Why Americans Find Slavic Accents Harder to Understand

Why Americans Find Slavic Accents Harder to Understand

A Slavic accent is beautiful, melodious and easy on the ear. It is a part of your positive identity, who you are. At times, Slavic speakers encounter difficulty not being understood the first time. When speaking, they may notice difficulty in maintaining the attention of native speakers of English at school, work, and socially.

In the past, I experienced this first hand myself. I immigrated to the United States with no prior English speaking experience and it caused me distress. On the positive side, having had a noticeable foreign accent in the past allows me now, as a speech therapist specializing in Slavic accent reduction, to be more compassionate, understanding and effective professionally.

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I teach Slavic speakers to confidently and clearly pronounce English with an American accent. Learning an American accent will not interfere with your Slavic accent. It empowers you to have the option of speaking with an American accent or Slavic accent when and where you choose. For those with a strong accent, that makes them difficult to understand, accent reduction is a valuable communication tool. It offers greater potential earnings, confidence, and other opportunities. For example, actors I have worked with told me there are speaking parts for actors with a Slavic accent, and there are roles for which this same strong accent disqualifies them. There is always more work available for actors with the flexibility of choosing what accent to speak with. Obviously, this applies to other occupations as well. You should also consider that rapid encroaching advancements in automation and artificial intelligence are a growing factor requiring people to have more career and job changes than they may have ever anticipated.

So why exactly does speaking English with a strong Slavic accent challenge native listeners? 

Speaking a Slavic language creates natural differences between how you currently speak English and the standard American accent. Some of these differences may not significantly impact your ability to be understood by Americans, while others may make a great difference.

  1. Americans move their lips quite a bit more when speaking, so the sounds come out clearer and their speech rate is automatically slowed down. Slavic speakers tend to clench their jaws, lips, and teeth when speaking, which makes some English sounds harder to understand.
  2. Some American English sounds are not sounds found in Slavic languages, such as the /th/ sound.
  3. There are stress differences applied to words and syllables.
  4. Slavic and American speech have different intonation patterns – referring to the melody of the speech.
  5. There are important grammar skill differences as well.
  6. To sound more American you need the correct word order for specific types of words, forming tenses and including articles (a, an & the) when speaking. Articles such as these do not exist in Slavic languages.
  7. Many Slavic speakers anticipate that consonants will be their greatest challenge, but are often surprised to learn that mastery of vowels is much harder.
  8. A very vexing problem is that English is not as phonetic a language as Slavic languages are.
  9. English is replete with syllable deletions and some vowels such as /o/ are not pronounced as an /o/ – so spellings and pronunciation are not as predictable.

I encourage Slavic speakers who want to learn the American accent to consider our software offered on www.SlavicAccentReduction.com. On it I teach you to move your mouth correctly, learn the sounds that will impact your spoken English the most, address stress and intonation differences in your speech, and help you to incorporate grammar skills consistently into your everyday speech to be an effective communicator in all speaking situations. We guarantee your satisfaction!

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