Accent Reduction

We typically refer to what our clients would call “accent reduction” as “accent modification” or “accent acquisition.” An “accent” or “dialect” refers to the manner in which certain sounds are created/pronounced, coupled with the intonation and stress patterns of a person’s speech. Whether noticeable or subtle, everyone has an accent! An accent is usually a clue as to where the speaker was born or where the speaker has spent a great deal of time. Your native language, geographic location, and cultural background influence the way you articulate sounds while speaking. Your accent can influence the way you come across to listeners, which may or may not accurately reflect how you wish to be perceived. Some people find their ability to fully express themselves limited by their accent and seek a sound they feel is more “neutral” or clear to the listeners of the language they are speaking.

With accent reduction/acquisition, you will learn how to produce a neutral, Standard American Dialect. Do not think of this as replacing your natural accent; rather, it will be an additional skill to use to your advantage. The end goal is not to standardize your speech for the sake of homogeneity, but to equip you with the tools necessary to express yourself as you feel most comfortable.

Many clients seek accent reduction in order to improve communication skills for business, public speaking, presentations, social situations, and acting.

Dialects and accents can sometimes cause limitations in these areas, as they can prevent people from being understood clearly and communicating as effectively as possible. Learning a Standard American Dialect can be enormously beneficial in today’s professional settings where global and multilingual audiences are common.

The biggest factor in changing an accent has to do with adjusting the alignment of your vocal anatomy - the jaw position, tongue position, lip position, and other physical factors. Additional steps include altering the pronunciation of specific sounds and learning the inflection (or “rhythm/cadence”) of the new accent.

We initially diagnose what the most glaring differences are between your current accent and the one you would like to acquire. This enables us to tailor-make our priorities for getting results that will make the largest impact straightaway. Next, we engage in conditioning drills so that you can effectively train your anatomy to achieve the new positions through practice. Finally, we work up to conversational speed and inflection.

Yes! Accents and dialects can certainly be assets. Rest assured that working on reducing your accent will not prevent you from speaking with your current accent or dialect in the future.

Just as learning a new language does not prevent you from speaking in your original language, you’ll always have your original accent as an option. In addition, you will feel confident with a Standard American Dialect and be able to go back and forth between multiple ways of speaking based on your comfort level in different situations.

At New York Speech Coaching, we celebrate all accents and only seek to endow those who desire greater clarity with the tools to achieve standard American.

As you might imagine, this varies. The primary contributing factors are the disparity between base and desired level of proficiency, how much practicing is performed outside of sessions, and the student’s natural affinity for this kind of work. If the accent is subtle and the student is very receptive to changes, the process can be as short as a few sessions. Other times, the process is longer, and can take some months. In all cases, we would love to help you to feel confident with a Standard American Dialect as quickly as possible. Changing your speaking takes patience, but once achieved, the results are there for a lifetime. Though we can better assess a timeline at the end of your first lesson, a general expectation might be:

  • 4-6 hours: Basic understanding of exercises you can use to improve.
  • 6-10 hours: Marked improvement. This is the stage at which most notice a difference in the ease of speaking clearly.
  • 10-20 hours: Dramatic improvement. Pronunciation tends to be extremely well-executed, albeit not at a conversational speed.
  • 20+ hours: We are able to incorporate speed, rhythm, and inflection as well. Many people feel very comfortable with a standard American dialect at this juncture.

First, yes, we likely have experience training people who share your native language. We have worked with clients from almost all continents and major languages.

Second, if one is attempting to learn Standard American, because the end goal is the same, the role one’s native language plays in coaching is actually nominal.

Practically speaking, the two words are frequently used interchangeably. Historically, though, an “accent” refers to a speaker’s efforts at pronouncing sounds in a language that is not his or her native one. A “dialect” refers to variations in vocabulary, intonation, and ways to pronounce sounds within a single language.

For example, if a native Spanish speaker learns English, they will often pronounce English sounds with a “Spanish accent.” A dialect refers most often to variations in vocabulary and ways to pronounce sounds within a language. For example, in the United States, one might speak American English with a “Southern dialect” or a “Midwestern dialect.”

Absolutely! If you are looking to acquire a new accent, whether as an actor preparing for a role or simply for fun, we offer dialect coaching for a variety of foreign accents and regional dialects. We feel comfortable training for most dialects. If you have a question about a particularly obscure one (e.g. Northeast Kuwait circa 1650), please inquire.

Dialect coaching is training your voice so that you feel comfortable using an accent or dialect other than your own.

It is a service primarily sought by actors who need to play a character from a different country or region.

According to the depth of specificity required, the length of time to master a new dialect varies. A basic competency with an accent can be gained in a lesson or two, but to become fully fluent with the sounds may take weeks or months.

In most cases, an actor is given sides or a script. For an audition, one need not master the dialect, rather, just display comfort with the audition sides. If cast in a role, you will want to become fluent in the sounds, rhythm, and intonation which can take a number of weeks or months.