In the musical My Fair Lady, Henry Higgins bets he can turn a low-born, Cockney flower girl into a duchess, simply by helping her refine her accent. Accents, however, are a natural part of spoken language, and (sorry, Professor Higgins!) no one accent is better than another. But there are people who feel self-conscious of how they speak and fear that a heavy accent limits employment opportunities and their ability to be easily understood by others.
To this end, the fair staff and graduate students at Hofstra’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, located at the Joan and Arnold Saltzman Community Services Center, are organizing an Accent Modification Program for spring 2015. Clinic Director Wendy Silverman, M.S.C.C.C./S.L.P., says this individualized or small group program would be aimed at foreign-born students, faculty, and staff who would like to improve their English pronunciation. Potential clients first undergo a comprehensive evaluation, and then a program is tailored to meet their specific needs or concerns.
According to Melissa Kern Fitzgerald, M.A., CCC-SLP, coordinator of Speech-Language Pathology at the Saltzman Center, graduate students who are working on their master’s degree in speech pathology provide the hands-on therapy. They are supervised by licensed professionals who work at the Saltzman Center.
An interesting aspect of the group program is that people who speak with different accents would all be learning together. “It doesn’t matter if they speak with different accents,” says Ms. Fitzgerald. “We educate them in the nuances, pronunciation and pattern of the English language, and they practice together.” She adds that there is one quality clients all seem to have in common – “People who sign up for this program are extremely self-motivated.”
Sessions would be weekly throughout the spring semester, and the fee would be $25 per session. Those interested should call Ms. Fitzgerald at 516-463-5263 or email her at Melissa.A.Fitzgerald@hofstra.edu to discuss their language goals and availability. Provided there is a sizable interest in the program, a day and time will be set to accommodate as many people as possible who have expressed that they would like to participate.