Accent reduction, in speech, are strategies to make regional accents less noticeable. A shrinking global community means people from many different countries will probably interact in a professional or even personal setting at one time or another. Deciphering spoken communication with so many different accents can be a challenge. Elocution, or speech modification, makes it easier for people to understand each other.
Businesspeople who are sensitive to the way they speak and how well they are understood by others may undertake accent reduction. Actors who wish to mask their own or learn a new speech pattern for a role also use these techniques. American actress Meryl Streep has been especially known for her varied, and authentic, accents. Non-native English speakers may seek elocution training so communication in their new language is clearer and they will have more professional opportunities.
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The first step is to find a qualified speech-language pathologist (SLP) or training program. Organizations like The American Speech Language Hearing Association can recommend certified professionals. An SLP will provide a thorough evaluation, listening to the phonology of the accent in question and devise a program to modify it. The one-on-one approach may be costly, but payment plans can be discussed before any accent reduction training begins. Classes both online and in person can be found, along with software and recordings.
One of the things any trainer or accent reduction class will do is teach the speaker to alter the way consonants and vowels are pronounced. This is accomplished by changing the way the tongue, mouth and lips are used to say the sounds. Exercises and practice are usually the best way to achieve the desired results. Additional characteristics of accents are rhythm of speech and intonation, along with stress points. These, too, will have to be altered to conform with the new accent.
The correct approach to accent reduction can be critical in retaining spontaneity in conversation. While actors can learn to say their lines in a British accent, for example, it’s much harder to speak naturally that way. Training can be geared toward conversation skills or reading scripted lines. The latter can benefit technical support or customer service workers who typically stick to a pre-written set of questions and answers when they help customers. Those seeking to alter their accents when conversing with people in a more casual setting or a business meeting should approach an accent reduction training program with that in mind.