Oral communication skills are highly valued in many cultures, including in the American culture. Pronouncing English words, however, can prove tricky for non-native speakers, or those who have a strong regional accent.
Having a strong accent can make it difficult to communicate in professional or personal interactions, cause confusion, and disrupt the natural flow of communication.
Luckily, there are a number of resources that can help people with strong accents overcome communication difficulties and have more productive, fluid conversations, and speech therapy with accent modification, is one of the best ways improve the clarity of your speech.
All About Accents
An accent is the unique way that groups of people sound when speaking a language. A person’s accent can be influenced by a number of factors, including the regions where they live and country of origin.
A “regional accent” is common among people who come from different parts of the same country – people from Louisiana, for example, have a different accent when speaking English than people who come from New York.
A “national origin accent” can often be heard in people who have learned English as a second language: someone who is a native English speaker from the United States will sound much different than someone from Belgium, who has learned English as a second language.
All accents are natural: accents are neither good nor bad, and no one accent is “better” than another. It’s also important to note that your accent is not a speech problem or language disorder, but is instead a unique and natural part of you!
Accents & Communication
A person’s accent can say a lot about where they are from, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with being proud of your accent.
However, having a strong accent can make it hard to talk with others – people may not understand what you’re saying, and you may have to repeat yourself multiple times, which can prove frustrating. Additionally, in conversation, people may focus more on your accent than on what you have to say, which can minimize the impact of your message.
Using Speech Therapy to Modify Your Accent
So, what can you do if you feel that your accent is holding you back in communicating with others? The first step is to seek help to modify or reduce your accent for clearer communication:
There are many online resources and activities that can help people develop a more standard American accent, and many communities offer classes and opportunities to practice speaking with others.
Speech therapy, however, is often the best option for individuals who are looking to modify or reduce their accent quickly.
Speech therapists, or speech-language pathologists (SLP), can help you to modify your accent for clearer communication in both personal and professional settings. SLPs help people who
- Speak English as a second language;
- Want to augment or reduce their regional accent;
- Want to learn to communicate better at work or in school;
- Actors who need to develop an accent for a role;
- Anyone who wants to articulate more clearly when speaking.
Working with a Speech Therapist
Speech therapists will work with you one-on-one, although many also offer small-group classes.
The SLP will want to learn more about you, your background, how you pronounce different words, and how you sound when you speak. The SLP will also want to learn more about your goals to design a custom accent-modification plan that will include exercises to help you modify your accent.
When working with a speech therapist, you may be asked to read different words and phrases aloud. The SLP will then evaluate the rhythm of your speech, and how you stress or emphasize words. The SLP will also have conversations with you to listen to how you articulate, and help you to modify the intonation and cadence of words.
Whether your goal is to completely “lose” your accent, or simply modify or reduce it, the SLP will work closely with you to help you develop a natural communication style.
Improving your pronunciation of English words, or reducing a strong accent, can help you communicate confidently, and improve your overall communication skills.
The speech therapy experts at tuLIPS help children and adults of all ages develop more fluid speaking skills, and we’d love to help you!