Commonly known as accent reduction, accent modification helps to make systematic changes to your speech to help you communication skills. Despite good intentions, the concept of accent modification can draw some negative attention. Let's shed light on what it really is, and hopefully show you why accent modification is not 'bad'!
Will it remove my accent completely?
The most common question asked about accent modification is if it will completely remove someone's accent. The answer is 'No'. It is impossible to remove one's accent because everyone has an accent regardless of where they are from (and this is why many professionals choose not to call it accent reduction anymore).
Accent modification helps make changes to an accent so their speech can sound more clear to more listeners. Take English for example: accent modification can help you distinguish between all the different sounds of English.
There is a misconception that accent modification will remove one's cultural identity. This is not true! Many people are okay with having an accent and see it as a sign of one's heritage and knowledge of multiple languages. Worry not - you will not lose your native accent that often is a sign of cultural identity! Accent modification is about helping to improve your communication skills and speak more clearly to listeners. It will not remove your native accent, nor does it mean that having an accent is 'bad'. A Speech Language Pathologist is interested in adding to your communication skills, rather than working to remove an accent entirely.
If my accent changes over time just by living here, why bother with a service?
It is true that if you move to an English speaking country and stay for several years, your accent can change naturally over time. Accents are a product of your environment, so being immersed in a foreign language can slowly influence how you speak non-native languages. However, this does not happen for everyone, and everyone's speech changes in a different way. Sometimes a language has certain sounds that you just did not know exist, because you cannot hear the difference!
Learning to hear, distinguish, and produce all the sounds of a language can be a slow process that takes many years. Accent modification can help you communicate better at a faster rate, as you'll be consciously taking part in exercises to improve your pronunciation. How fast you progress depends on how much commitment you want to put in.
Why change an accent?
The biggest reason for using accent modification is to improve your communication skills.
Have you ever had to repeat yourself because the listener did not understand what you said? Do you often have friends speaking on your behalf? Have you ever felt 'out of place' or awkward because you're not sure if people will understand you?
Overall, employers rank first impressions as the second most important factor in hiring. So before an employer learns about your qualifications, they've already made a decision. This impression is made up of your mannerisms, facial expressions, and even your handshake. In a study with 273 managers, 60 percent cited the quality of 'banter' and 'small talk' as a factor in their hiring decision.
Those are all valid reasons to use accent modification to improve your communication skills. In addition, it can be helpful when speaking at interviews, or even at a court case!
Overall, accent modification is not 'bad'. It is a useful service for those who seek to improve their communication skills in a non-native language. It should be noted that actors use this all the time to perform their roles! However there's nothing stopping you from being able to use it to improve yourself. Gain confidence and be noticed for what you say, not how you speak!