Last night on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Salma Hayek shared her suspicion that her husband was having an affair with his pronunciation coach.
It turned out that those flirtatious text messages on her husband’s phone were coming from an app named ELSA. Hayek’s French husband, François-Henri Pinault, France’s third richest man, just wanted to learn how to enunciate his vowels better. Phew!
But why would a billionaire want to change his accent?
“Because English is like Switzerland.”
Hayek says in her Spanish accent.
Hayek is originally from Mexico. At home, English is the neutral territory where her and her husband can communicate on. Hayek and her husband’s accents, although very sexy, pose barriers to them understanding each other and connecting with their daughter, who speaks with no accent.
“It’s a disaster at home.”
Salma Hayek confesses.
If you, like Salma Hayek and her husband, have an accent, you’re not alone. There are 1.5 billion people like you around the world who are trying to to reduce their accents.
Aside from the lack of comprehension created by thick accents, immigrants face more severe implications. When accents get in the way of communication, it can be an impediment at school, at work, and in social situations.
When Vu Van, the founder of ELSA, first immigrated to America from Vietnam, she was rejected from a consulting job interview because she mispronounced spreadsheet as “spread shit.”
Traditionally, immigrants have turned to speech lessons offered by private tutors and group classes. But as one ELSA user explains:
“Getting a tutor is beyond my budget. And with group classes, I can’t get the personal attention that I need.”
Immigrants often find themselves stuck with their heavy accents, with no good way to improve.
Now for the first time, immigrants like Pinault are turning to ELSA. One ELSA user, Hiroshi, a 30 year old engineer from Japan, feels that ELSA is critical to his future. “To tell you the truth, ELSA has made me comfortable with staying in America.” he reflects.
“If it wasn’t for ELSA, I would have moved back to my home country.”
Pinaut, Hiroshi, and many more immigrants are continuing their affairs with ELSA.