So, you have decided that you want to hire someone to help you improve/reduce your accent, but how do you find the right person for the job? Given that you will be investing time and money into this process, you want to make sure that you find not only a good instructor, but a good partner for your journey ahead.
- Setting of choice
- Qualifications and training
- Valid, objective method for evaluating your speech
- Approach to teaching and reasons for choosing those techniques
- Expectations of you between sessions (potential homework)
- Consistent measurement of your progress and ability to quantify how much improvement you have made when you are done
- Estimate for how long it may take you to reduce your accent
In order to assess this, a potential instructor should be able to answer the following questions:
The setting you choose is important. The more individual training you receive, the more likely you will be able to improve at a faster rate. By working one-on-one with someone, your instructor can tailor each session to your needs only. You will not have to work on sounds that you do not need to work on or wait while an instructor is working with another client. Learn more about why working one-on-one, in-person with an instructor can be helpful.
2) What are your qualifications for teaching me how to change my accent?
While not required, many people who teach accent modification have a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. They have received training that will allow them to evaluate, treat and track your progress accurately. They can provide you with appropriate help and feedback that others have not been taught. They have read the latest research to know which treatments are most effective.
3) How will you evaluate my speech?
The instructor should talk about terms such as speech perception, articulation, stress and intonation, all of which are important in order to reduce your accent.
4) What methods do you use to teach?
An instructor should be able to tell you what types of activities you will do together and explain why he/she is teaching using those methods. In other words, he/she should be using methods that have been proven (through research) to be effective. He/she should also teach you in an organized, systematic way.
5) Will I have to do homework?
The answer should be, absolutely/yes. In order for you to generalize your speech, or say new sounds while you’re talking without having to think too much about how to make those sounds, you will need to practice consistently.
6) How will you measure my progress?
Instructors should take data each week so that they know how much more accurate you are able to say each new sound in increasingly difficult contexts and whether they can begin to assign you harder tasks. They should be sharing this data with you so you know how quickly you are making progress. This will also help you know how much improvement you have made at the end of your time with your instructor.
7) How long will it take to change my accent (The #1 question everyone wants to know)?
If an instructor promises he/she can change your accent in 5-7 sessions, be careful. Unless you have a very mild accent, it is highly unlikely you will be able to change your accent that quickly. It takes time to learn new sounds, time to practice them and time to generalize them so you can say these sounds without having to think about how to say them.
If the potential instructor is unable to answer all of these questions to your satisfaction, it should be a red flag and you should look elsewhere.
If you need any clarification about the answers to these questions, please feel free to contact me so that I can explain in more detail.
PS - My next post will be in two weeks, as I will be taking some time off. Thanks for reading!