An accent is the unique way of speaking typical among a group of people that speak the same language. Accents differ in the pronunciation of speech sounds (both consonants and vowels) as well as the melody, or prosody, of speech (i.e., rhythm, rate, stress, intonation). They may be characteristic of different parts of the same country (e.g., Americans from the deep South do not speak like people from New Jersey) or they may be due to learning a second language (e.g., an English speaker who learns French later in life does not sound like a native French speaker).
Speaking with an accent is NOT a speech or language disorder, but sometimes a person may want to reduce or change her accent. This is especially the case if it causes communication problems and affects others' understanding of her speech, limits job options or school achievement, or affects self-confidence.
Accent Modification Assessment and Services
Accent modification, also called accent reduction, is an elective service, meaning it is not medically necessary and will not be covered by health insurance. It should be provided by specially trained Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs). The SLP will first assess pronunciation, rhythm, stress and intonation patterns during different speech tasks such as repeating, reading aloud, and conversation.
The SLP then creates a treatment program to change the speech sounds that are most influenced by the accent. The client may also work on prosody, by repeating sentences modeled by the SLP. The program requires a great deal of home practice; typically the client records herself speaking or reading practice materials and then compares it to audio examples. The client may also have customized therapy tasks to practice real-life activities like job interviews, phone conversations, or presentations.