Do you often find the need to repeat yourself to be understood? Do people focus on your accent more than on what you are trying to say? Do you have, or are you pursuing a career where you speak formally or publicly? Native and non-native English speakers, especially those in education, business and medical professions often participate in Accent Modification training to change their speech production, with a focus on clear communication.
Everyone has an accent. Accents are unique to each individual, reflecting their own culture and background, and are a natural part of spoken languages. Many people take great pride in their accents, as they should, because an accent is a unique way that speech is pronounced by a group of people speaking the same language. In no way is one accent better than another, and accents are NOT a speech-language disorder. However, modifying or reducing an accent can yield more clear and effective communication for many people.
There are two types of accents, regional and foreign. A regional accent, for example, is our very own "Yooper" accent. We sound quite different from other English speakers, such as those from Southern or New England regions. A person with a foreign accent learns English as a second language, and will sound different from those who have learned English as a primary language.
The reason for this is during childhood, the ability to learn a new language comes very easy, rapidly and unconsciously. By young adulthood, learning a second language becomes slower and more laborious. At this time, more effort is given to proper vocabulary and grammar. Individuals remain poorly prepared to speak and be understood in their newly acquired language. With continued time and age, a person's native-language speech patterns are rigid and become extremely resistant to change without specialized training and practice.
With Accent Modification training, a certified speech language pathologist can help improve the sound production of English. The SLP will look at each vowel and consonant to determine what sounds are different, and how to change the sound to Standard American English. We can also target rhythm, stress and intonation to help the language flow easier. Accent Modification is a program not just for individuals who are English language learners, but also for any foreign or regional accented speaker looking to improve their pronunciation.
Through individualized training, one can learn to be more effective in their communication, and can be more confident in their delivery. These skills can be beneficial both personally and professionally. Typically, individuals who are interested in Accent Modification meet with a SLP for an 8- or 13-week program, for about an hour each week.
We are so very fortunate to live in a community with such a diverse population. Many local businesses employ and serve individuals from across the world. Here at Portage Health, we aim to improve communication for those from all different backgrounds in the community and workplace.
Editor's note:?Amy Haske, MA, CCC-SLP, is a Certified Compton P-ESL Instructor, active member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association and a member of the Portage Health Rehab team. Learn more about Amy at portagehealth.org/haske