Some Insights I've Gained Through My Accented Clients
My main role as a speech trainer is to help people to become clear, comfortable, confident communicators. Sometimes this involves changing the accented sounds or rhythm patterns in their speech that make them difficult to understand, especially to unfamiliar listeners and when they are on the phone.
Under stress, people tend to speak faster or with less finesse. Many of my clients express frustration with being asked to repeat themselves. Many tell me that they sometimes speak fast or in a low volume to "get it over with," or "hide," which, of course, only compounds the problem of intelligibility. Non-native speakers want to better understand the nuances of the language, so that they feel more in control of their speech; some say they would speak up more if they were more confident in the way they sounded.
As a speech trainer, I help my clients learn not only how to produce new speech patterns, but also how to feel comfortable doing so.
Accent modification is a tricky and complex subject. The goal is never to erase any part of a speaker's identity, past, or culture. Your speech and your voice are an intricate part of who you are. Clients usually catch on faster, the more comfortable they are with themselves, their native culture, and the new culture they are acclimating to. So a big part of accent modification is learning to become comfortable with one's "voice." People often make discoveries during the process of exploring their voice and speech capabilities. What my accent modification clients often tell me is that through working on their speech, they have become more comfortable not only with their speech, but with themselves, in general. And those who have taken voice/speech therapy often end up being better speakers than the majority of people, because they have truly learned how to use their voices properly, authentically, and more effectively.
Your speech is an integral part of who you are. And to be sure, it takes courage to change. But in my experience, and in that of my clients, the rewards are worth it.