If you’re not a native English speaker, coming to the U.S. can be intimidating. Even if you’ve learned English in school, there are lots of odd pronunciations and irregular words that it can seem impossible to manage them all!
So how can you make sure that you’re understood in your second language? The answer is simple: talk to a speech therapist about accent reduction therapy!
What Is Accent Reduction Therapy?
Accent reduction therapy is a great option for people who are having trouble being understood. During accent reduction therapy, a speech therapist will listen to you speak. Then, they’ll determine some of the traits of your speech that are making it difficult for people to understand you. Then, the speech therapist will help you address these problems, reducing your accent.
Since speech is such an automatic thing, it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint what exactly is causing problems in your speech. That’s why it’s important to speak to a professional who can tell you exactly what you need to change to be understood. Sometimes even the smallest adjustments can make a huge difference!
A trained speech therapist can also help you learn how to make certain sounds that would be hard to learn on your own. For example, it can be difficult for native English speakers to learn some of the mixed vowels that appear in languages like French and German. But a speech pathologist or therapist is trained to help you learn exactly how to make those sounds!
Why Should I Try Accent Reduction Therapy?
There are a lot of reasons that people start accent reduction therapy.
The most common reason is that people are having a hard time being understood while communicating. This can happen at work, in daily activities like going to the grocery store, or even at home with your family.
People with strong accents may also have repeat themselves frequently. But if you don’t have the resources to know how to make your pronunciation clearer, the repetition can become frustrating.
Many other people seek accent reduction speech therapy when their way of speaking begins to interfere with how people see them. Some accents are clearly identifiable (such as a Russian accent) and can lead to prejudice, assumptions about one’s heritage, and less attentive listening. In other words, some people find that their accents distract the people around them.
Let’s be clear: Regardless of what your accent is like, you should not have to deal with this kind of discrimination, ever.
But if your accent is significantly impacting your life, there’s nothing wrong with trying accent reduction therapy. You can even do sessions right in your own home!
What Will Accent Reduction Therapy Do for Me?
There are a variety of things that accent reduction therapy can help you with. Your speech therapist, trainer, or coach will use several techniques.
One of the first things a speech coach will do for you is try to halt faulty word-formation. By correcting common word mispronunciations, you’ll find that your accent slowly but surely becomes clearer to native speakers!
A speech trainer will also help you adjust your stress, speech rhythm, and intonation. For example, native Hungarian speakers know that the stress on almost every Hungarian word occurs on the first syllable. So adjusting to English and using words such as “consider” or “communication” (where the accent falls on a different syllable) can be a challenge.
Speech-language coaches can help people stop unnecessary voice projection. Some languages require stronger consonants and muscle force than in English. The resulting accent can sound aggressive or angry in a different language. But with accent reduction training, you can learn to understand how your tone translates in a new language.
Speech therapists can also help you get back to the very basics: vowels and consonants. Mixed vowels can be extra
Do I have to Give Up My Accent?
No! It’s important to remember that no accents are “better” than others. Everyone speaks differently, and that’s okay!
Accents, whether regional (such as a Southern accent) or foreign (as with a second language), are not speech disorders and are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, many people take pride in their accents, as they give hints to their cultural background.
Accent reduction therapy isn’t meant to eliminate your accent, because accents aren’t anything to be ashamed of! Rather, accent reduction therapy is focused on making sure that you can be understood in your everyday life as a non-native speaker.
What Kinds of Things Will I Do in Accent Reduction Therapy?
There are many different strategies that speech-language pathologists use in accent reduction therapy. Each exercise has a different purpose, and your exercises will be hand-picked to help you with what you struggle with the most.
One of the most common accent reduction therapy techniques is listening and imitating. Your speech therapist will say something and ask you to repeat it. Then, they’ll work with you to help you hone your pronunciation of that phrase, using their speech as a basis for the process.
Another technique speech therapists use is phonetic training. This is more specific than listening and imitation, as it involves the study of pronunciation. It also involves the mouth shapes that you’ll need to make to pronounce words properly.
The therapist may also have you do exercises with minimal pairs, which involve comparing two similar sounds (such as “ch” and “sh”). This will help you learn to tell the difference between them and make that difference known in the way you speak.
Be Heard in Your Community
Whether you’re having trouble with syllable stress, being asked to repeat yourself constantly, or are just looking to better your pronunciation of a second language, accent reduction therapy may be right for you. Contact us to start your accent reduction therapy today!