Many non-native speakers opt to consult with a Speech Pathologist to reduce the impact of a foreign accent.
At Voice Science, accent reduction involves not just sound adjustment and correction but also examination of environmental and social factors that are impacting on your functional communication participation.
Accent reduction is a core area of our caseload at Voice Science, Australia. Our clinicians are all internationally minded and deliver expertise in communication assessment that is holistic and practical. So many factors are at play when a client decides to undertake an accent reduction program. At Voice Science, we emphasise functional and practical communication goals surrounding all pronunciation work. At large, we have identified a variety of triggers causing a client to seek out our services to optimise English pronunciation. The following pie graph captures a few of the core trends we notice:
Accent Reduction Therapy has the most impact when it is conducted individually
At Voice Science, our attention is on scientific best practice. We also acknowledge that your views about your communication strengths and barriers are personal and best addressed with confidential and private consultation. While you may share the same heritage language as another client, your career progression plans, communication approach, occupational language usage and end goal is unique to you. Likewise, you may face some social barriers or concerns that can not be adequately or even tactfully addressed within a group framework. Delivering 1-1 consultation ensures that we maintain your privacy and optimise both pronunciation and social communication outcomes. Individual sessions allows us to brainstorm goals with you to ensure that we develop a mutually agreeable program that addresses your core concerns powerfully. Individual sessions also allow us to isolate core pronunciation features that need drill and modification for you at your pace so that we can attend to scientifically grounded treatment models based on how adults learn sounds.
It is important to emphasise that accented speech is not classified as a disorder.
Instead, accent constitutes a communication variation. We all in fact have an accent! Accent is something valuable that signifies our origin, our culture and even geographic background. It is something to be proud of as part of our identity. Your accent represents your historical, social and cultural background.
In fact the American Speech, Language, Hearing Association (the American National credentialing association for speech-language pathologists) issued a statement that:
Accent is a variation of a symbol system used by a group of individuals that reflects and is determined by shared regional, social, or cultural/ethnic factors. A regional, social or cultural/ ethnic variation of a symbol system should not be considered a disorder of speech or language*
Standard English is the linguistic variety used by government, the mass media, business, education, science and the arts. This will vary according to the geographical location. For example, the favoured accent in Britain is inclined to be Received Pronunciation where in America, there is an emphasis on General American. Therefore, there many International speakers find it advantageous to optimise their use of a consistent English sound pattern representative of their location according to their occupational and social needs.
How do speech pathologists assist to modify your accent?
According to Speech Pathology Australia, the official registration organisation for Speech Pathologists in Australia, Speech Pathologists are often engaged by non-native speakers to assist in the areas of speech intelligibility. Intelligibility enhancement is identified as an appropriate therapy goal if the client’s English productions are difficult to understand. It is common for clients to report difficulties in “day-to-day communication” as a consequence of their native accent. Additionally clients may hold concerns about the impact of their speech production on their ability to access gainful employment and to orientate themselves socially.
Some clients identify avoiding the telephone, struggling to project their voice, concern about the right speech rate for English, confusion about word stress and tone for English, avoidance of public speaking, increased anxiety during job interviews when they are conducted in English, difficulty speaking assertively in English comparable to their first language(s), pronounced difficulty pronouncing colleagues names or key industry terminology (like the name of their company or profession), frustration with being asked consistently “So, where’s your accent from?”
Many clients report a contrast between their social participation in their first language(s) against English. In this instance we develop social communication strategies with you to activate and enhance your communication participation.
See more info on Accent Reduction and English Pronunciation Training on our English Pronunciation Training – FAQs
Why should I select a speech pathologist over other accent coaches?
Speech Pathologists operate from a clinical evidence-based practice model that considers the physiological, medical and behavioural aspects of speaking. Speech pathologists apply extensive scientific knowledge of head and neck anatomy to any treatment of accent. They are conversant with the latest research in the neurological controls for speech and behavioural therapy approaches that monitor the acquisition of goals clinically. They are also trained in analysing communication : speech sounds, language structuring, body language, social relations. Since speech accent is a function controlled by neurological and behavioural components, it is preferable to follow a clinical therapy based model rather than an educational model (as provided by an ESL instructor or linguistics major).
At Voice Science data is taken scientifically on your progress. Speech Pathologists follow intricate hierarchies and research on speech acquisition and communication behaviours. We are trained to develop realistic goals that will always be measured to monitor progress. A speech pathologist will always know your percentage of accuracy for any target that is in focus. This is what guides the process to ensure that change occurs. The clinician will measure progress using probes to determine accuracy ratings. Scores will be measured and plotted to determine acquisition of the therapy targets.
At the end of your treatment with Voice Science, you can request a post treatment assessment which will show the change achieved as well as recommendations for further improvement.
Additionally, speech pathologists are fully skilled in transcription of the International Phonetic Alphabet as well as the muscle movements of the speech apparatus. We know the nerves and muscles of speech intricately!
Accent reduction takes time and practice. It is not uncommon to still have an accent even after years of expatriate life. An accent can be an asset that sets you ahead. Listeners soon realise you are multi-lingual. Sometimes an accent can interfere with your message. Speech breakdowns can occur and it can be harder to express thoughts clearly to your listener. Don’t give up! Work on your pronunciation weaknesses strategically and practice daily to improve your English.
Read more about our diagnostic accent assessment.
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©Voice Science, 2014 – 2018
See accent reduction tips for non-native speakers here.
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