I was recently in contact with Marcia Hoodwin, M.A., who is a Certified Speech-Language Pathologist and Corporate Speech Trainer based in Sarasota. She told me about a service that she provides to help foreign-born clients with their accents. I asked her to provide me with more information, and what she sent me is quite amusing. Take a look for yourself:
Throughout my career, I have worked with many foreign-born individuals, from all walks of life. Most of them have been hardworking, good at their careers, and ambitious. However, they were having trouble communicating effectively. This would affect their relationships with coworkers, customers, and supervisors. It would keep them from getting a job or being promoted, and would affect their self-confidence.
In general, I feel that a person having a foreign accent is a good trait. It means that the individual is at least bilingual. But if the accent is interfering with the ability to be understood, then this will create a lot of problems for the person. For example, one doctor I worked with was always afraid to ask his patient to put a sheet over him or her, because he was afraid that it would come out, like the not so nice word, “sh_t”. Or maybe you just want to ask your friend to go to the beach and it comes out like the bad word “b_tch”. One of my clients would say the word “fool” instead of “full”. You wouldn’t want to say, “You are fool”.
Most of an accent consists of pronunciation and intonation (stress) differences. For example, most languages do not have the “th” sound, so many foreign-born individuals will substitute a sound from their native language instead. They may say “tin” for “thin”. Or they may put the stress on the wrong syllable. I know from experience that this can make you unintelligible. When I was trying to speak, the little Spanish I know, in Spain, even when I was sure that my pronunciation was exact, they could not understand me. Once, I was told to just speak English.
For more information, on this topic, please call Marcia at 941-921-9533 or email her firstname.lastname@example.org. She also has a website at www.accentsaway.com.