Triangle Speech Services Logo 600 dpiCommunication Matters

Defeating the Tyranny of Helplessness 
February 2018 
Issue # 114

 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 and related communication skills. 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.  
   It was the intermission of a special concert of opera arias in Montecatini Terme, Italy a few years ago. I was with a small contingent of my tour group and I went over to an elegant refreshment table with cold drinks and pastries for sale. All the Italian that I had been studying for hours and hours in the year before the trip left me. I turned around, thirsty and hungry, feeling helpless and stupid and went back to my seat. Chances are that someone in the group by the refreshments spoke English but I was too embarrassed to ask. Such is the "tyranny of feeling helpless." 
   This was a two week vacation after which I would return home where I could once again "swim in a sea of English," my native language in which I excel as a reader, writer, speaker and teacher! So I had a few moments of stress; not weeks, months and years as my clients report.
"A Day in the Life Of..."
    "I feel very frustrated when I need to call a customer and have to stop and repeat myself two or three times because of my accent." 
   "I have been in the U.S and speaking English for ten years but my speech isn't getting any easier for Americans to understand. I try to listen carefully but I don't know what I am doing wrong." 
   "I am stressed out all day long--always worrying that I will get 'that look' that means my listener doesn't know what I said."
   "I have ideas that I don't share at meetings. I don't feel comfortable speaking up." 
   "I usually feel like I don't really 'belong' especially when I don't 'get' jokes or understand expressions and everyone else in the group does."
   "I stick to my technical work but deep down I think I feel like an outsider. "
   These are paraphrases of what my clients have told me in the 13 years I have been specializing in foreign accent modification training.
"AAA" Strategy: Awareness, Acceptance, Action
  In their national bestseller The Art of Possibility , a book originally published by the Harvard Business School Press, Rosamund Stone Zander and her husband, Benjamin Zander, write:
   "...many of the circumstances that seem to block us in our daily lives may only appear to do so based on a framework of assumptions we carry with us. Draw a different frame around the same set of circumstances and new pathways come into view." 

   Consider these possibilities:

  • Your awareness of your daily stresses and acceptance that your accented speech distorts the sound patterns of English is the first step that makes change possible!
  • Investigate instructors and programs. Ask questions. Help is available but you need to choose carefully. Ask for a phone consultation. Ask for a "proof of concept" information and screening session before you decide whether to enroll (Triangle Speech offers these.) 
  • The process of changing speech habit patterns formed by a different native language is slow and requires a lot of practice. You didn't learn to play soccer by watching games. You went to practice day after day with a coach giving you feedback.
  • Accents can be "charming cultural flavors." You don't have to "lose" the accent completely--actually most speakers don't--but you can learn to speak "listener friendly" American English.
   We invite you to click on Triangle Speech Services  to visit our informative website.    We want to help you and know that we can if you are truly ready to do the work and can make time for the required home practice.
    We offer individual instruction in person twice a month and clients purchase a lifetime subscription to an online practice program. We listen to their daily practice and send recorded feedback the next day. The curriculum is completely individualized and based on our detailed transcription and analysis of a comprehensive pretest. We also post test, include awareness and feedback drills for "carryover" of new skills into conversation and provide many resources so that clients who "graduate" can continue to improve.
  Managers, forward this newsletter to your international "stars" who might be interested in this professional training opportunity.    We are looking forward to hearing from you.  
   On a personal note, we feel that we might be nearing the end of a 51 year career in the field, 13 of which  have been in this specialty so we are keeping our caseload small and choosing our clients carefully.  We don't feel ready to "stop" completely as this work has been so rewarding, but we are "slowing down."  If this training is something you have been considering, do it now! Make your inquiry now!


Judith L. Bergman M.A. CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist and Corporate Speech Trainer
Founder & Director of Triangle Speech Services