Accents are natural. Everyone has an accent. Even the native English speakers from different regions, states, or countries sound different. An accent is a natural part of spoken language. It is NOT a communication disorder. But, a thick accent can make communication difficult. From voice quality and projection to pronunciation and style, you may want to change your accent in different ways.
Accent modification consists of strategies to make your speech more intelligible to the people you interact with everyday. Accent modification is a process designed to enhance intelligibility.
Why You May Seek Accent Modification
Accents are part of who we are. They are signifiers of our culture, society, ethnicity, and geographic location. However, sometimes, accents may hinder smooth and spontaneous dialog exchange. For example, you may seek the services of an SLP (speech language pathologist) for accent modification because –
- You have difficulty being understood
- You need to repeat yourself frequently
- Your listeners tend to pay more attention to your accent than the message
- You face bias or discrimination due to your accent
- You face hindrances in your social, educational, or work environment
Negative experiences during communication may hamper one’s education and career, self-esteem, personal relations, social interactions, and daily activities. Anyone with a regional or non-native accent may seek the services of an SLP to modify their existing accent or learn a new one.
So, what are the best accent modification tips from experts? Read on to find out!
1. Always Speak In English
If you are a non-native speaker, who wants to pick up a local English accent, you should converse in English as much as possible. Repeat after your favorite TV shows, songs, and even ads.
You may be worried about how you sound, especially if you are in an English-speaking country. However, this fear can keep you from modifying your accent.
2. Allow People To Correct Your Mistakes
Initially, you will make mistakes in pronunciations, and that's alright! Even native English speakers make mistakes once in a while.
Request your trusted friends and/or colleagues to correct you whenever you make mistakes. Feedback from native English speakers in a natural setting is of great help!
3. Spend Time With Native English Speakers
If you want to learn a native English accent, you should spend time listening to and interacting with the native English speakers. Don’t turn down the offer to hang out after school or work.
You can join a local sporting club, gym, book club, or a social club at work. These are places where you can hear native English speakers converse; you can also chime in.
4. Set Aside Time For Practice
We know you must have a busy schedule. But, perfection only comes with practice. Set aside 15 minutes in the morning and night for speech and accent modification practice.
An SLP can show you various exercises and strategies you can apply during self-practice. You can consult a speech therapist online for your accent modification practice or join a group with a shared interest.
5. Set Achievable Goals
You need to set short-term and long-term goals.
For instance, your short-term goals may include "being understood by the person taking my drive-thru order."
Your long-term goals may include giving an entire presentation and answering follow-up questions without letting your regional accent seep through.
Here are a few more examples that may help you set realistic goals –
People ask me to repeat myself often
Your realistic goal can be – to take 4-months to improve the stress and sounds while talking in English.
People ask me to repeat myself, but sometimes
A realistic goal for accent modification would be to take 4-months to correct the vowel and consonant sounds to improve your accent.
People rarely ask me to repeat
This accent modification goal can involve taking 5 and 6 months’ time to sound more like a native speaker. Your objective is to learn the correct rhythm and emphasis on word sounds.
People don’t ask me to repeat myself at all. However, I want to sound like a native speaker
You may take between 4-6 months to sound like a native speaker with the help of a speech language pathologist specializing in accent modification therapy. You can learn how to use the correct stress, rhythm, strong and weak vowel sounds, and consonant sounds.
6. Ask For Feedback
Once in a week/fortnight, ask your speech therapist for honest feedback. You can also request feedback from your family, friends, and colleagues.
While positive criticisms can help, you should always rely upon your speech therapist for unbiased and objective reports on your progress.
Implement the feedback during your daily conversations with native and non-native speakers.
What Are Some Accent Modification Exercises SLPs Teach?
According to reputed SLPs and ASHA, the strategies and exercises for accent modification will vary depending on the evaluation of your accent and goals.
Some of the strategies may include –
7. Listening and Imitating
The SLP will give you sounds, words, and phrases to repeat.
8. Utilizing Phonetic Training
The SLP will teach you how to open your mouth correctly to produce sounds in a specific way. This accent modification exercise will help you align your pronunciation with that of your goal.
9. Taking help from Visual Aids
You may use visual charts, pictures, and illustrations to help you with pronunciation.
10. Practicing Tongue Twisters
Tongue twisters are popular tools for accent modification. They include repetitive phrases with similar, successive sounds.
11. Reading Aloud
Choosing any passage from an article online or a book, and reading it aloud can help you modify your accent. However, it only works if you have a speech model or an SLP to correct your pronunciations.
12. Speech Recording
When you read alone, record your speech. Play it back later to check your accent and how different or similar it sounds to the native speakers. Analyze your accent during your session with the SLP.
13. Practicing Vowels
A large part of any accent is how much stress we put on different vowel sounds. English requires a lot of open-mouth pronunciations. Your SLP will help you master the different types of pronunciations and stress on vowels.
14. Teaching Auditory Descriptions
Your speech therapist will teach you the skills to differentiate and recognize the various sounds that align with your goal accent.