Kola was a skilled technician who was qualified to work on offshore oil rigs. His skills were impeccable and his work-ethic highly valued by his HR Director. He was a native of Nigeria. Like many Nigerians, he spoke English but his pronunciation was extremely hard to understand. His HR Director found me on Google and reached out to ask if I could help Kola. He had not been able to place Kola on rigs because his communication skills were so poor. Co-workers simply could not understand him; and on a rig, Kola would be a safety risk.
When I first spoke with Kola, I realized his pronunciation problems were mostly because he did not articulate consonant sounds of English. Since he did not pronounce consonants, listeners heard a series of indistinguishable vowels when he spoke, so the meaning of his speech was almost impossible to understand. At the same time, he had a beautiful vocal tone. The quality of his sound was resonant and rich.
I identified a specific set of consonant sounds that he was not pronouncing when he spoke. I taught them to him one at a time, asking him to practice daily on only one or two consonants. He learned to articulate those specific consonants with his teeth, tongue and lips. We practiced in words, sentences and industry-specific materials like articles and presentations. Kola and I worked together in a series of eight private sessions by Skype over a period of about four months.
During our sessions, he began to integrate missing consonant sounds into his speech. He became significantly easier to understand. He still had his Nigerian accent, but his beautiful voice tone was now complimented with clearer diction. Kola’s HR Director wrote a note a few months later to update me on Kola’s success.