By Lana Kirk, M.A., M.S., CCC-SLP.
People coming to a new country as adolescents or adults often have a pronounced quality to their speech and sometimes language that distinguishes them from the native speakers. This usually occurs because they already have a set of developed sounds they have used to communicate with others since birth. Some of the speech sounds in the language that they are learning may not exist in their native tongue, which is almost always the case with vowels and a lot of times with some consonants. For example, interdental speech sounds, such as voiced and unvoiced /th/ in words “this” and “thing”, are unfamiliar to speakers of most languages altogether. At the same time, the seemingly familiar sounds /r/ and /l/ have a different place of production in the oral cavity in various languages. The German /r/ would have a more guttural (very throaty) quality to it; the French /r/ - uvular (back of the throat resonance); the Spanish /r/ - very trilled (front of the mouth); the English /r/ - retroflex (back of the mouth). On the other hand, in Japanese the sound /l/ does not exist in the form that the English speakers use it and should be taught anew to the native speakers of Japanese. A qualified SLP assessing a prospective client for accent modification may demonstrate to the client that he or she possesses the knowledge of comparative linguistics in order to detail the correct impression of their speech and language.
People who rely on their communication skills in their day-to-day operations, such as in the professions of healthcare, education, acting, law enforcement, sales and customer service, and other, may choose to seek the help of a qualified SLP to modify their accent to a more neutral sounding effect.
Some actors may seek the services for an accent acquisition that their new role/part may require.
Since an accent is not a speech or language disorder, the sessions are conducted in a nonclinical environment. Clients receiving accent modification services can expect a thorough evaluation of their unique speech sound system and English grammar skills if needed. Upon the completion of the evaluation, the goals for desired level of modification are established. This also includes the overview of the differences in semantics (the meaning of words) and pragmatics (nonverbal language) of the speaker’s language background and American English.
At times, people involved in audience presentations (teachers, sales representatives, speakers, etc.) struggle with delivering a convincing, pleasant sounding speech due to insufficient voice projection, inappropriate pitch, lack of fully developed grammar skills, or poor body language. Their body language may be “in conflict” with what they are saying and may be communicating a totally different message to the listener (did you know that you can improve your communication skills by adjusting your body language and it will show in your phone conversations as well?) A pitch (the frequency of the voice sound) too high or too low may distract the listener and have a negative effect on how they receive your message.
These and other components are taken into consideration when you come to our office for accent modification and/or corporate speech training for an evaluation in a nonjudgmental, relaxed, and face-to-face with the SLP atmosphere. You may choose to receive the services via an encrypted channel through telepractice to save on the transportation costs. You may be asked to come in for the evaluation.
The length and the frequency of treatment are determined during the evaluation and are tailored to the specific individual needs.