"Come Join Us and Lose Your Accent!”

Accent Modification Courses as Hierarchization of International Students





accent, international study, language ideology, student hierarchization


In this article, we examine the hierarchization of international students by bringing together perspectives of linguistic legitimacy and language ideologies. Our data stems from 26 accent reduction or accent modification course descriptions and websites from U.S. universities. Based on their analysis, we discuss the sociopolitical implications of the phenomenon of these courses for international students and the ways in which language-based, particularly accent-based, arguments are used to create or reinforce different categories of students. We argue that while international students are presented as having different kinds of “comprehensibility problems” that accent modification and reduction courses are claimed to remedy, the seemingly linguistic arguments that are used for marketing do not hold. Rather, what is presented as an accent issue actually seems to be an ideological one, drawing on the students’ ethnic or geographical origins, and thereby racializing the question of language proficiency.

Author Biographies

Johanna Ennser-Kananen, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland

JOHANNA ENNSER-KANANEN, PhD, is an Academy of Finland research fellow at the Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä. Her current work focuses on linguistically and culturally sustaining education for migrant teachers and anti-oppressive (language) pedagogies for migrant students, particularly those with refugee experience

Mia Halonen, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland

MIA HALONEN, PhD, is a senior researcher at the Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyväskylä. Her recent areas of research include sociophonetics and historical sociolinguistics as well as language attitudes and stereotyping related to language ideologies and policies.

Taina Saarinen, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland

TAINA SAARINEN, PhD, is a research professor at the Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä. Her major research interests lie in the area of language ideologies and language policies in higher education.


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How to Cite

Ennser-Kananen, J., Halonen, M. ., & Saarinen, T. (2021). "Come Join Us and Lose Your Accent!”: Accent Modification Courses as Hierarchization of International Students. Journal of International Students, 11(2), 322–340. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i2.1640



Research Articles (English)