Why yes, we all have accents! – SLPs and accent modification

When my husband and I first started dating, he used to comment on how my Michigan accent really came out when I was very happy (and also very angry). This accent neutralized quite a bit when I lived outside of the state, but once we moved back, my accent returned to me!

Did this mean that I didn’t have an accent when I lived outside of the state of Michigan? Nope. My accent just changed. We ALL have accents. Accents, or the way in which we pronounce words, vary based on our dialects, or regionally specific language (grammar, vocabulary, etc). Think about just the United States – how many accents can you think of? Now narrow it down to within a specific state, say, Michigan? How many accents can you think of?

Even though we all have accents, some people want to modify them. Luckily, your friendly, neighborhood speech-language pathologist is here to help! Let’s discuss in (EXTREME) brief what accent modification services can look like.

Why do some people seek these accent modification services?

If we all have accents, why do some people want to change theirs? People are interested in support in this area for a number of reasons. Often times, people want this service because they have difficulty being understood. Clients I’ve worked with in the past wanted to modify their accents to be better understood at work, both by coworkers and supervisors. Other lines of work require people to learn NEW accents. For instance, maybe the Outlander cast, most of whom speak with Scottish accents, really wants to learn how to speak with a great Michigan accent. In that case, they’d give an SLP (AHEM, ME) a call.

It’s important to note that this is an elective service. This is not a service that’s provided in the schools. Speech differences are different from speech disorders. We all have accents. Because of that, they are not considered a disorder. This isn’t to say that kiddos with accents can’t receive speech services for other things, but school-based SLPs do not provide this service in a school setting. Now that I’m thinking about it, this is probably a bigger topic than we have time for today. I’ll address this some more and in more depth at a later date in time.

What does accent modification look like?

Just like with all speech services, an SLP will conduct an evaluation and develop goals for treatment. Sessions typically addressed speech sound production and pronunciation, but also on stress and intonation of words and phrases. Different languages and dialects have different stress patterns that may carry over into English, which can impact how well the person is understood. It can also address sentence structure issues, as sentence structures in other languages may differ from English. For example, in French, adjectives frequently come AFTER the noun (i.e. flower red vs. red flower).

It is important that the client and the SLP have a good relationship. The client needs to be up front about what they are looking for. This would included providing information about when and where the most difficulties are had and what vocabulary words are frequently used that need to be addressed. Without communication between the client and the SLP, regardless of the work done, therapy might not be successful. Think about it – if you go to the gym so that you can walk up the 10 flights of stairs to your office everyday, but your trainer has you lifting weights for arm strength, the problem will not change. Be up front with the SLP, otherwise therapy will not work!

Questions? Concerns? Leave a comment!

1 Comment

  1. Voice CoachNovember 6, 2020

    My biggest concern is wether there are people that cannot change.
    I have tried hard myself. Maybe it is because I started too old?


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