Why Accents Can Be Difficult to Understand

Could accent modification be beneficial for you? Are you a non-native speaker of English? Did you learn English in your country of origin? Are you frequently asked to repeat what you have said? Do you feel uncomfortable meeting new people because you know they may not understand what you say? Do the people who you have contact with on a daily basis also have difficulty understanding you?  Do you think you have missed opportunities because of your accent?

Individuals tend to use the rules from their first language when learning another language.  As a result, errors are made in their non-native language. The substitution of speech sounds that are familiar for less familiar sounds leads to the production of words that are not pronounced accurately. This can cause a listener to misunderstand the speaker’s message.

When vowel sounds are mispronounced, words with completely different meanings are produced.  Non-native speakers from a variety of language backgrounds sometimes substitute an “ah” sound for a “short a” sound.  As a result, the word “map” sounds like “mop.”  A statement such as, “Don’t forget to bring the map, “sounds like, “Don’t forget to bring the mop.” Another vowel error that is common is the substitution of a “long e” sound for a “short i” sound. When this substitution is made, the word “ship” sounds like “sheep.” The question, “Do you see the ship?” sounds like, “Do you see the sheep?

Speech-language pathologists design individualized plans for their clients who pursue accent modification programs. This plan includes improving a client’s accuracy in producing the vowel and consonant sounds that are mispronounced. It might also address the use of appropriate grammar, sentence structure, word choices, expressions, syllable and word stress, and other rhythmical aspects of American English.
Participation in an accent modification program is an investment in your future.