Everyone speaks with an accent. You may speak English with an accent from a different region in the United States. You may speak English with an accent because English is not your first language. You may speak French with an English accent. In our world today, people move from state to state and from country to country. One thing that we take with us no matter where we move is our accent.
What is an accent?
An accent is the unique way that speech is pronounced by a group of people speaking the same language. A person's accent depends on many factors; however, accents are usually grouped in the following way:
- Regional Accents - for example, people who are from Texas often sound different than people who are from New York.
- Foreign Accents - for example, someone who was raised speaking English will sound different than someone who was raised speaking Spanish and learned English as an adult.
Accents are a natural part of spoken languages. It is important to realize that no accent is better than another. It should also be stressed that accents are NOT a speech or language disorder.
How do accents affect communication?
Accents reflect the unique characteristics and background of a person. Many people take great pride in their accents. However, some people may have difficulty communicating because of their accent. These difficulties include the following:
- People not understanding you
- Avoiding social interaction with those who may not understand you
- Frustration from having to repeat yourself all the time
- People focusing on your accent more than on what you are trying to say
These types of communication problems may have negative effects on job performance, educational advancement, and everyday life activities. It may also negatively affect your self-esteem if you are having trouble communicating because of an accent. For all of these reasons, some people want to modify or change their accent.
Can I change my accent?
Yes, with lots of hard work, practice, and the help of a qualified speech-language pathologist (SLP), you can learn how to change your speech pronunciation. Changing your accent is also known as "accent modification" or "accent reduction." An SLP can provide services to speakers who want to modify or reduce their accent. People who receive these types of services include the following:
- Non-native English speakers
- Speakers who want to reduce a regional accent
- Business and medical professionals who want to improve their communication skills because of a foreign or regional accent
- Actors who need to learn a new accent for a role or performance
What can I expect from a speech-language pathologist?
You should first receive a thorough evaluation of your individual speech pattern. The SLP will evaluate your:
- Sound pronunciation (consonants and vowels)
- Stress, rhythm, and intonation of speech
You may be asked to read words, sentences, and paragraphs. The SLP will also listen to your speech in conversation. After all of this information has been collected, the SLP will determine what can be done to modify your accent and improve your overall communication. A set of goals based on your individual needs should be developed. Training sessions may be individual or in small groups.
As noted before, speaking with an accent is not a speech or language disorder. Because of this, services to change your accent are not covered by insurance. You will need to speak with your SLP about payment options.
To contact a speech-language pathologist, visit ASHA's Find a Professional.