CCHI Community:Certified Interpreters

Use Science to Self-Assess Your Accent

To begin your English pronunciation self-assessment, read the following paragraph through once silently to yourself so that you are familiar with the content. Then record yourself on your phone as you read the paragraph out loud at medical appointment conversational speed (fast!).

 

"Last month I was referred to your colleague Dr. Smythe for evaluation of my left-sided weakness. My right side was not affected by the stroke. Before this stroke, I had already fallen several times due to poor balance. Now, sitting and standing can both be difficult as I try to remain upright. The thought of slipping and tripping scares me. Therapy was prescribed to help me improve balance and I do feel safer moving about. Now, I worry about swallowing safely, especially soft and slippery substances. What would work well and be easy to follow?"

 

First, listen to your own recording. Have you ever heard a recording of yourself talking about health topics in English before? Make a note of the sounds and words that do not sound clear or properly accented.

This task may be challenging for you, as it is often difficult for non-native speakers of any language to notice their own pronunciation differences and errors. For this reason, the second step is to have a friend who is a native speaker of English listen to the recording of your voice. Because he or she is your friend they will already have learned to ignore many of your accented speech patterns and pronunciation challenges. People who are familiar with certain foreign-accents often learn to “fill-in the gaps” and correctly guess the intended meaning behind mispronounced words. However, if you ask your friend to listen with a “critical ear” they will still be able to point out which sounds could be pronounced more clearly and which syllables are stressed incorrectly.

Here is the paragraph again, with the accented syllable in each word in red color, and the accented words in each sentence underlined. Listen to your recording again and see if your accented syllables and words match the guide. Accented syllables and words need to have the beginning and ending letters clearly sounded.

 

"Last month I was referred to your colleague Dr. Smythe for evaluation of my left-sided weakness. My right side was not affected by the stroke. Before this stroke, I had already fallen several times due to poor balance. Now, sitting and standing can both be difficult as I try to remain upright. The thought of slipping and tripping scares me. Therapy was prescribed to help me improve my balance and I do feel safer moving about. Now, I worry about swallowing safely, especially soft and slippery substances. What would work well and be easy to follow?"

 

Once an interpreter has started on her quest to optimize her accent and intelligibility, there is scientific support available. Conference interpreters have long paid close attention to their accents. NCIHC recently produced a webinar on accent modification filled with great explanations and resources. This is available free to all members of NCIHC and for a small fee to others. There are also enjoyable free YouTube workshops on accent modification for interpreters, as well as commercial accent assessment and modification services. Look for more on accent modification here, on the CCHI website, and in our newsletter soon.

 

Great tool for learning:

http://soundsofspeech.uiowa.edu/

NCIHC webinar page: http://www.ncihc.org/home-for-trainers-14---accent-modification

Happy adventures on your path to optimizing your accent!

 

Content by Amber D. Franklin, Ph.D., CCC-SLP.

Concept and contribution by: Linda Golley, CCHI Commissioner.