There is nothing wrong with accents. In fact, people often find accents to be charming, mysterious, or endearing. However, if an accent interferes with communication, it can become a problem. I’m in the business of reducing or eliminating accents and over the last nineteen years, I have heard them all! I have had the privilege of working with a wonderful population of international clients. When someone steps into my office, I am able to mentally substitute their accented sounds with Standard American English…the accent without the accent. By doing so, I can easily understand what people are trying to say to me.
Foreign Accents Can Be Frustrating
Overwhelmingly, people are trying to tell me that they are frustrated with their speech. They are tired of people asking them where they are from. Repeating what they have to say over and over again because they are misunderstood or not understood at all has become tedious. For non-native speakers, missing out on professional or personal opportunities because of unintelligible or difficult to understand speech is all too familiar. in some cases, their speech has put them in very embarrassing situations. Perhaps those of you with this accent pattern…substituting the long “eee” and the short “ih” for each other…have had problems when you’ve asked for a “sheet of paper” or a “piece of pizza”. Oops…not exactly what you intended!
Accents Can Cause a Breakdown in Communication
When people focus on how you are speaking and less on what you are saying, there is a breakdown in communication. Unfortunately, there are also stigmas associated with foreign accents and people who speak with an accent are often considered to be less capable, less knowledgeable and even less credible. The listener is often unwilling to take the time to understand an accent pattern and automatically dismisses what the speaker is saying. Listeners may also become anxious when they are unable to understand a foreign accent. This causes them to end the conversation or to avoid discussing difficult topics as they feel that it will add to the communicative stress of the interaction. I’ve also had clients report to me that people mistakenly speak to them using a louder voice, assuming this will aid the communication process. When the attempt to communicate becomes such a challenge, people often give up and limit their verbal interpersonal interactions.
Accent Reduction Classes
The ability to speak and to interact with others on a verbal level is very important to our daily existence. Accents can interfere with our speech in our business lives, in our educational lives and in our social lives. Accent reduction classes are for those who have reached the point where their accent has become a burden and a hindrance to their communication skills. To those who have withdrawn from speaking because they feel that their accent will cause them frustration or embarrassment, there is hope! Working with a Speech Pathologist/Dialect Coach who specializes in accent reduction will allow you to learn how to speak Standard American English. Through a carefully crafted process of ear training, you will learn to:
- Identify the difference between your accented production and the more intelligible sounds of Standard American English.
- Produce the correct sounds in isolation, in words, and then in sentences.
- Carry-over correct production of these sounds in conversational speech.
- Use correct sound production for the vocabulary that is relevant to your profession.
- Learn to speak English with the appropriate rhythm and intonation.
- Feel confident and comfortable so that you no longer avoid speaking situations.
Accent reduction classes allow you to replace the anxiety, frustration and disappointment of speaking with a feeling of satisfaction and a sense of success. I am always delighted when my clients report that they are speaking more and that they are really enjoying their new found ability to communicate with clarity, precision and success. If you can identify with any of the feelings in this blog, you are a prime candidate for accent reduction!