Speech Entrainment in Accent Modification of Adult English Language Learners



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Background: Quality candidates for education programs and employment must express their knowledge clearly. If they are unclear, accent modification training provided by speech-language pathologists can help individuals to change the way they speak. To maximize communicative effectiveness, speech that is perceived to be different or accented is targeted in this study. Researchers and practitioners agree that participation in accent modification is beneficial to individuals who seek these elective services as they strive to assimilate both socially and economically. Modifying pronunciation alters brain pathways; thus, motor learning research has investigated the processes involved. Speech entrainment, or providing a speech model for individuals to mimic in unison, is one successful technique used to treat motor speech disorders and is the focus of this study of accent modification. Research Questions: The study investigated the effect of speech entrainment on intelligibility and accentedness of advanced English-language learners seeking accent modification. The participants' rate of speech in conversation was also examined. Methods: A single-subject experimental study was conducted using a range-bound changing criterion (RBCC) design to examine the effects of the entrainment technique. The application of the technique could change the participants’ pronunciation. The design allows changes to occur over time and within a range between lower and upper criteria. The length of the phases and the magnitude of criterion changes were adjusted during the study based on each of the participants’ performances. Using RBCC allowed for flexibility in performance, which is a necessity when learning to speak differently. Five participants were selected from a university speech-language-hearing clinic where they were enrolled in accent modification services. In the study, they attended one-hour sessions regularly for approximately three months. In the sessions, graduate student clinicians, supervised by a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist, addressed the participants' goals using speech entrainment techniques. Verbal feedback regarding the participants' pronunciation was also provided after the application of speech entrainment. Results: The use of speech entrainment yielded significant positive results in accent modification. Together, the overall results showed a decrease in perceived accented speech, a slight increase in the rate of speech, and a slight increase in intelligible speech. Individual performances also showed improvement in pronunciation as the result of using speech entrainment in accent modification sessions. The results of this study provide initial data to suggest that speech entrainment, a technique used to treat motor speech disorders in individuals with brain injury, also facilitates improvement in the pronunciation of individuals with speech differences. Conclusion: The study demonstrated that speech entrainment is an effective technique to use with individuals enrolled in accent modification. The use of speech entrainment played a pivotal role in promoting positive pronunciation changes, reducing perceived accented speech, and increasing communication effectiveness. This study expands evidence in the area of accent modification and gives speech-language pathologists additional techniques with which to teach pronunciation.



Accent modification, Speech entrainment