A lot of adults considering accent modification training subscribe to the adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Although it is more difficult to change speech habits after the teen years, with awareness and practice, a successful outcome (sometimes described as listener-friendly speech) is a reasonable, attainable goal. What factors influence individual performance in changing speech behavior?
The following factors must be considered:
• The perceived strength of the accent (vowel and consonant production, intonation patterns, etc.) • Overall English language proficiency • The presence of any cognitive, speech-language or hearing disorders such as dyslexia, ADHD, etc. • Motivation and time devoted to independent practice • Responsiveness to constructive feedback • Current employment situation/responsibilities • Career aspirations • Support network • Insight into communication differences
Clients enrolled in a weekly 12-16 week program typically begin to notice concrete changes at approximately the mid-point of training. At that time, clients may begin to report that they can identify and self-correct speech differences in their own speech. They are also more aware of the speech patterns of others, and report that they are better listeners because they are more tuned in to the subtleties of communication.
At the end of training, clients typically are more consistent with their mainstream sound production, and use intonation patterns that are more in line with native speakers. They often speak more slowly, project their voice more appropriately, and have a greater sense of confidence when speaking to both native and non-native English speakers. They often realize that they no longer have to repeat themselves.
It is important to note that everyone progresses at a different rate, and the end results vary. However, despite the challenging and demanding nature of this type of training, with positive and constructive input, time, and patience, accent training can be a powerful and empowering pursuit.