Intelligible speech brings opportunity, respect and acceptance from native speakers.  But an accent can prevent you from moving to an executive or managerial position in your company.  It can hurt your ability to become a C-level executive.  We even have research that suggests you will have more difficulty getting venture capital to start your own business  if you have a pronounced accent.

If your speech is difficult to understand, it can affect  your image... how others see you.  Simply having an accent can cause you to be stereotyped.  Others may associate a strong accent with not being qualified for the job, or they may think you do not completely understand English.  And this may not be the case at all.  You may have remarkably high abilities in your area of expertise, but if you cannot easily communicate your information to clients and colleagues, your company may see you as a liability and not as one of the "team".  No, it's not "fair', but it's real.

Think of it like this.  When you're listening to someone with a noticeable accent, you have to strain, struggle and "work" to understand them.  You may have to ask for repetitions, and even after a repetition, you still may not understand them.  People do not want to "work" to understand your speech.  They do not want speech to be a barrier to their understanding of your ideas.  They want speech that is clear, easy to follow, loud enough to be heard and with a recognizable melody.  If they are forced to ask you to repeat, and when you repeat, they STILL do not understand you, they may be embarrassed to continue asking for repetition.  So they just let it go completely and move onto someone else, or some other company!  You and your company may lose business.  And you may lose the opportunity to share your idea and perhaps get promoted.

Clearly, your ability to speak English well will impact your ability to succeed.  It will affect your employment status, social status and economic status.  If you speak English well, you will enjoy higher earnings which will be commensurate with the earnings of native English speakers.  You will be culturally competent in communication.

1.  Jennifer Cheeseman Day and Hyon B. Shin.  "How Does Ability to Speak English Affect Earnings?"  US Census Bureau, for presentation at the Population Association of American, Philadelphia, PA, March 31 - April 2, 2005.

2.  Christopher McCormick, "Countries with Better English Have Better Economies,"  Harvard Business Review, November, 2013.

3. "Can Having A Foreign Accent Hurt  Your Career?"  Association for Psychological Science, 2017.