Frequently asked questions

I have a foreign accent. Do I need accent reduction training?

No-one needs training just because they have an accent. Unless you have good reason to believe your accent is affecting your career or social ... [+]

If you often have to repeat yourself to others, then it probably means your English is not clear enough to make communication work smoothly, so in that case it is worth learning to speak more clearly.

If you aren't getting jobs when you're sure you have equivalent skills to other more successful candidates, then perhaps your English language skills need to be stronger, clearer, or more local in style.

If you're tired of being asked frequently where you're from or how long you've been here, then you would certainly benefit from accent modification. [close]

I speak really ocker Australian English. Do I need elocution lessons?

Probably not. It depends on why you're concerned, doesn't it 🙂 . It's entirely possible to be very, very successful in Australia no matter what type ... [+]

The two politicians most criticised for their Australian English have been, notably, women. Julia Gillard was picked on mercilessly, even though her speech was no more strongly Australian than people like Tony Abbott or John Howard... but she was a woman, and so the prejudice was higher. Pauline Hanson, despite her repugnant and ignorant opinions, is also a victim of linguistic prejudice towards women who speak with a strong Australian accent (when people pick on her accent, they're actually reacting to her unusual vocal sound and poor ability to express ideas).

So... If your Australian English is actually affecting your life in some way, then perhaps elocution lessons can help (note that changing your native accent is often uncomfortable and difficult). In many cases, if only one or two people are reacting negatively to your speech, tell them to concentrate on your message or [censored 😉 ]. [close]

I speak like a wog. Do I need elocution lessons?

First of all, my apologies if you're offended by the inclusion of this question here. It is, however, exactly what some people ask when they call me for advice ... [+]

In answer to the question, I would say the same thing as for the question above about Australian English: If your flavour of English is actually affecting your life in some way, then perhaps elocution lessons can help. In many cases, if only one or two people are reacting negatively to your speech, tell them to concentrate on your message or go back to watching Skippy 😉 .

However, although negativity about "wog English" is usually just a question of social prejudice, there are some cases where the presence of another language in your life (even just in the childhood home) might have affected the rhythm of your speech (which could then affect clarity) or the pronunciation of some words (which might make people think you're less educated). [close]

How long does it take to change the way you speak?

Anywhere from a few months to a lifetime. It depends on the individual. Some people learn incredibly quickly, while others need ... [+]

Fine-tuning pronunciation or speech habits is of course quicker than addressing more serious problems in communication skills or accent modification. [close]

Am I too old to change my accent?

No. But the amount of progress depends on the individual. As you get older your habits usually become more fixed ... [+]

Every client can achieve at least some progress toward their goals. [close]

My child has an accent. Can you help?

For the most part, children should be allowed the freedom to develop how they speak without unnecessary intervention. Children's speech patterns change over time depending on ... [+]

It isn't desirable to intervene in a child's development unless the situation is causing the child problems (e.g being bullied, or having trouble being understood). Unnecessary training can affect self-confidence/esteem and in the end do more damage than good.

Nonetheless, there might be unusual situations where a child has a strong accent after many years in Australia, which could indicate broader learning or social issues that need to be addressed.

Parents can minimise the risk that their child's English development is below average or different from their peers by making sure that at least one parent speaks to the child in English all the time. (The second parent could continue speaking their other language in order to promote good bilingualism.) [close]

How long do I need to attend training for?

Regardless of age or goals, most clients attend training for between about eight and 20 sessions. Some clients with just a few ... [+]

Some clients with just a few very specific issues to address might attend fewer appointments. Some clients with many difficult issues to address might have training for more than 20 sessions. Every client has different needs, goals and abilities. [close]

How can I pay for appointments?

Individual clients can pay on the day or in advance, by ... [+]

New clients are required to prepay their first appointment, but this is still mostly refundable if you need to cancel with good notice. All other appointments can be paid on the day or in advance. [close]

Is Ear & Speak providing speech therapy, elocution, or pronunciation training?

I am a professional phonetician and psycholinguist. I already had more than 15 years of linguistics training, teaching and research experience before ... [+]

I am not a speech therapist. They are usually trained during a basic degree to correct defects resulting from developmental, neurological, or psychological problems. An accent is not a defect to be corrected, and does not need 'diagnosis' and 'treatment'! Very few speech therapists have the knowledge of language structures, cultural behaviours and the subtleties of accents and pronunciation which I offer my clients.

Meanwhile, old-fashioned teachers of elocution and diction are mostly interested in 'sounding correct', often with a rigid idea of what language 'should' be like. I don't impose that goal on my clients; instead I assess the client's individual needs and goals for their professional and social life -- this is a modern style of elocution training! [close]

Where is the Ear & Speak office?

I see clients at Level 30, 35 Collins Street, Melbourne, and on-site for some companies. Note that all appointments must be made by phone or email.

Do you see clients outside Melbourne?

I offer a special online accent reduction program, or I can help some clients face-to-face who can't attend classes in Melbourne, but only if there is enough local demand or if a client is willing to cover all associated costs.

Are there accent reduction training materials for sale?

Only the best learners can work effectively from videos and books when it comes to pronunciation. And software is almost entirely useless for advanced learners. I could probably earn lots of money selling these things, but I wouldn't be helping you properly. Most people need someone, usually a trained expert, to really help them achieve ambitious accent or communication goals. For this reason I don't sell accent training materials, though I am constantly working to perfect the materials I use with my clients.

Is there a difference between accent correction, reduction or modification?

Accent reduction is a common term used to describe training which changes someone's accent to be less different from that of the local community. Many people dislike this term as they feel it implies that an accent is bad. Even worse is the term accent correction, which implies that having an accent is wrong in some way. Accent modification is an increasingly common term which is felt to be less judgemental, and accent neutralisation is another term that is popular with some accent coaches.

Do you speak many languages?

I speak English, German and Swedish fluently. I also speak some French, Danish, Spanish, European Portuguese and Italian. I can pronounce with reasonable accuracy Japanese, Mandarin, Norwegian, Finnish, Russian, Bahasa Melayu, Bahasa Indonesia, Icelandic, Greek, Brazilian Portuguese, Dutch and Afrikaans, and have knowledge of the pronunciation patterns of many languages including Korean, Cantonese, Hokkien, Tagalog, Hindi/Urdu, Singhalese, Malayalam, Farsi, Arabic, Croatian, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Hebrew, Turkish, Vietnamese and a few more. For amusement, see my webpage about how popular foreign names and words should be pronounced.

As an expert linguist and phonetician, I can also use my skills to help people studying languages that I don't speak or learning accents which I don't do perfectly. Sounds strange? Think about this: sports coaches aren't always the best players in every aspect of their game, but they understand what is needed and can communicate that to their players. I'm always honest with my clients about how I can and can't help them, and I never take on a client if my skills aren't adequate.

What techniques and methods are used?

Questions of "technique" or "method" often come from the world of acting and performance... These terms often describe little more than hot air. A good teacher, trainer, or coach should be able to help their clients without locking themselves into an arbitrary conceptual framework; that's my goal. I've studied scores of language learners, taught hundreds of university students, and helped many people understand how language learning and accent learning works.

Do you do voice coaching?

I don't do voice coaching (usually involving breathing, projection, timbre, possibly also singing). I focus on my core skills. If you're not sure whether what you need is voice coaching or something which I can provide, then just contact me.