Speech-Language Pathologists and Their Role in Accent Modification
What is a speech-language pathologist? What is accent modification? How are they related? We hope to answer these questions and more in this post.
When looking into options for accent modification, it’s important to understand the professional’s role in giving training. Keep reading for a description of how this all works!
Speech-language pathologists, or SLPs for short, are trained clinicians with a Master’s degree in the treatment of communication and swallowing problems for people of all ages. SLPs administer treatment in the following areas:
- speech sounds
- social communication
- cognition / thinking skills
- feeding and swallowing
SLPs work with a variety of people, usually giving “treatment” or “intervention”. We use these labels when the client has a communication or swallowing disorder. However, when someone receives accent modification, also known as accent training, it is not labeled as “treatment” or “intervention”. This is because the clients do not have a disorder, but rather a difference; the characteristics of their first language influence their English communication. For this reason, we call it accent modification or accent training.
Before exploring the options of accent modification, it is important to understand what an accent is and how it can influence communication.
There are two different types of accents: regional accents and national origin accents. Regional accents describe variations in how people sound in different areas of the same country. For example, someone from Portland, OR will most likely have a different regional accent than someone from Dallas, Texas.
A national origin accent is usually heard in people who learn English later in life, as an adult. Someone who learned English as their first and only language may sound different from someone who learned English as an adult but grew up learning French as their first language.
The most important thing to remember about accents is that although you can receive training to change your accent, this is not because it is a speech or language disorder. A difference in accent does NOT mean you have a speech or language disorder, but you can choose to modify your accent if you wish.
What is accent modification?
Training to change your accent, also known as accent modification, is administered by an SLP for any of the following reasons:
- Your native language is not English and you would like to modify your accent in English.
- You have a regional accent and would like to modify your accent to sound more “neutral”.
- You’re a professional who wants to communicate better at your job.
- You’re an actor who wants to learn a new accent for a role.
SLPs will work with you by helping you learn to say different sounds, changing the volume or rate of your speech, or placing stress on certain sounds or words, in order to modify your accent. All of these modifications can be made to improve the overall intelligibility of your English communication. Intelligibility is defined as the ability to understand someone when they are speaking. SLPs can measure this as a percentage by counting the number of words understood out of the total number of words spoken.
It is important to understand that “intelligible” speech has nothing to do with “intelligence”. These words sound similar, but are not related. Someone’s speech intelligibility does not have anything to do with their overall intelligence, but rather if they are able to be understood based on how their speech sounds.
Accent modification training uses a multi-modal approach to involve many different strategies for learning, rather than just pencil-and-paper tasks. Packard Communications’ accent modification training consists of any or all of the following, based on your personal needs:
- Direct, specific, personalized instruction
- Audio and video recording and feedback
- Transfer of improved skills to conversation
- Application of improved pronunciation to your vocabulary
- Extensive audio and visual practice materials
- Individualized homework assignments
- Accountability to meet practice goals
- Certificate of class completion
By using these learning tools, your accent modification goals can be achieved. These could include any of the following:
- Correctly pronounce every sound in American English
- How letters = sounds
- American English pronunciation, not British
- Melody of American English – make statements and ask questions
- Speak more slowly and use pauses
- Increase your speech volume
- Learn to “hear” the sounds in words
- Improve presentations, interviews, conference calls, and conversations
Overall, accent modification can be a great tool to use if you would like to change the way you sound in English. Speech-language pathologists have training in this area, and can help you accomplish your accent modification goals!
If you missed us last time, check out our last post, English as a Second Language Classes in Portland, OR!
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Roseberry-McKibbin, C., Giri, & Tellis, G. M. (2016). An advanced review of speech-language pathology: Preparation for the Praxis SLP and comprehensive examination. Austin, TX: PRO-ED.