Andrea Lau, SLP
Strategies for Success in Accent Modification!
When learning new consonants and vowel sounds that you previously had not been able to pronounce, read on to find out the step-by-step method that can help you achieve your accent modification goals.
Vowel and consonant goals concern contrasts that the client is not making in English. Initially the client must first establish a baseline performance at each level. When the client reaches the criterion, then the next level can be targeted.
Level 1: Same/Different Discrimination
The client first listens to minimal pairs (words that differ by one sound) with the consonant contrast (e.g., 'bit' vs. 'beet'). I will typically present three "same" and seven "different" pairs from the minimal pair list in random order with no feedback, and ask the client to accurately identify and auditorily discriminate between the pairs. After the first probe, I would explain what difference the client should be listening for.
Level 2: Categorization (discrimination in identification labeling)
When clients can hear that two sounds are different, they are trained to label each one correctly. For example, one sound at a time is presented to the client by the clinician. The client points to a word or symbol to indicate which consonant/vowel is heard. At this time - notice that we will not be focusing on repeating the target words just yet. If the client is hearing the word inaccurately, the repetition of the word by the client will also be inaccurate.
Level 3: Production of contrasts in minimal pairs
Now that the client can hear the English contrast and knows which sounds belong in which category, accurate production of the contrast becomes the goal (e.g., practicing saying out loud "bit" vs. "beet"). Some individuals may need a minimal articulatory placement explanation/instruction, whereas others may need extensive training. The key step of generalization of this sound to other parts of words is necessary before moving to Level 4.
Level 4: Vocabulary words
At this point, now that the client can hear and make the targeted vowel contrast with increased accuracy, new vocabulary can be learned more accurately. Because most clients are working professionals, it is important to extend the use of the vowels to previously learned professional vocabulary words that are not pronounced clearly. I will often ask the client to use vocabulary words in sentences and longer descriptions that are professional relevant.
These 4 levels of learning the sounds in a new accent is just a snippet of the larger context of accent modification. I will be sure to share more in future posts about the other aspects, including sentence stress and rhythm, grammatical errors, voice and tone, as well as idiomatic expressions that all make up the process of changing your accent. Thanks for reading!
Schmidt, A.M. 1997. Working With Adult Foreign Accent: Strategies for Intervention. CICSD. https://doi.org/10.1044/cicsd_24_S_47