When Ann Arbor educator and entrepreneur Judy Ravin claims she can say, “What? What did you say?” in at least five different languages, she is not bragging about her multilingual prowess. She hears those phrases too often as she travels abroad. Just because she speaks the languages does not necessarily mean she is easily understood in all of them.
“And that doesn’t feel good,” she says. “None of us like that.”
It was mutual frustration (between speaker and the spoken-to) during her trips abroad that led her to think about how that must feel to immigrants in the United States as they attempt to set up their careers here.
And out of that frustration was the idea that eventually led to the Accent Reduction Institute, based in the Godfrey Building on North Fourth Avenue in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown district. With a faculty of 18 contractors and three full-time directors, Ravin’s institute has been smoothing out the rough spots for immigrant speakers for about four years. The innovation behind the business is what is officially trademarked as the “Ravin Method,” which Ravin humbly says she feels “kind of silly about.”