The universal illusion of separation co-exists with the universal experience of being an "outsider."

     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.    
   Thirty years ago and now for the last four years, I've been part of a group studying a set of spiritual and "life wisdom" writings called A Course in Miracles. We are slowly reading and discussing the text but I also read the daily Lesson in my morning e-mail. On March 20 the title of lesson #79 was, "Let  me recognize the problem so it can be solved." The text of the lesson included, "The problem of the only real problem."  This started me thinking about how we all need to belong and all separate ourselves into groups, parties, clans. It seems so easy to think in terms of "us" vs. "them." We often are not even connected to ourselves--to our own real feelings and needs.
   On the "Sunbeams" page of the April 2017 issue of The Sun, my favorite literary magazine, is this quote from Alice Hoffman, 'My theory is that everyone, at one time or another, has been at the fringe of society in some way: an outcast in high school, a stranger in a foreign country, the best at something, the worst at something, the one who's different. Being an outsider is the one thing we all have in common."
Ms. Bergman and Japanese Client

I Work With People, Not "Accents"  

The individuals who sit across my desk have all been very successful in meeting many challenges and yet almost all of them feel hopeful BUT also very nervous and fearful. Here are some of the things I usually try to say to them in our earliest lessons to help them feel more "accepted" and "connected."
#1  "The linguistically "superior" person in this room is you!  You are bilingual and I am not!
#2  None of us is perfect or should EVER even try to be perfect! Mistakes are learning experiences. 
#3  Accents in a second language are differences in speaking habits created by the habit patterns of your first language.
#4  We all have to start where we are and use what we have!
#5  If you played soccer or played a musical instrument as a young person you know that patient, persistent practice guided by your coach or instructor was how you moved from being a beginner to being a skilled player.  Changing speaking habits in a second language is more like learning soccer than learning math or software code. Understanding helps to prepare you,  but practicing over and over and over is what leads to clearer and clearer pronunciation of English!
#6 As you begin to practice words with sounds that you NEVER used in your native language (like the final /z/ in Spanish or the voiced and voiceless "th" in most other languages) you WILL feel weird and strange!  I usually act out a dialogue of one part of the brain arguing, "We don't talk like that!" and the other answering, "Oh yes,  this is English! Get used to it! " And then we all laugh.  So resistance is a normal part of the experience of modifying one's accent and I help my clients to accept it and deal with it by using humor.  
I had planned to write more about next steps after modifying your accent.These "next steps"  include  (1) improving your presentation skills, (2) learning the meaning of idioms and other non-literal expressions and (3) social and business networking skills.  BUT these will wait for future monthly newsletters.  I will share links to the websites of  some of my colleagues who are doing outstanding work in these specialty areas and also provide lists of good books and other programs.

  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.
  Enrolling in accent modification training with me requires a free phone consult and then a stand-alone Information Session. Even if your company wants to sponsor you or even if the cost is within your budget, you will need to consider the commitment of your time and energy to daily online practice, which I will review daily between twice monthly in-person sessions.
   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