What is Accent Training? What is Accent Reduction and Accent Modification?
Updated: Jan 17, 2022
Accent training is a specialty field practiced by linguists, speech-language pathologists, or TEFL teachers. It requires specialized knowledge of the set of phonemes (a nerd-word for individual speech sounds) related to a specific language (e.g., General American English, British English, etc.) but also, so much more! Accent trainers also have in-depth knowledge regarding a language’s grammar, prosody, word-connection, common sayings, idioms, etc. etc. etc.
Accent trainers, or dialect coaches, work with many different types of people – typically highly skilled, multi-lingual individuals who already speak English very well but maybe have difficulty being understood by other English speakers. These “accents” can be explained simply – and their origins are actually really cool! Each language is made up of a set of phonemes (remember? Nerd for “speech sounds”), and also contains its own prosody, rhythm, intonation, sayings, and connection between words. These features, specific to people’s native languages, are then carried over to their second, third, or fourth languages. For example, in Spanish, the letter “I” is always pronounced like “ee”. So when pronouncing words in English, it’s common for native Spanish speakers to carry this pronunciation over to the letter “I”. Take for example, the English word “live” where the “I” is pronounced typically like a short “ih”. A native Spanish speaker may pronounce the word like “leev”. This, of course, can cause confusion as English already contains another word pronounced as “leev”, the word “leave”. Therefore, there would be a breakdown in communication between the words “leave” and “live” if the correct pronunciation of the vowel isn’t learned.
So what’s the difference between accent modification and accent reduction? Nothing, really. In the accent training world, we’ve begun to move away from using the term “accent reduction” as it implies that there’s something wrong with your accent and that we want to “reduce” it to be more like a “correct” accent. Of course, there is no "correct" accent and there is nothing wrong with your accent! I’ll say that again for those in the back… good news, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOUR ACCENT! As I mentioned above, accents are a sign of someone who knows multiple languages! And if you know multiple languages, you’re a pretty accomplished, dare I say, kick-ass person. So wear your accent proudly! A good time to seek advice or lessons from an accent trainer is when you start to feel frustrated with your ability to be understood. At this point, your confidence in communication may be low – accent training can help increase your confidence in speaking again.
Wow, there’s so much more to this and I could go on and on but I’ll save the details for another blog. Or better yet, a lesson. I love talking about and celebrating our language and accent differences.