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Accent on News

December 2011       
Issue 46

Habits: A Double-Edged Sword
In This Issue
TELL US YOUR STORYFeatured Article
Business  Woman Lecturing

If you are a foreign born professional, we would like to hear from you. We are very interested in the story of how you have created a successful and prosperous life in the United States.

We would be happy to feature your story in a future issue.

Transforming  accents from  communication  barriers to  charming   cultural flavors!

Individuals Programs

Basic Level:
Compton P-ESL: 2008 Revision!

Medically Speaking

Regional Dialects:


Speak Standard, Too!




MIAE (Mastering the Idioms of American English)





MEEC (Mastering Effective English Communication)



RULES for Medically Speaking (Rules for Using Linguistic Elements of Speech) 

We help our clients use practical strategies to replace their accented speech habit patterns with "listener friendly" speech habits.
Go to our Archive Home Page to read more fascinating newsletters.

  Triangle Speech Services is a small company of licensed speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who specialize in foreign accent and regional dialect modification and related communication skills.
    The BIG questions we hear from both our colleagues and our clients are, "How do new pronunciation skills that are practiced  with an interactive on-line  program really transfer to natural, conversational speech?  How long does this take and how, specifically, is this accomplished?
The implied question here is, "Do accent modification programs really work?"
   A "double-edged" sword is a metaphor for something that can help you reach a goal, but if not used skillfully, can hurt you, or at least, prevent you from being successful.
    Forming a habit is a marathon, not a sprint was a headline in the Raleigh News and Observer's "Life,Etc." section on December 13, 2011. Nara Schoenberg of the Chicago Tribune wrote about the challenge of converting simple behaviors into habits. She cited research that shows that external "cues" such as a "triggering event" are a big help. That "event" for an accent modification client is hearing the accent feature while he or she is speaking. This won't happen until the correct sound pattern has been internalized and the correct movement pattern has been learned through patient,  repetitive practice. Only then can the work of changing the speech habit really begin!      
 In April 2010 we described        computer modeling and MRI studies done by Frank Guenther Ph.D. at M.I.T. and Mass General Hospital that demonstrated his theories of how speech is learned and regulated.
  Since that time, all Triangle Speech Services accent modification clients have been instructed that the next step AFTER the careful drill on an accent modification target, such as the voiced and voiceless "th" is to NOTICE, STOP and SELF-CORRECT.
  Every time another "duh," "dose" and "dey" slips by in conversation or in presentations, the old habit patterns remain unchanged.  Every time the speaker hears (feedback) a word as sounding "accented" and  quickly and unobtrusively "self-corrects,"  such as "My teory, theory about dat, that is..." the new habit pattern begins to be established and the old habit pattern begins to be extinguished.  The more often this occurs, the quicker the new feature becomes established and stabilized. The end result is that the speaker will anticipate (feed forward) and begin to produce words with voiced and voiceless "th" correctly the first time.  This happens over and over until it becomes automatic and a new habit replaces the old one.
  The challenge is to convince our clients that self-correction is a natural speech act which occurs all the time. Just watch the T.V. personalities on the various morning shows or news anchors  on the evening news. Last week one was talking about an "embassy" and an "ambassador" and then said, "The emba--I mean ambassador was recalled." That's a natural self-correction made by someone speaking "broadcast standard" English!
Changing Habit Patterns - A Transcript of a Recorded Interview  with R.D. M.D. a physician from India.   
  J.B. (Judith Bergman): "Can you talk about some changes you've noticed and comment about the process of getting the "th" more stable?"
   R.D. "When I started I realized I wasn't getting my "th's" right, either voiced or unvoiced and that I needed to practice a lot.  And, initially, when I started doing the "th's" it was the hardest part for me through this whole (Medically Speaking) accent modification course."
   J.B. "Did it make you feel weird and strange to be saying "th" the  correct way?"
   R.D. "It did, quite a lot. It was a shocker to hear that I wasn't speaking in the correct way."
   J.B. "Did you start hearing yourself and self-correcting?"
   R.D. "I did, I did quite a lot. In fact, initially it was really hard for me to get the "th's" right (even after all my practice) and every time I would talk to somebody, I would pronounce it wrong. I would go back and correct myself which was a little embarrassing. But usually I would do it with people who knew me and who knew that I was trying to correct my accent."
    So then, gradually I started getting them right and I felt proud of myself. So now I think I'm at a point where I'm getting most of them right."
   J.B. "You are!"
   R.D. "I'm still having some trouble linking "th's" with "r" but I think I'm making progress."
  J.B. "Can you say something about the insurance phone call and dictation of hospital reports?"
   R.D. "So recently I had to call my insurance agent and usually, before, when I talked on the phone, people used to have a lot of questions, especially about my address and my name.  And this time, the person I was talking to---I was amazed that he didn't even have to ask me once what I was trying to tell him."
   J.B. "He understood the first time!  And what about dictation?"
   R.D. "As a physician I usually dictate my history, physicals and discharge summaries. Before, they would not get all the words and would have a lot of blanks in my dictated summaries that I would have to correct."
   "Now when I look at the reports I don't have any blanks at all!! No blanks which is great so I don't have to correct anything and I don't get calls from Medical Records asking me exactly what I was trying to say.!  No calls and no blanks!!"
   We invite you to click on Triangle Speech Services  to visit our informative website. Our goal is always to provide information, inspiration and encouragement since these are essential components of any successful learning experience. We want our clients to have the benefit of all the techniques we can teach them in order to have their hours of practice "pay off" and result in new, stable pronunciation patterns in real life!

  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 at 919-489-5464 or through the contact page of our web site


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