accent modification

Everybody has an accent. Accents are natural in spoken language because no matter what your native tongue, we all have our own spin on the languages we use – whether it’s regional or foreign.

Accents reflect our unique cultural and personal background, and are one of the first things others notice about us. Accents are often admired and celebrated. Many wildly successful people have accents that are quite obvious.

It is only when a person’s accent stymies effective communication that accent modification may be needed.

The Fort Myers accent modification program at FOCUS is never about “getting rid of” an accent. That’s because an accent is not a speech or language disorder. There is no pathology or anything “wrong” with an accent.

Rather, accent modification is about helping professionals with accents find their voice, gain confidence with that voice and ensure that voice is intelligible in the language and region where it’s used.

Some difficulties addressed with accent modification are:

  • People not being able to understand you.
  • Frustration from constantly having to repeat yourself.
  • Others concentrating more on your accent than what you’re saying.
  • Avoidance of social functions or interactions with people who might not understand you.

These kinds of conversation obstacles can adversely impact one’s educational advancement, job performance/ satisfaction reviews and everyday life interactions.

Our Accent Modification Provider

The FOCUS accent modification program is exclusively offered by Dr. Dean Funk, a retired family physician with more than three decades of experience in medicine. Dr. Funk is a native English speaker from Wisconsin who received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois and his Medical Doctorate degree from the Universidad Central del Este, Dominican Republic. He is an assistant professor at the Department of Family Medicine of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Dr. Funk speaks fluent Spanish and Chinese, and is a visiting professor at Capital University of Medical Science in Beijing, China. He is also proficient in French and has studied Latin, Greek and German.

Certified in accent modification by the Institute of Language and Phonology, Dr. Funk administers a 13-week course entitled, “Pronouncing English as a Second Language.”

The program aims to help physicians, business professionals and graduate students bolster their communication skills – and in turn, enhance their professional relationships and advance career opportunities.

“I firmly believe the better you are able to communicate, the more choices you have in society,” Dr. Funk said. “Accent modification can really help open so many doors.”

It’s Not Your Accent – It’s Your Pronunciation

Accent modification is very different from accent reduction in that the goal is not to shed your accent. The purpose is to improve your pronunciation so that others can better understand you.

Many successful people have heavy accents, yet are easily understood. It’s because they have mastered the skill of exacting pronunciation.

  • Pronunciation: The ability to pronounce words in a way that makes it intelligible to other speakers of that same language.
  • Accent: The rhythm and intonation of speech patterns specific to a region or language. There is a classic “accent trap” occurs when you pronounce words in the exact way as you would in your native language. The key is listening carefully to the way words are pronounced in the language you are learning and imitating it.

Everyone who takes on a second or subsequent language uses a set of “phonemes” from their first language. A phoneme is a sound, and each language has an intrinsic set of unique and specific sounds. We naturally try to use those phonemes when approaching the second language. In some cases, the phonemes of two languages are closely correlated. However, in other cases, learning these new phonemes is the most challenging part of correct pronunciation.

For example, Spanish does not have the “th” phoneme that is so common in English. This is why you sometimes hear native Spanish speakers pronounce English “th” words with a hard “t.” Even when you know and understand the sound, working your mouth around an unfamiliar phoneme can be challenging.

Accent modification will identify the specific phonemes in your speech creating barriers to communication and address those.

How Accent Modification Works

Dr. Funk begins the accent modification process by assessing one’s ability with a verbal test of about 95 phonemes. He takes samples of speech and identifies which phonemes to be targeted and with what degree of frequency.

From there, Dr. Funk outlines a program addressing each phoneme one at a time, relying on the International Phonetic Alphabet to simplify the process.

While the 13-week course is a time investment, it’s still less than the typical 15-week college semester. The long-term professional and personal benefits will last a lifetime.

The Institute of Language and Phonology was founded in 1976. The Pronouncing English as a Second Language program picks up where conventional English as a Second Language courses end. Each accent modification course is customized to address your unique accent habits and the proficiency your pronunciation.

We begin at word-level pronunciation, but effective communication goes beyond that. It involves something called “prosody.” This is the musical nature of language sounds that influence word meaning.

Prosody focuses on intonation, tone, rhythm and stress. It can reflect various features of the phrase or speaker. For example, questions end in a higher pitch. The way we emphasize words in a sentence can impact their meaning. Prosody can make it clear when we are issuing a command or making a statement. We can infuse sarcasm, irony, focus, contrast or emphasis – all with prosody.

Particularly for those who work in professions where precise communication is key, mastering effective prosody is crucial.

By the final testing phase, the average participant in this accent modification program scores a 50 percent or better improvement in clarity.

Who Benefits From Accent Modification

Professionals who have benefited from accent modification are people from all walks of life, including:

  • Doctors
  • Physician Assistants
  • Nurses
  • Professors/ Teachers
  • Graduate Students
  • Sales Professionals
  • Airline Pilots
  • Law Enforcement Officers
  • Computer Programmers
  • Engineers
  • Receptionists
  • Clergy
  • Business Owners

Many large corporations have sought these services to improve communication among their diverse workforce.

In general, most participants are competent in English as a second language and are either a graduate student or other professional adult. Dr. Funk has a special interest in the language of medicine and working with doctors and other health care providers to improve communication with patients, other health care workers and administrators.

Call Us Today!

FOCUS Fort Myers accent modification services are competitively priced, and Dr. Funk is one of the only providers in Southwest Florida. If you are considering accent modification, Dr. Funk offers free screenings.

Scheduling of appointments is flexible.