What are the benefits of having Caroline, a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), as an instructor?
As an Illinois-licensed speech-language pathologist, Caroline's education and clinical experience have prepared her to be an expert in speech and language acquisition. She has experience assisting children with delayed speech development to acquire the native sounds of American English. She also has extensive knowledge and clinical skills to help adults gain back communication abilities following impairments from brain injuries or strokes. Add to this her experience with understanding the science of speech (mechanics, how we shape our tongue/articulators), combined with the social aspects of language (how we relate to people). This makes her uniquely able to assist you so that you learn the correct way to improve your accent the FIRST time.
Another thing that sets Caroline apart is she's able to measure your results and provide you with a percentage change at the end of your program. Not to mention, she's specifically trained in accent modification, and nationally certified by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA).
Besides being an SLP, Caroline has walked in your shoes as a second language learner of French. She understands the vulnerabilities you may have with English because she experiences the same frustrations when speaking French. Her previous experience in the corporate field also helps her understand the demands corporate professionals face when speaking. But despite all of this, let’s not forget she is a native-speaking American with a neutral accent who is able to give you honest feedback, not only as an expert, but especially as a friend.
What is an accent?
An accent is the unique way that speech is pronounced by a group of people associated with a particular nation, locality, or social class. There are generally two distinct types:
Foreign Accents - for example, someone who was raised speaking Spanish and later learns English as an adult, they will sound different from someone who was raised speaking English primarily. A foreign accent occurs when the speech and sound patterns of the native language act as barriers to the pronunciation of the new language being learned.
Regional Accents - for example, people who are from Alabama often sound different than people who are from New York.
What is American accent training?
American accent training is a systematic approach to learning the speech patterns and the sound system of the English language with the focus on the American accent.
Training involves undergoing an accent assessment to identify your personal pronunciation patterns that need to be modified. Sessions target self-listening skills combined with the production of sound and speech patterns at the word, sentence, paragraph, and conversational level to increase your communication skills in American English. You will learn to improve your targeted vowel and consonant sounds combined with altering your speech patterns, such as rate of speech, intonation, word and syllable stress, and vocal intensity. Accent Savvy's program is designed to mimic the natural pronunciation order we learn as a child, thereby maximizing the effectiveness and minimizing the effort needed to change your accent patterns.
Additional components that may be built into the program include learning American idioms and slang, fine-tuning grammar, voice skills, presentation and public speaking skills, and enhancing interviewing skills.
How much can I improve my accent?
Given you are motivated and practice on average an hour per day, you can expect at least a 50 to 60% improvement level. Keep in mind, improvement depends again on your motivation level combined with the amount of time you dedicate to the practice plans. Those who spend more time on practicing may reach even higher levels up to 70% improvement, conversely, those who spend less time improve less. It will take time and repetitive practice for your newly learned speech patterns to become more automatic when speaking American English.
Can I completely lose my accent?
There are some that have done it, but generally it's less than a five percent chance. Research shows that people who learn a second-language beyond the age of puberty, do not acquire native-like pronunciation due to neurological factors. Studies show there is a critical period during brain development in which children have the ability to efficiently acquire the sounds of their language. However, this region of the brain eventually matures and becomes inactive around the age of 15 and following completion of primary language learning. Obviously you are still able to learn languages after this time, but instead a second language will get filtered through the initial sound system you learned for your primary language resulting in an accent. Due to this primary language sound system ingrained in your brain, it will prove difficult to completely lose your accent.
On TV and in movies, it may appear easy for actors to switch between accents, however we don't see how many hours that go into acquiring their new voice. Often times, actors study each sentence of their script several times prior to performing. They may also have on-set coaching and are able to complete several takes of a couple lines before achieving the right accent. Add to this post-editing such as when voices are dubbed over video takes. The combination of these processes make it appear easy to gain authentic accents when it really is not. However, it is possible to soften your accent at least 50 to 70% or more depending on your time commitment, your goals, and your motivation level. In turn, you will be better understood, and people will focus less on your accent and more on what you have to say.
How much do your programs cost?
