An accent refers to the sound differences produced by speakers of a dialect or—in individuals who are multi-lingual—how the sounds in an individual’s preceding languages impact the learning of an additional language. Everyone speaks with a dialect.  For individuals learning language, they will speak English with accents from their primary language. Accents reflect communication differences and are not communication disorders.  Individuals who speak accented English may elect accent modification services to improve their sound production for personal and professional reasons. Because of their specific knowledge base and training, Speech Language Pathologists play a central role in the assessment and pronunciation training of persons seeking accent modification services (American Speech Language and Hearing Association [ASHA] Scope of Practice in SLP, 2016).

In October, first-year graduate students pursing a degree in Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) were able to learn more about their role in accent modification through a collaboration with the INTO program on ISU’s campus.  Each of the 35 SLP students screened the sound skills of an international student enrolled in Academic English classes. INTO instructors, Carolyn Lasher, and Sarah Jome assisted in the scheduling of the screenings and CSD faculty and clinical educators supervised the students’ performance. The SLP students then provided a written summary of sound performance to each INTO student.  Further collaboration between the two programs provided an opportunity for each pair of students (SLP graduate student and INTO student) to interview each other about linguistic and cultural diversity issues.

SLP students reflected on their experiences and reported learning the following:

  • How sound differences result from the impact of learning two or more languages.
  • How to self-monitor their own language, simplify communication and slow their rate to ensure that they are understood.
  • How to identify sound differences when they occur
  • How challenging it is to learn English as a foreign language and how, for an international student, how one’s ability to speak a language is often better than how well they can understand.
  • How sounds, intonation, stress, and prosody may or may not impact intelligibility
  • How much they have in common with international students!