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Monday, June 5, 2017

Accent Reduction for Interpreters

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The Benefit of Accent Reduction for Interpreters who speak English as a Second Language

In researching definitions of an interpreter’s job, many of them included information similar to the following: 

“The interpreter is a person who converts a thought or expression in a source language into an expression with a comparable meaning in a target language either simultaneously in ‘real time’, or consecutively when the speaker pauses after completing one or two sentences” (Wikipedia).

In both simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, the interpreter needs to be as intelligible to their listeners as possible.  Therefore, it is possible that interpreters who speak English as a second language with an accent flavored by their native language may sometimes be misunderstood when speaking English. Often, there are time constraints, especially in simultaneous interpreting, where there may be only 5 to 10 seconds to translate from one language to the next. In situations such as these, if a translated word is not understood, there may be no extra time to repeat oneself or to clarify which word was attempted to be translated.  Additionally, if there are loud noises occurring in the environment, the listener may have trouble understanding an interpreter with non-native English speech. 

Working with a professionally trained speech therapist, specializing in Accent Reduction, can be very beneficial for interpreters who speak English as their second language and find that their native accent causes misunderstandings in their work.  An effective Accent Reduction program begins with a thorough speech evaluation, to determine precisely what sounds would be worked on.  For example, in my Accent Reduction program, I hold weekly one-hour sessions in person or via Skype to teach how the standard American English target sounds differ from the client’s pronunciation, helping my clients master how to produce the sounds, and to practice using the sounds in various contexts.  Enrichment materials are provided for the client to practice between lessons, using a book and an online practice lab. With attendance at each lesson, and diligent practice, clients can expect to achieve substantial reductions in their accent.

For more information about Accent Reduction, you can visit my website at and contact me at (818)385-1716 
(please keeping in mind that I am on the PST zone).
Derra Huxley, M.A.
Speech & Language Pathologist

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