Dr. Christi Barb
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
I have specialized in the area of foreign accent modification since I started combining my studies in speech-language pathology with the teaching of English as a second language during my master degree. My program allowed me to integrate courses in cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics, and teaching English to speakers of other languages and I was very fortunate to have faculty advisors and a mentor who literally wrote the book on it. Drs. Harold Edwards’ and Kathy Strattman’s book, Accent Modification Manual, provided the basis of my dissertation research, my method, and my work. I applied the specifics of speech production and analysis that I learned in speech-language pathology to the classroom and individual instruction of English to speakers of other languages. I applied and honed my skills within academia and with business professionals.
I have pursued and remained in this specialized field because I find it incredibly satisfying to help others open new doors and achieve their goals by improving the quality of their lives through better communication. I enjoy teaching in the classroom and in the university, but I love the focus that specialized instruction offers. People who choose to work with a coach are incredibly motivated and have an immediate need to apply their new skills to their professional lives. Whether working one-to-one, in small groups, or in workshops, I'm able to do more in-depth analysis of an individual's speech, identify goals, and create plans that fit specific speaking needs.
Why use the term, Accentologist? I like it. I enjoy words, learning their definitions, hearing and feeling their sounds, and using them in unique and fun ways.
The study of the placement of stress within words or phrases is accentology. In this meaning, stress means the higher pitch of the voice and longer duration of the vowel and this is extremely important in English. When you add the element of timing, you have prosody which is one of the most influential factors in how easy or difficult it is for American listeners to understand your speech. It is possible to pronounce all of the individual sounds of American English correctly but if your prosody is very different than the average speaker, your speech will be perceived as difficult to understand.