This short video is designed to give you an overview of the 4 general areas we work on with accent coaching. If you have more questions, feel free to send an email to schedule a free 15 minute consultation. This video is going to be simplified to really give an overview understanding.
Also to note- with All About Accents, my goal is not just to teach these areas, memorization, and drilling. My goal is to give tips for the individual accent student to be self-empowered- for you to learn tricks and tips to increase your self awareness of your speaking patterns to improve!
Let’s jump into the four areas of accent coaching:
I. Sound Pronunciation
Most people probably immediately think about pronunciation of sounds when thinking about accent lessons. Concerns come up like- “I have trouble pronouncing the “L” sound” or “English vowels are really complicated." With accent coaching, we do a full assessment of consonant and vowel pronunciation, and in different parts of words. We also examine how your native language is influencing how you pronounce sounds in English- like “does the “th” sound exist in your native language- or the /æ/ vowel sound? (/æ/ is the International Phonetic Alphabet symbol for the vowel in band)”
Again, I am simplifying the category of “pronunciation” a little bit, because we also look at sound rules and patterns (or “phonological processes). But, understand that accent lessons work on consonant and vowel sounds in English, with tips to help you become aware of difficult sounds that may not exist in your native language. Consonant clusters are also in this category- pronouncing clusters of consonants together can be tricky if these combinations do not exist in your native language.
II. Syllable Stress/ Syllable Reduction
Syllable stress has to do with what syllable receives stress in a word, and this does affect how you sound in English. For example, think of these three words photograph, photographic, and photography. Each of these words change part of speech and change which syllable has the stress, and it is important to know where to stress the syllable to sound natural.
In this category, I really enjoy working on common words where it is natural for American speakers to drop a syllable. For example, a word like ba-si-ca-lly appears to have 4 syllables, but it is natural for American speakers to say this word as 3 syllables- "basically." Or Ca-me-ra is broken down into 3 syllables, but it is natural to say it as 2 syllables- "camera." There are lots of common words like this that don’t follow “rules”- so it is helpful to become aware of syllable stress and dropping syllables.
III. Word Stress
Word stress has to do with which word you stress in a sentence. For example, "I went to the white house" and "I went to the White House" are the same sentence with two different meanings based on what word you stress. Some languages have different word stress patterns that English, so it is important for some students to practice word stress during accent coaching.
Intonation, or “melody” of a language is made up of pitches that rise and fall. These melodies communicate our intentions and emotions, and replaces punctuation when speaking. For example, “wh” questions in English have a falling intonation (where your voice lowers at the end of the sentence), and “yes/no” questions have a rising intonation at the end of the sentence. Emotions communicated through intonation include anger, surprise, confusion, hesitation, sarcasm, interest, lack of interest, surprise, etc. Without understanding intonation in your speech, intentions can be misunderstood, causing cultural and communication breakdowns.
Sometimes students may be misunderstood because they speak English well, but there is a communication breakdown based on emotion expressed in a statement. Think about how breakdowns my occur because a non-native speaker of English may sound “monotone” to listeners. I enjoy working on “wavering intonation” or emotion in English- it feels like your inner actor is coming out to exaggerate emotion behind speaking.
I hope that this video was helpful at really learning about what accent coaching is, broken down into 4 general areas- Sound Pronunciation, Syllable Stress/ Syllable Reduction, Word Stress, and intonation. There are more general tips outside these areas that may be worked on to sound more like a native speaker, and these were simplified to help new students understand accent coaching.
If you have further questions about accent coaching, or would like to discuss your accent needs and goals, please e-mail me at this email below to schedule a free 15 minute online consultation:
Enjoy speaking English with confidence and your language journey!
Leann Rhoades, M.S. CCC-SLP
Accent Coach/ Speech Language Pathologist
All About Accents