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Communication Matters

April 2013       Issue 59

Myths and Misconceptions about Foreign Accents

Take This Quiz!  
In This Issue
A True-False Quiz
Our Programs
Quiz Answers
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.

accents from 
barriers to 
cultural flavors!


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)    
We are passionate about helping our clients speak English with greater clarity and confidence. Are you willing to "do what it takes" to change long-standing speech habit patterns?
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.
  This article and quiz originally appeared in our May/June 2010 issue and, I believe, has information that remains just as true and valuable now as then.
    We again are offering a quiz to the regular--and new--readers of these newsletters.  The answers WILL be discussed at length below.  
Foreign Accent Modification: A True-False Quiz


_____1.  The most efficient way to figure out how to pronounce a word in English is to "sound it out " by the rules of spelling and phonics. 

_____2. Speech is a natural and therefore an "easy" skill to master in a second language.

_____3.Accent modification is a relatively simple process compared to learning math, chemistry or physics.

_____4. With the right program and the right instructor you CAN lose your accent in 28 days!

_____5. If a brilliant, foreign born scientist or executive who speaks English with an accent, enrolls in training with Triangle Speech Services in JULY and works really hard, his or her speech should be "all fixed" by OCTOBER  at the latest!

_____6. A high degree of literacy (reading, writing, spelling and grammar) skills in English as a second language is predictive of a better outcome for accent modification.

_____7. Foreign born individuals with American spouses who speak English all the time at home have less severe accents than those married to spouses from their native country who speak their native language all the time at home.

_____8. Offering  accent modification training to foreign born employees may be viewed as discriminatory. HR personnel should tread cautiously.

_____9. The "smarter" you are, the easier it will be to reduce your accent.

_____10. Accents are actually due to genetic,  physiological or skeletal differences among people from different parts of the world.
Answers to the Quiz
JB Teaching How To Pronounce
 This part is easy!  Every single statement is FALSE. Now, read WHY each statement is false.

1. Spelling does NOT equal pronunciation in American English! This is rule #1 taught to ALL new clients. The Compton P-ESL program introduces this in lesson one. The MEEC program lists various ways a given "sound" is spelled.  The code to unlock correct pronunciation is the IPA or International Phonetic Alphabet which is demonstrated on the University of Iowa website, in the Longman's Dictionary and in the Phonetics Reference section of the P-ESL  CD-ROM. The IPA MUST be used by anyone  who did not absorb a language as a very young child.  For example, the words is, was, his, these,  days and shoes  ALL end with the /z/ sound when they are spoken!!

2. Speech is only "easy" (for at least 90% of normally developing children) in one's native language. All speech is rule based and the rules are linguistic i.e. express features of the language such as plurals, past tense or meaning. (PROject vs. proJECT, for example.) The repertoire of speech sounds, the rules for combining  and using these sounds and the rhythms of every  spoken language are  different.  These rules are absorbed unconsciously in the natural learning process of young children. All of our clients were taught English    backwards  starting with the alphabet, spelling and reading usually beginning at age   ten with little emphasis on listening and conversation and almost none had American teachers. When a foreign-born person looks at print in his native language, he hears the words. When he reads English, he grasps the meaning without the "sound images."

3. Accent modification is extremely challenging. Successful clients practice a minimum of 60 minutes five days a week for three to six months to reduce their accent an average of 50% on post testing. You cannot "think" your way  into modifying an accent and transferring  new speech patterns into casual conversation takes hours, days, weeks and months of focused work.

4. "I'm a clinician; not a magician! The only thing you will lose in 28 days is your money!" This is motor movement and muscle training based on learning and remembering the correct sound patterns of  words in connected speech. This is not abstract, cognitive learning.

5. I've had HR people, who were well meaning but misinformed, actually believe some variation of this statement. See all of the discussion for  #2 to 4 above.

6. The best predictor of the ability to speak unaccented English is to be under the age of five, that is, to be a "pre-reader"  who is a bright, interactive little child attending preschool with American peers and teachers. This child will speak his or her native language perfectly if it is usually spoken at home AND will have perfect English pronunciation for his or her age.  See also the answer to #1 above.

7. The rules of English are learned unconsciously and used automatically.  Ask your American spouse or colleague to read this sentence: "I'm certain that the photographer is coming to take our photographs."  Then ask them to tell you the four different ways they pronounced the "t" sound!  They won't be able to! (See the video on the "About Accents" page of the Triangle Speech Services updated web site.)

8.  If a qualified provider is available, offering accent modification training  is a way of providing a professional development opportunity.  Employees on a management track are routinely offered other types of communication skills training, such as negotiating or presentation skills.  Accents are differences, not disabilities to be accommodated by placing the employee in a position that involves the least amount of spoken communication. (THAT is what is discriminating!) Clear, effective communication is a prerequisite for promotion to team leadership and management levels.

9. My clients are all very smart, even brilliant and are accustomed to learning and applying  intellectual skills quickly and easily.  They can be  very self-critical when accented "habits" persist. When practice becomes frustrating and difficult, suddenly there are other priorities and no time to practice! They need to cultivate the wisdom of patience and self-acceptance.

10. Listen to the English spoken by the American born children of Chinese, Thai, Indian and Russian parents!  This notion is, of course, ridiculous.  
   We invite you to click on Triangle Speech Services  to visit our informative website. We encourage you to contact us through the contact page of our web site for more information about our programs.
   Please share this newsletter with the bi-lingual and multilingual "stars" at your company who might like to consider this type of training to enhance their careers.

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