There are companies who promise to reduce accents, many through expensive online programs. Changing someone’s speech is a highly skilled area of expertise. An instructor should know that accented speech has many cultural and behavioral habits to it, such as those involved intonation/speech rhythm and melody, muscular force, and voice and resonance (i.e., where the voice is placed). The instructor should also understand which sounds are missing and the accented behaviors. Not everyone has the advanced education, skill and experience to do this correctly.
What level of experience does your potential instructor have working with a variety of foreign and regional accented speech?
Mastering the blend of cultural features related to accent is very specialized. To avoid wasting money and time, you owe it to yourself to determine that your instructor is highly skilled and can assist you with achieving your accent reduction goals. Many people claim to have a “program”. It is up to you as a responsible consumer to exercise caution and invest time in having your potential instructor prove to you that they understand the cultural traits behind your accent.
What is their professional background?
If you find an instructor who is an English school/grammar teacher, ESL instructor, or has a general “communications” background, then ask them about their specific training and experience in addressing the unique cultural features in accents such as voice and resonance. Such professionals would not have specific clinical training in these important areas. Ask what credentials or license they have. Speech-language pathologists have specific training in speech mechanics, breathing, resonance and voice, as well as holding a state clinical license and having national certification from the American Speech Language Hearing Association. Working with a speech-language pathologist would be your best approach for successfully reducing your accent.
Can your potential instructor talk to you about your unique accented behaviors and how they specifically affect the way you are speaking English?
Have them profile your specific cultural traits, not just missing consonant and vowel sounds. The majority of an accent is due to the cultural nuances, such as speech melody, muscular force and resonation. Working on the sounds is a smaller detail. If you want to change your speech to sound more American and less foreign or regional, then you should make the cultural behaviors and intensity must be the larger part of your program. Hold an instructor accountable for identifying your specific habits and patterns you bring into your American English.
Invest your time and money wisely. Interview your instructor carefully. If they are skilled, it will be very obvious on how they can compare your speech patterns to American English and reduce your accent.
I wish you great success,
Liz Peterson, Speech Language Pathologist and Speech Coach
Director of Speech and Voice Enterprises
Denver, Aurora Colorado