Is Accent Coaching the same as Speech Therapy?
Despite what many sites advertise, accent reduction services, even when provided by a certified Speech Language Pathologist, are not considered speech therapy merely because an accent is not considered to be a speech or language disorder. Simply put, speech therapy implies that the client has a disorder, accent reduction coaching implies that the client does not possess a speech, language or hearing disorder that may affect their ability to acquire new sounds. If the client is suspected to have a contributing disorder, the accent coach must properly refer to the services of a licensed professional in the state.
Is American English the same as Canadian English?
Of course there is the argument about whether it's called, pop or soda, "prah-cess" or "proh-cess," tennish shoes or sneakers? However, the answer is YES in most circumstances American and Canadian English are the same. The variances between the two, in general, are minimal as compared to the English you may hear in other countries overseas, and any variation of the accent is typically accepted by most listeners with the same standards. Since every region of North America is subject to various dialectal differences, and because Montreal English borrows from both Standard Canadian or American English, as well as French influences for some vocabulary, stress and intonation patters, it's important to note that the services provided by your coaching professional will be inherently bias to the region in which they are from or grew up in. So by all means, let the semantic debates continue :)
Why use a Speech-Language Pathologist for Accent Coaching?
Although accent coaching is not considered speech therapy, there are many benefits as to why you would want to use a certified Speech Language Pathologist as an accent reduction or modification coach. The most obvious reason is that the training of a Speech Language Pathologist entail the highest level of knowledge and expertise for the acquisition of sounds or phonemes, and specifies the highest level of training for the elicitation of new motor patterns when re-learning and re-training the brain to speak a new language.
Is coaching imperative or can i improve on my own?
While there is a significant degree of improvement that occurs naturally when speaking a second language over time, many individuals are unable to take their speech to the next level without coaching. The biggest reason for this is because as second language learners, we are often deaf to the various sound variations and differences that occur in the second language, and only with auditory-training and coaching are we able to hear and make these changes necessary to properly speak the new language. There is more to this answer as well, and we can discuss all the different variables about why coaching can be an enormous benefit to your improvement; however, my favorite line that I hear from my clients is, people don't always tell me when I make a mistake, and thats why I keep making it. Considering this statement, coaching can and will serve as a safe and productive space for the improvement of your speech and communication.
Will my English skills improve with Accent Coaching?
Yes and no. Ideally, candidates designated for accent coaching or modification (as the program is heavily motor-production based) should have acquired a sufficient amount of English already, and be able to communicate to a fair degree of proficiency in their second language. However, just because you are not at the same level in English, as you are in your first language, does not mean you cannot benefit from my program. As a speech therapist by trade, and accent coach, my approach is holistic and encompasses various aspects of communication that are not limited just to pronunciation. I also provide embedded instruction of some grammar and vocabulary in my sessions, and work with you to improve your overall speaking skills and confidence.
How does the program work?
First thing we do together is meet and talk about your needs, concerns and goals. I collect background information from you that is helpful to me for the success of our program. We discuss your current situation and what is practical and realistic for you. After we have established your needs, I complete a series of 3 to 4 evaluations where I record your conversational speech and voice, as well as your pronunciation of words and sentences. Following our initial meeting, I do a detailed analysis of your speech and communication needs. I write up, in a charted format, the errors that are contributing to your accent and affecting how clear you are when speaking English. I analyze and make associations to patterns and processes that you may be doing in compensation because of your first language's sound system. I also make comments and remarks about your overall communication skills related to grammar, vocabulary, rate of speech, volume, body language and confidence level. Following my analysis I schedule a time to meet with you again and go over the results and my recommendations for the course. From there we both agree to meet weekly or bi-monthly to directly target the individual goals that are on your evaluation. I use a therapeutic and coaching based approach where I directly intervene on your sound errors when speaking English, and cue you to make the necessary changes. We work to slowly make changes to your neurological motor-pattern and change your auditory perception of sound, to establish a clearer auditory target for your new goal accent. I usually suggest a format of 10 or 14 sessions (sometimes less or more) depending on your pronunciation and overall communication needs.