Courses start at $495. Please see this link to private program rates.
What type of payment do you accept?
All Major Credit and Bank Cards
Are your online training programs just as effective as in-person?
Yes, given that you meet all the technical requirements to do so (see below). Receiving training online is also more flexible to meet the demands of your busy schedule. It allows you to receive instruction in the privacy and comfort of your own home or workplace.
What are the technical requirements to receive training online?
To receive training on Skype or Google, you will need a computer or a laptop with a web camera and a microphone. For optimal results, a headset with a microphone is recommended which will help you hear and produce the sounds more clearly. Most modern computers and laptops have these capabilities, but please see below for more details:
Web Camera with at least 15 frames per second (fps)
High Speed Internet connection with at least 150 kbps speed
Skype or Google account (free online)
At least 2 GB of RAM
At least 1 GHZ Processor
Headset / headphones with microphone suggested for optimal results
Will learning the American accent cause me to lose my identity?
No, this training will teach you the skills to use American pronunciation in situations when you want to be understood more easily. Generally, it's very difficult to completely eliminate an accent. Rather you will learn how to "soften" your accent so that you may be more clearly understood while still retaining your identity. Many clients come away with a "worldly" accent following training due to the combination of the American pronunciation with their primary language.
A more neutral accent is valued in the U.S. workplace. According to a 2010 research study by the University of Chicago, American participants rated non-native foreign speakers as less truthful than native American speakers based on trivia statements read out loud. Researchers stated that the American participants were wrongly associating the difficulty of understanding the non-native speech to the credibility of the statements.
Accent is one of the factors that influences people's perception of foreigners in a society including the workplace. But accent discrimination is hard to determine. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an employer may not base an employment decision on a person's foreign accent, unless the accent seriously interferes with the person's job performance. Consequently, employers will often require effective communication skills as being necessary to the position.
Where does training take place?
Training is available from the comforts of your home worldwide through Skype or Google. Training is also available in-person, by appointment only, downtown Chicago at 200 W. Madison (Madison and Wells) right next to the Washington/Wells CTA Brown/Pink/Orange/Purple lines. We are also a quick 5 minute walk to Ogilvie Train Station, or a 10 minute walk to Union Station.
Do you provide other services besides accent training?
Yes, additional components can be built into your accent program which may include learning American slang and idioms, fine-tuning grammar, voice skills, presentation and public speaking skills, and enhancing interviewing skills. Please let us know at the beginning of your program what you are most interested in.
Do you teach accent acquisition for other languages? (i.e. Irish Accent)
At this time, we primarily provide instruction for the neutral American English accent. For actors, the American accent or French accent is available.
What are the benefits of American accent training?
Improves American English Pronunciation
Increases Communication Confidence
Opportunities for Career Advancement
Improves Professional Relationships
Enhances Public Speaking Skills
Better Presentation Skills
Less Repeating of Yourself
Enhances Professional Image
Improves Telephone Speaking Abilities
Who can benefit from American accent training?
Anyone who is motivated to increase their American English communication skills such as non-native speakers or Americans with regional accents. Our typical clients include: business executives, doctors and medical professionals, media personalities, communication professionals, public speakers, professors and teachers, customer service or call center representatives, business owners, hospitality professionals, IT professionals, engineers, clergy, actors, telemarketers, salespeople, social marketers, vloggers, or any accented person seeking better communication and career advancement.
How proficient in English must I be? How is ESL different?
Generally, you must have a good command of English before partaking in this training. We suggest at least a 5th grade speaking level. This course is not an ESL class (English as a Second Language). Rather it's the training you would take after ESL classes.
There are few ESL programs that provide the training required to establish adequate pronunciation skills. The result is that most people learn the vocabulary, written skills, and grammar of English but still remain poorly prepared to speak and be understood in their second language. This is where Accent Savvy courses pick up to help fine-tune your English pronunciation and language skills.
Do you participate in the F-1 Visa / Form I-20 Program?
No. At this time we do not participate in the U.S. government's program to gain an F-1 Visa. For those seeking this option, please refer to the schools at the following link: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/school-search