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Accent Modification: Can It Reduce Stuttering?

by Team Stamurai
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Tristan Roeder is a resident of Iowa City. Although American by birth and upbringing he has chosen an English accent because it helps him speak fluently.

In Tristan’s own words, “I have a stutter. I have some difficulty pronouncing 6 letters of the alphabet.” After he began speaking in an English accent he is more fluent than he ever was as a child.

He chanced upon fluency thanks to his younger brother who is a dedicated Harry Potter fan. The audiotapes he used to listen to, encouraged him to try the new and interesting foreign accent. And once he did, he found that he could talk faster without any stutters.

According to Patricia Zebrowski, professor of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Iowa, people who stutter have distinct and anomalous speech processing and production pathways.

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) have observed numerous instances of spontaneous fluency when a person's voice changes, they adopt a foreign accent, or speak in a nasal tone.

What Suppresses Stuttering During Accented Speech?

The mechanics of the phenomenon are little-known. However, some speech pathologists are of the opinion that people stop stuttering when talking in an accent because they use their mouth and brain differently.

Some experts compare it to singing. It is quite impossible to stutter while singing. While speaking in a foreign accent, the speaker needs to focus on the pronunciation of different words and the emphasis of different letters.

Speaking in a new accent may reduce the demands from the left hemisphere of the brain. That is exactly what happens during singing!

Sadly, there is a dearth of research in the area of accent modification to reduce stuttering. The exact mechanism that works towards reducing a stutter during accented speech is still not well-explored.

Why SLPs Do Not Recommend Accent Modification To Reduce Stuttering?

Tristan may inspire hundreds of people who stutter to speak in an accent all the time. However, speech-language pathologists are against it.

Here are the main reasons you shouldn’t assume an accent all the time while speaking, despite your stuttering.

  1. There is a chance that if you adopt an accent while speaking all the time, it will become your "normal" speaking style. As a result, your brain will readjust the use of the left and right hemispheres, and you may begin to stutter even while talking in aforeign accent. Experts believe that accent modification is not a long-term solution to speech disfluency.
  2. Stuttering may be painful. It may seem humiliating and embarrassing to not be able to say what you want to say. However, stuttering is a part of who you are. Expecting yourself to speak in an accent 24/7 is unreasonable. At the same time, it masks your true self.

What’s a Healthy Alternative to Accent Modification to Reduce Stuttering?

Speech-language pathologists have come across several instances where the reduction of one’s accent or the introduction of a new accent reduces stammering almost magically. However, disfluencies return once the person is used to their new accent.On the other hand, accepting one’s stammering can open new avenues for stuttering modification and fluency shaping techniques. You can speak to a speech therapist. Or, you can seek help from a speech therapy app like Stamurai. It can help you understand your stuttering, anticipation, and set fluency goals.

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