How Did You Become An Accent Specialist? My Story

Sep 12, 2019

Lesson 8

One of the questions that I am asked most often is:

How did you become an Accent Specialist?

Short Answer: I got lucky enough to find real students who let me work with them for free even though I had no idea what I was doing. And then I got better with experience.

Long Answer: Keep reading.

I’m a Speech-Language Pathologist and I started specializing in teaching accents and dialects (also known as accent reduction or accent modification if you are teaching the American accent) about 20 years ago.

I had just gotten my Master’s degree in Speech Pathology and was working in a hospital/voice clinic setting, then Early Intervention, but I didn't enjoy either. Although I loved helping people communicate, I felt completely overwhelmed and inexperienced in dealing with all the many different disorders that I was expected to treat. There was also a ton of traveling from place to place and too many really difficult cases where the patients worked so hard but made very little improvement.

Just a few months after graduating, I was totally burned out.

Then I started hearing about accent modification. I loved the idea of teaching accents and I knew a bit about phonetics and pronunciation, but I had no idea how to turn what I knew into a real program that would permanently change a person’s speech. 

This was in 2000, and there were not many accent teacher training programs available. Online learning was not yet an option. 

In college, I think we covered accent modification for about 30 minutes, and that was it. My options were pretty limited as far as training and education.

So, I decided to just do it on my own.

I just went for it. Found a few students. Did some sessions for free for the experience. Made a ton of mistakes but learned from each one. My first sessions were not great, but I got better each time.

I worked hard to get great results for my students and new students came to me by word of mouth. After a year or two, I had enough students to teach accents full time. It was with these students from all over the world that I was able to develop and refine my method of teaching.

I learned which sounds are problematic for different native languages and the best order to teach them. I learned how important rhythm is to being easily understood. I learned what works with this very specific type of student who wants to learn a new accent or improve pronunciation and what sends them running for the hills!  (only a few have run;)

After 20 years and several thousand students, I can honestly say that I have a method of teaching accents and pronunciation that really works. I always get noticeable, permanent results for my students. 

But it didn’t happen overnight and I know it's not easy to get started! I had to learn a lot on my own, through direct work with real students. And it took quite a while before I could actually say, “Hey! I’m really good at this!”

There is still not a lot of information or training out there for someone who wants to teach accents or become an accent reduction/modification specialist.   I’m hoping to change that by sharing my experiences and my best tips and strategies for effective accent training here at Teachers School at The Accent Channel.

I’ll hope you’ll join me here each week for expert tips and free resources for teaching accents, dialects, and English pronunciation.  

Thanks for reading and letting me share my story!

Jessica

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