A year ago, UTD’s advanced accent reduction class began assisting international students in gaining acceptance into American society by helping them better interact with their American counterparts.
“A lot of Americans do not understand international students because their words sound foreign. The teachers are giving students the opportunity to be integrated into American society,” said Joshua Kruse, who teaches in the class.
Kruse and Tracy, his wife, both taught English to students in China before returning to America. In order to continue their involvement with students, they began teaching international students at UTD techniques to reduce their accents.
“I decided to be of service since I wanted the chance to still be a part of international culture. I could help students to be better understood by reducing their accents,” Tracy Kruse said.
Unaffiliated with UTD, the class is sponsored by International Student Inc. and provides a comfortable environment for students to practice on their accents without the pressure of failure.
“Our class is not focused on grammar but rather on pronunciation and emphasis. We have realized that students are more willing to improve their English when they are in a comfortable environment,” Kruse said.
In order to create this comfortable environment, the teachers socialize with their students before and after class.
“After class, the teachers and some of the students go to the Student Union so we can all relax and practice on the students’ accents,” Tracy Kruse said.
Every Thursday night, the students are taught from a curriculum containing consonant sounding, emphasis and stress placement.
“We teach about American culture and idioms. Our structure helps them to have a clearer pronunciation of words and teaches them to hear the differences between vowels,” said Amy Villarreal, one of the volunteer teachers.
Villarreal graduated with a communication disorders degree last December She decided to become involved with this class because she wanted to experience different cultures while helping students to be understood.
“International students have a different world perspective so I want to see what they see,” Villarreal said.
Jesse Villarreal, Amy’s husband, and eight other part-time teachers visit the class to lead groups and listen to the pronunciation.
“Since there is no registration, the class is free and open to anyone who needs help with their accent,” Tracy Kruse said.
She added that students who want to drastically reduce their accents must practice at home as well as in class.
The Kruses will be leaving UTD at the end of spring 2004 to return to China. However, Amy Villarreal will become the new teacher for fall 2004.
“This class is my favorite thing that I do because I get to see all of my new friends,” Villarreal said. “This job leads to great friendships and gives me the opportunity to help students when needed.”