Why speak standard-American English?
As a certified Speech-Language Pathologist, one of the biggest complaints I hear while working in a medical facility is “I can’t understand a word my doctor says!” The United States of America is a true melting pot. We are also a land of opportunity for foreign medical students. These opportunities may present challenges when standard-American English is your second language.
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For example, imagine being a senior citizen who is hard of hearing. When they try to listen to a non-American English accent then the communication barriers explode. As a patient, we tend to just shake our heads and say we understand, even if we don’t. Some medical professionals do take further steps to make sure their patients understand. Simple steps like asking “do you understand what I’m saying?”, “can you tell me what I just instructed you to do?”
In my professional opinion, the ultimate responsibility should lie on the medical providers' shoulders. They took an oath to provide ethical medical care to save lives and help patients to manage their physical ills. If the majority of your patient population are American-English speaking (this article is referring to the USA), and American-English is YOUR second language, it would be in your best interest to be mindful of how your native-born language may be interfering with your English speaking skills.
Notice I’m not referring to your English language skills. Typically, medical providers are highly skilled and efficient with English language grammar and syntax. I am referring to how their native language intonations, rate of speech, and pronunciations intermix with their American-English speech productions. Herein lie the communication barriers. To find out if your native language is influencing your standard-American English skills, take note of how often you are asked to repeat yourself during a day. If it happens enough that you notice and find it irritating, you may want to consider taking a training course that targets standard-American English accent training.
How do I master my standard-American English skills?
The problem is obvious but what about the solution? As a patient, if you feel your quality of care is being compromised due to a communication barrier, you can always look for a new doctor, or be open and honest with your doctor about not understanding them. As a professional, you can continue on your current course and make no changes, or you can pursue speech coaching classes.
Before you can master SAE skills, it is important to realize if the problem is native language interference or is it American-English grammar? One must be proficient in grammar and syntax before accent modification is to be targeted and efficient. If you are unsure if your native language is interfering with your American-English speech production, ask a few friends and who’s opinions you value. But this is YOUR career. This could mean YOUR promotion. You may have graduated top in your class or be an international research superstar, but if no one can understand the knowledge your sharing, then what’s the point?
How to move forward
Those who already speak English as a second language have greater success with standard-American English (SAE) training. In order to master standard-American English, you have to do the work. That means, practicing what your instructor teaches every day. Those who practice the targeted sounds with use of auditory feedback tend to perform better than those who don't. Bottom line, practice is progress.
As you will learn, it is not only just the words you use, it is how you say it. We look at your rate of speech, your prosody (intonation), your pronunciations, and how you piece it all together. If you want to master SAE, you will need to take a course of some kind. Buying books to help you is helpful. I've read through several of them, yet, I find some of the teachings to be fairly confusing. Yet, if self-study is what you prefer, I may just have what you are looking for.
I developed a short FREE mini-course that provides the core of information of speech production. After taking this course, you will have a better understanding of the “how’s” and “why’s” of accent reduction training. But this free course is NOT the complete accent reduction training course. This free course lays the foundation of how sounds are produced, so you have a better transition with minimizing your native language influences while speaking.
Keep working on your standard-American English!
Once you learn the basics of how to adjust your native language influences upon SAE, you will be able to work independently using the learned techniques. The purpose of this article was to introduce you to options to learn how to master the art of speaking with clear standard-American English skills. Whichever course you choose, remember, practice makes PROGRESS!
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