What’s the Problem with an Accent?
Proficiency in oral communication is highly valued in many countries around the world, including in America. That being said, the pronunciation of English words can prove to be challenging for many non-native speakers. The difficulty in pronunciation is what most refer to as an accent. And while there is no reason for anyone to be ashamed of an accent, accents can be a liability in business, academia, and even socially.
Having a strong accent can often complicate communication both on a personal and professional level, be confusing, and cause disruption in the natural flow of conversation. And sometimes, people may be more focused on the accent than on what is being said, which can mitigate the effectiveness of the message.
What are Accents?
Sound systems in different languages differ fundamentally. And the ways that the sound systems of languages differ are sometimes many and varied. These differences can include the ways vowels and consonants are used, whether or not two consonants can be pronounced together, rhythm, intonation, and even which sounds can occur at the beginnings and ends of words.
Since every language has its unique set of features, when someone learns another language, these features are often carried over from the native language to the one being learned. This “carryover” is what we refer to as an accent. The key to any effective accent reduction or modification program is to understand these differences.
Options for Accent Reduction or Accent Modification
If you feel your accent impedes your communication with others, you may want to seek help to either reduce or modify your accent. There is an expanding array of online resources and activities to select from, to help those with an accent sound more “American.” Additionally, you may be able to find classes or groups within your community to practice speaking with others.
However, online speech therapy is often the optimal option for individuals looking to modify or reduce their accents quickly. Online speech therapists, or speech-language pathologists (SLPs), can help you to reduce or modify your accent for clearer communication in both personal and professional settings. SLPs help:
People who speak English as a second language
People who want to augment or reduce their regional accent
People who want to learn to communicate better at work or in school
Actors who need to develop an accent for a role
Anyone who wants to articulate more clearly when speaking
Receiving Online Speech Therapy
Clinicians who deliver online speech therapy are trained to work with clients, either one-on-one or in a small group setting. Before beginning therapy, the clinician who delivers online speech therapy will provide an intake session that will include learning more about you, your background, listening carefully to how you pronounce certain words, and how you generally sound when you speak.
The SLP will also want to hear more about your particular goals. This is so she can craft a customized accent-modification plan that will guide your sessions together and include exercises you can perform on your own to help you modify your accent quickly.
In the initial session, the clinician who delivers online speech therapy may ask you to read different phrases or words aloud. After that, she will evaluate the rhythm of your speech and how you stress certain consonants within a word or even entire words. She will engage you in conversation, paying careful attention to articulation, intonation, and cadence.
Carefully Targeting the Goals
Whether your goal is to completely “lose” your accent, modify or reduce it, the SLP will work closely with you to help you develop a natural communication style. It is important to remember that accent reduction or modification is not a one-size-fits-all program.
Your program will be customized based on several variables, such as your native language, the reason for seeking the training, and the needs you encounter in the workplace. It has been the experience of clinicians who deliver online speech therapy that a carefully designed program combined with a motivated client is a formula for excellent results.
Don’t ever forget that all accents are natural and, as such, are neither good nor bad. Accents should never be characterized as a speech problem nor language disorder, but rather as a unique and natural part of you. Even though you may want to reduce or modify your accent for practical reasons, it is nothing to be ashamed of!
Help Your Students Cope with the Crisis
The response to the COVID-19 Pandemic is unprecedented. Because of our unique role in children’s K-12 education including online speech therapy, we feel a responsibility to do what we can to assist schools, therapists, and students with this transition to online learning and seclusion. To ensure that our students remain engaged and supported, our therapists are providing complimentary “Support Sessions” to the country’s youth. We are also assisting schools by training their therapists for remote therapy.