If you take the time to pay attention to how each person you interact with speaks, you quickly discover how different each person can sound, even when they speak the same language. Everyone has an accent, and accents are a significant part of our unique personal identity. They reflect each person’s individual characteristics and heritage. Sometimes, for various reasons people want to change the way they speak, and in those cases, speech therapy can be a very valuable resource. These days it is common for people to move from place to place, country to country. One thing that follows everyone, no matter where they might travel to or relocate to, is their accent. If you want to learn about accent modification and how speech therapy can help, schedule your free introductory call today!
What is an Accent?
Language structure and sounds can vary tremendously between languages and regions. There are fundamental differences that can include the manner in which vowels and consonants are used, combinations of consonants that are common or completely absent, the rhythm and speed of speech, intonation, and which sounds are most likely to occur at the beginning or end of a word.
Since each language has its own individual set of characteristics, when a person learns a new language, they often bring the features of their native language with them. This is what we consider an accent. A successful accent modification program must begin with a strong understanding of these differences.
What Kind of Challenges can Accents Cause?
Some people who have learned a second (or third! Or fourth!) language and speak with an accent can sometimes struggle to be understood by others when speaking their non-native language. One of the most common challenges comes with speaking sounds or consonant combinations that do not exist in their native language. For instance, a Japanese person learning English may struggle with an L and R sound because those sounds don’t exist in the Japanese language.
Patterns of sound can also vary widely between languages. Some languages may have words that begin and/or end with consonant clusters, whereas other languages will only use one consonant sound between vowels. Sentence structure and word order can also differ greatly between languages, what is correct in one’s native language may sound distinctly foreign in the newly learned language when translated word for word.
Above all, having a strong accent can affect one’s ability to communicate effectively, and can affect one’s ability to succeed socially, academically, and professionally. In some cases, accents disrupt the flow of conversation and can cause the person listening to focus more on the accent than what is actually being said. If you think you could benefit from accent modification with a highly specialized speech therapist, schedule your free introductory call today!
Can you Change your Accent? At What age is an Accent Permanent?
Research has shown that accents become permanent around the age of 12 years old. That being said, it is possible for accents to change over time or for adults to develop a subtle accent after living in a foreign country for an extended period of time. The degree to which accents can change depends greatly on the individual, as well as the system of sounds and sentence structure from the speaker’s native language. While modifying or reducing an accent is possible with the help of a speech and language pathologist, most scientists agree that completely eliminating an accent is extremely difficult, and in most cases, accents are forever.
Who Can Benefit from Accent Modification?
Working on accent modification with a registered speech and language pathologist can benefit a wide range of people.
-People who want to minimize or eliminate a regional accent
-People who have learned English as a second language
-Actors who are preparing for a role that requires an accent
-People who want to learn to communicate more clearly and effectively in school or at work
-Anyone who wants to learn to improve their articulation and enunciation skills
How Can Speech Therapy Help? Can you Lose your Accent Completely?
Accents are unique to each individual, and how strong an accent usually depends on how long the individual has been speaking the language and the level of exposure they have had to practice conversation skills. Eliminating an accent completely isn’t impossible, but it takes a great deal of time and commitment, and complete elimination of the accent is never guaranteed. Speech therapy can be a great resource for someone who wishes to work towards accent reduction.
To begin, the speech therapist will want to learn more about how the individual speaks, including the rhythm and intonation of their speech. They will provide specific sentences for the client to say aloud and will listen carefully for differences. From there the speech therapist will be able to come up with a customized treatment plan that will target the areas of speech that pose the most problems. Specific goals will be set and worked towards with regular appointments. Consistency is key in accent modification and requires dedication and determination from both the speech therapist and the client. A speech therapist can help to teach the mechanics of how speech sounds are formed. Understanding these building blocks of speech and language is the basis of a successful accent modification program. A speech therapist can also help to identify the adjustments that need to be made and help identify any speech patterns that may be incorrect.
Speech therapy is also an excellent opportunity to practice conversation skills, an area that can often be challenging for those who are communicating with an accent. Building confidence in these skills is a very important part of accent modification.
It is important to remember that everyone has an accent, and struggling to speak clearly in one’s non-native language is common and understandable. Languages can be intricate and complicated. That being said, if you or someone you care about needs support with accent reduction or modification or you simply want to learn more about how online speech therapy can help, schedule your free introductory call today!