Does Your Speech "Match" the Professional Image You Want to Project?

     Triangle Speech Services is the private, professional practice of Judith L. Bergman, a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) who specializes in foreign accent and regional dialect modification.  I offer customized, individual tutorials to corporate-sponsored and self-enrolled individuals who speak English fluently but with moderate to severe accents that create challenges and frustrations in the workplace.    
   "Drawl" is really an unkind reference to one of many colorful and culturally rich local speech dialect patterns.  All languages have them.  "How Hamlet Lost His Drawl" is the title of a fascinating article by Natalie Baker-Shriver, an award winning professor of Speech and Phonetics at Carnegie Mellon University. The issue is the "mismatch" and distraction that would occur in a production of Shakespeare's Hamlet if the audience began to wonder why Hamlet sounded like he came from Texas!
   Beyond the issue of regional dialect are the stereotypes encountered by non-native speakers of "foreign" accented English, especially in the workplace. Recently an individual with graduate degrees who has a Spanish accent reported that phone consultations are often problematic and he feels discounted and not "taken seriously." 
   Your speech is your "vocal resume," and is part of the image and first impression you project, not only in a phone or in-person interview for a job but to every new listener.      
   One important resource used by Professor Baker-Shriver that we also teach our clients to use is the Sounds of Speech, University of Iowa updated spoken guide to the International Phonetic Alphabet or IPA, the "source code" of the sounds of spoken American English. A second important technique is to slow down, phrasing with precision. This technique is based on the fact that in motor or muscle movement learning accuracy varies inversely with speed. That is, as we all know from learning skills like piano or typing or solving math problems, beginners make a lot of mistakes when they go too fast. As you gain experience and skill, you will naturally speed up and still remain accurate. We have all been speaking our native languages since very early childhood so we can speak very quickly and maintain accuracy. We can't duplicate this speed and maintain accuracy when speaking a second language without careful practice, even after living in the U.S. for many, many years.

Speaking Styles That Don't Project An Image of Professional Competence
   Suppose you are a scientist and researcher from China. You need to display your precision, your attention to details and commitment to accuracy.  Yet in your attempt to mirror the speed and accuracy of the speech of a native speaker, you consistently drop the endings of words, drop entire syllables and produce a slurred "impression" of American English. Government contract sounds like "Gahmen contah"  and opportunities sounds like "opptoonty."
   Supposed you are from India and have advanced degrees in Computer Science but make many mistakes in your spoken grammar such as seldom using articles "a" and "the" and often not using past tense verb forms. Your actual competency in reading and understanding complex technical English could easily be underestimated.
  We invite you to visit us by clicking on Triangle Speech Services .  Our goal is always to provide information, inspiration, and encouragement since these are essential components of any successful learning experience.
   The initial goal of an accent modification tutorial is to identify the main obstacles to a clear, convincing speaking style in American English--sound errors, intonation (word stress) errors, speaking too quickly, grammatical errors. Then a systematic program is tailored to the needs of each client and key resources are provided as described above. Last, progress during practice is monitored closely, not only in the twice monthly in-person sessions, but through online review of daily recorded practice when applicable.
   If you are seriously considering enrolling yourself or an employee in an individual tutorial with us or simply want to talk to us about our programs, please contact us through the contact page of our web site, and we hope you also take the time to read the text and look at the videos.
Judith L. Bergman M.A. CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist and Corporate Speech Trainer
Triangle Speech Services