Elizabeth Peterson, Denver’s leading speech therapist and executive speech coach for over 22 years and is the author of Accent Reduction 101, Third Edition 2017 and Speak Like a Broadcaster & Lead Like a CEO, Third Edition 2017 . Learn More
There are companies who promise to reduce accents, many through expensive online programs. Changing someone’s speech is a highly skilled area of expertise. Accented speech has many cultural parts to it such as understanding intonation/melody, muscular force, voice and resonance (i.e., where the voice is placed) to “sound” more American. Not everyone has the skill or education to do this correctly.
Research your instructor carefully. Ask these questions to be a smart consumer:
Mastering the blend of cultural features related to accent is very specialized. To avoid wasting money and time, you owe it to yourself to determine that your instructor is highly skilled and can assist you with achieving your accent reduction goals. Many people claim to have a “program”. It is up to you as a responsible consumer to exercise caution and invest time in having your potential instructor prove to you they understand the cultural traits behind your accent.
If the instructor is an English school/grammar teacher, ESL instructor, or has a general “communication” background, ask about their specific training and experience in addressing the unique cultural features in accents such as voice and resonance. Those professionals would not have that training in these important areas. Ask what credentials or license they have. Speech-language pathologists have specific training in speech mechanics, breathing, resonance and voice. As well as holding a license and have national certification from the American Speech Language Hearing Association. Working with a speech-language pathologist would be your best approach.
Have them profile your specific cultural traits, not just missing consonant and vowel sounds. The majority of an accent is due to the cultural nuances such as intonation, muscular force and resonation. Working on the sounds is a smaller detail. If you want to change your speech to sound more American and less foreign or regional, the cultural behaviors and intensity must be the larger part of your program. Hold them accountable to identifying your specific habits and patterns you bring into your American English.
Invest your time and money wisely. Interview your instructor carefully. If they are skilled, it will be very obvious on how they can compare your speech patterns to American English.
I wish you great success,
Liz Peterson, Speech Language Pathologist and Speech Coach
Director of Speech and Voice Enterprises
Denver, Aurora Colorado