Boot Camp for the Mouth!
I've been blessed to become acquainted with many brilliant doctors who are true bilinguals (or multi-linguals!), but when they come to the United States, they sometimes have great difficulty being understood. They come from places in the world that speak a different “flavor” of English, for example, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and some Caribbean Islands. Certainly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with their beautiful accents, but they desire to learn the American style to be able to communicate more easily with patients and co-workers.
Some relate that in the past they've tried and tried, but don’t seem able to make any improvements in their spoken English. Their lack of progress is probably because they have skipped a very important part of the accent modification process, the preparation phase.
This phase includes discovering the path of the voice. Language is a system of sounds which are made by using articulators, including the mouth, tongue, teeth, lips, jaws and vibrations in the voice box. In other parts of the world, the way speakers use these articulators are different from here in the US. So, trying to change the way one speaks without understanding this concept is futile.
It’s like one day feeling frustrated for scoring over 100 in your weekly golf game, so you decide to work on your golf swing. You can’t just go out and swing, and swing, and swing, expecting to see any improvement! It takes an understanding of correct form and which muscles are required to accomplish that form. So, if you have weak external abdominal obliques, the first step is to strengthen them with rotational exercises. Then you will have the muscles necessary to improve your swing and eventually lower your score.
In the same way, before engaging in any accent modification, it's absolutely necessary to identify which muscles are used to produce American English sounds and then engage those muscles with a rigorous training schedule to strengthen them. If this step is skipped, English learners will remain “stuck” in their current language patterns and become frustrated when they don’t see improvements. This preparation phase is like boot camp for the mouth!