Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center’s Accent Modification Program is Making a Difference in Achieving Communication Excellence

by Annette Pinder

Achieving Communication Excellence FINAL APPROVEDI grew up in Brooklyn, and did not find anything unusual about the way I spoke until I moved to Western New York. I couldn’t figure out what about my accent turned people off.

According to dialogblog.com, a New York accent has a “nasal” quality, which is often disliked because it is associated with being whiny, loud, or more forceful. This is also true for people who come from Detroit or Liverpool. I quickly realized that I needed to do something to soften how I was being perceived in order to feel more accepted.

The fact is that cultural prejudice for people who come from a certain place is common, and there are numerous examples and attitudes about how people speak. It is those attitudes that can significantly impact a person’s success, including their ability to get a job. So when I learned about Buffalo Hearing and Speech Center’s accent modification program called ACE, I instantly knew it was something I wanted to write about.

ACE stands for Achieving Communication Excellence, and consists of a team of qualified trainers that are helping countless people improve their verbal and non-verbal communication skills. ACE program director Carrie Hughes is a licensed speech and language pathologist with more than 15 years of experience teaching English pronunciation. Hughes says, “Even with the same first language background or occupation, individuals can show significant differences in their English pronunciation, comprehension and overall communications skills.”

Muhammad Nadeem, M.D., 30 years old, and from Pakistan has received significant assistance from ACE. Nadeem easily passed the two written exams required for him to practice medicine in the United States. However, he has not yet successfully passed his oral communication exam. In addition to a language barrier, Nadeem also has dysarthria, a motor speech disorder that causes him to have an abnormally slower rate of speech. It takes Nadeem more time to use the muscles of his mouth, throat, lips, and tongue to properly pronounce words.

Nadeem, who is currently a research assistant, began speech therapy in October 2014, and then worked with Hughes on supplemental pronunciation training last spring. Since then he has shown significant progress, and says, “At the beginning my colleagues couldn’t understand me, but that has changed. They don’t ask me to repeat myself as often.”

Hughes is thrilled with Nadeem’s self-monitoring skills, which have improved 10- fold, and is impressed by his motivation to work hard at realizing his goal to be better understood, and ultimately become a surgeon. And Nadeem is extremely proud of himself. He says, “I know that I need to continue to work hard, to correct myself, and to improve my ability to converse with people. But I am improving every day and everyone understands me better.

ACE is a specialized program offered by Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center. If you think that you or someone you know could benefit from the ACE program, visit www.aceaccentsolutions.com and download a brochure at www.aceaccentsolutions.com/assets/brochure.pdf. Receive a free 15-minute speech screening by visiting www.aceaccentsolutions.com/contact-us. To speak to Carrie Hughes directly, call 716-885-8318, ext. 4457 or email chughes@askbhsc.org.