We are living in a global community. Hearing a variety of accents as we move through the world is a thing of beauty. Our voices are rich with language that reveals our cultures and the stories of our lives. When we learn another language we try to perfect speech patterns, intonations and non-verbal communication specific to that language, but we are often limited in reaching our goal of fluency.
Speech patterns are mapped in infancy and throughout childhood due to our brains forming connections that are specific to the language we are learning. In order to learn the numerous aspects of speech and language we must not only be motivated and disciplined, but most often, work with a speech therapist. If you are seeking accent reduction or modification, you may be looking to have more successful business and personal relationships. Mastering intelligibility, grammar, syntax, advanced language and vocabulary, (including non-verbal language) requires individualized attention and support from a speech therapist.
Why Reduce or Change Your Accent?
- Public Speaking/Acting
- Give Clear and Engaging Presentations
- Improve Business Management Skills
- Improve Professional Communication
- Demonstrate Better Leadership Skills
Accents can sometimes make it hard for you to talk with other people. People may not understand your accent. You may get frustrated because you have to repeat yourself a lot. People may focus more on your accent than on what you say.
These problems can make work and other activities more difficult. You may feel that if you had a different accent, you would be able to talk to people more easily. You may decide that you want to change your accent, a little bit or a lot.
Who Wants To Change Or Modify Their Accent?
- People who speak English as a second language.
- People who want to change their regional accent.
- Professionals who want to communicate better at work.
- Actors who need to learn a new accent for a role.
Why Work With A Speech Therapist?
Working on your own with books, apps and software programs will only take you so far. A speech therapist is trained extensively in every aspect of speech, language and voice, including non-verbal communication. Working with a speech and language therapist provides:
- Individualized attention
- Customized sessions
- Feedback in real time
- Immediate progress
A speech therapist will take a comprehensive language history before starting accent reduction or modification sessions, with some of the following questions:
- Where have you lived and how long have you lived in that area?
- What are all of the languages you speak?
- When did you first learn your non-native or “target” language(s)?
- In what context did you learn your non-native or “target” language?
- What age did you learn your language(s) and how long have you spoken it (them)?
- What languages do you use at home, at work, and in social settings?
Accent Reduction Treatment Areas
Vowels and consonants vary slightly in production depending upon whether they are in the front, middle, back, high or low position in the mouth. The difference between short vowels /a/ and /e/, for example, is very slight and can be difficult to detect without auditory feedback and guidance from a speech therapist.
Minimal pairs, which are close in production, vary only minimally; such as: fill/feel, met/mate, set/sat, did/dead, mate/mat, buck/book. The subtle differences in minimal pairs can be practiced in both consonants and vowels, which builds auditory discrimination skills in both accent reduction speech therapy sessions and in the home program provided by the speech therapist. The hierarchy from sounds in isolation to connected speech is practiced continuously, moving up and down the ladder so to speak, providing continuous opportunities of challenge and context in order to connect the auditory and verbal channels of our language learning system.
Common Speech Targets In Accent Reduction/Modification Sessions Include:
Voiced and voiceless TH
CH and J
Vocalic : (ER, OR, AR, AIR, IRE, EAR)
Syllabic Consonants: words ending in N L, R and D, for example, that form a syllable on their own (widen, bottle, history, sudden)
Contrasting Final D, LD and L: (code, cold, coal)
Additional Treatment Areas for Accent Reduction
Stress: the stress of a word appears with syllables. Use of morphological markers such as prefixes, suffixes and possessive markers are seen in past tense, possession and multisyllabic words. Knowing how to articulate with correct grammar and syntax is critical to mastering a language. There are many rules and exceptions to rules that need to be learned.
Intonation: refers to the rate, phrasing and focus of our speech and it changes with grammar, the meaning we are trying to convey, and the emotionality in our speech and message. With WH questions we go down in pitch, such as “Who did you see today?” With yes/no questions, our intonation rises, such as “Did you go to the store?” Intonation can tell the listener when we are continuing or stopping our statement or question.
If we don’t know proper intonation, then it can create confusing communication interactions. Using examples, recordings and practice, intonation can be learned so that communication encounters are smooth and enjoyable.
Pitch, timing, rhythm and loudness are all features of intonation: they can be practiced in fun, practical and productive ways. Improving these features of intonation can help you with accent reduction by creating skillfulness and improved production of your non-native language.
Advanced Language and Vocabulary
If you are interested in accent reduction or modification, you may notice that you struggle with more advanced aspects of language such as idioms, figurative language and more abstract or complex vocabulary. Idioms are phrases or sayings that have a non-literal meaning, and can be difficult, for you as a non-native speaker, to comprehend. Examples of idioms include: “beat around the bush” or “back to the drawing board”. Figurative language is also non-literal language that includes: similes, metaphors, personification and hyperbole.
Your speech therapist works with you to customize your sessions to meet your specific needs. Once you have a good grasp on the basics of articulation, grammar, syntax, and voice, you can add more advanced language and vocabulary. Sessions can include practice with any of the following at every level of your accent reduction or modification program: public speaking, practicing presentations, introducing and having discussions with colleagues, friends or associates, narrating videos, retelling stories or sharing articles and important information. Your comprehensive knowledge of the basics is applied to real-life scenarios throughout the sessions in order to help you develop fluency and confidence in speaking immediately and with ease!
Contact Vibe Speech Therapy to learn more about how we can help you!