Accent Modification – Providing Tools for Success While Embracing Cultural Diversity.
Accent Modification – Providing Tools for Success While Embracing Cultural Diversity
About Accent Modification
Effective communication is essential to everyday life, and one of the tricky things about navigating our beautifully diverse world is communicating clearly and effectively with others when their linguistic or cultural background differs significantly from our own.
Often the cause of communication breakdown is not so much the language being spoken, but the accent (or patterns of speech production) of the person speaking it.
Everyone speaks with an accent, and that accent is an important part of our identity! Accents can be regional (e.g., Southern vs. Midwestern American English), socio-cultural (e.g., African American English vs. Standard American English), or related to national origin (e.g., Non-native English or English as a second language speakers).
Depending on the individual needs of the person, an accent may…
Interfere with the ability to communicate in daily life
Compromise confidence in social interactions and in building relationships with others
Make it difficult to perform job duties, especially if the role involves talking or presenting with crucial importance to be understood 100% of the time (e.g., health care professionals, teachers/professors, sales representatives, team managers, customer service)
Hold a person back from accomplishing life/career goals
Accent modification is a systematic approach to increasing a person’s ability to be understood through modifying their speech patterns.
Accents are not speech disorders, but Speech-Language Pathologists can help with modifying accents for those who seek to do so.
You may be a great candidate for Accent Modification training if…
You have to repeat yourself frequently, use gestures, or write things down to be understood
You find that people pay more attention to how you speak than to what you say
You struggle to be understood after moving to a new city or country
You feel your accent is holding you back in any way
Why go to a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)?
SLPs offer unique expertise and extensive knowledge of all key aspects of accent:
Articulation (how to pronounce consonant and vowel sounds)
Pitch and intonation (how the melody of spoken language rises and falls)
Speech rate (how quickly or slowly a person speaks)
Stress patterns (how certain syllables are emphasized in a word)
The many nuances of language and communication:
SLPs provide highly individualized assessment and intervention plans that meet your unique needs, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all accent training program/book/podcast
SLPs can identify which patterns in your speech contribute most significantly to your difficulty being understood and target those first, making you more understandable, faster
SLPs offer opportunity for consistent practice with an expert native English speaker
SLPs give personalized feedback and coaching throughout the course of the program
What to Expect from Accent Modification at Pam Manser & Associates Speech Therapy:
Our goal is to equip clients with the tools needed to be successful no matter the communication situation, while emphatically conveying that the accent they exhibit is valued as a critical part of their identity.
The idea is not to eliminate a person’s accent, but to provide them with the ability to switch it “on or off” as they choose. In fact, there are times when our accents serve us well in social environments, and the value accents bring to those interactions cannot be understated! But they also should not hold us back, and that is where we hope to provide an invaluable service.
In accordance with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), “It is not realistic to expect that individuals will eliminate their accent and sound like a native English speaker (Celce-Murcia et al., 1996). A more achievable goal may be to improve intelligibility [or how well a speaker is understood by others] and communicative effectiveness by the SLP teaching the individual a combination of pronunciation, syntactic, and intonation skills” (ASHA, 2020).
Please understand that there is a significant difference between accent modification and accent elimination. The latter is not a goal of this program.
The course of our program includes:
Discussion of your specific concerns and desired outcomes
Discussion of your individual background
Individualized treatment sessions
Targeting your unique speech sound differences in a sequence that is most immediately beneficial to you
Aligning your personal goals with the treatment plan
Meeting your needs and schedule (1-2 sessions per week)
Teletherapy option available
Biofeedback technology as necessary and appropriate during face-to-face treatment sessions
Resources for individual practice provided by your SLP
Once monthly skill generalization outings (per client preference) in the community to practice learned skills and receive coaching in live time
This option would replace a regularly scheduled treatment session for that week
About the Program Director:
Becky Pickering, M.S., CCC-SLP is an ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist with over 9 years of clinical experience. She comes to Pam Manser & Associates from her previous position at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where she was an Instructor in the Speech-Language Pathology Program, teaching Bachelor’s level courses and supervising Master’s level clinicians in an on-campus speech therapy clinic. She taught courses on multicultural issues in clinical service delivery, as well as clinical phonetics, where aspiring SLPs learn the distinctive features and all facets of production for every American English speech sound represented by the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). She was recognized in her department as the expert on Accent Modification and served clients from a variety of linguistic backgrounds over the years, including but not limited to, speakers of Korean, Cantonese, Nepalese, and Spanish influenced English as well as Southern American English who desired a more General American English accent. Clientele for accent modification included doctors and other medical professionals, university professors, businessmen and women, local television personalities, international college students, and high school students, among others.
A legal note on accent in the workplace:
“Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects individuals from employment discrimination on the basis of sex, color, national origin, and religion. Accent discrimination falls under the purview of discrimination based on national origin. According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, "An employer may not base a decision on an employee's foreign accent unless the accent materially interferes with job performance" (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2008, p. 1. Employers are not required to hire individuals whose communication materially interferes with satisfactory job performance. However, employers must show impartiality concerning different types of accents. For example, employers are not permitted to show a preference for French or German accents over Japanese or Spanish accents (Franklin, 2012).
“It is not within the scope of the SLP to identify cases of accent discrimination. However, providers of accent modification services should be aware of this aspect of the Civil Rights Act and be willing to inform their clients of this provision, when appropriate.” (ASHA, 2020)
We’d love to answer any questions you may have about our Accent Modification Program or get you enrolled as our next client. Please reach out to us to begin your journey with a Speech-Language Pathologist today!