Clear Speech FAQs

via the Department of Communication Studies

  • What is muscle memory?
  • How long will it take to change my accent?
  • Why should I improve my accent?
  • Where should I start?
  • How often should I practice in the lab?
  • What results can I expect?


What is muscle memory?

Your tongue and lips know from years of practice how to produce your native language sounds. To pronounce the sounds of English correctly, you need to train these muscles to move differently. When you don’t have to think consciously about the new sounds and your mouth muscles produce the correct English sounds automatically, you have achieved “muscle memory.”


How long will it take to change my accent?

Athletic trainers say that it take 1,000 repetitions to commit a sports move (e.g., in skiing or gymnastics) to muscle memory. It’s similar with our speech organs. Each person will experience a period of being able to reduce his or her accent when consciously thinking about it. However, to get the changes into the subconscious mind may take six months to a year. Like playing golf, tennis, or a musical instrument, accent training requires practice, practice, practice.


Why should I improve my accent?

Employers commonly rank spoken communication skills highest among the skills desired in college graduates. While you don’t have to eradicate your accent completely (a little bit of an accent can be quite charming), you should strive to be comprehensible and not put a burden on your listeners, straining to understand you.


Where should I start?

You have two options: (1) You can go to the lab on your own and select programs with speech features of your interest. Some programs come with books (you can check them out at the attendants’ desk), and some are software programs without accompanying books. (2) You can make an appointment with a speech tutor at SACC (2nd floor). The tutor can diagnose your speech, including “hidden” speech problems that you may not know and that may be even more important than specific sounds (e.g., stress, rhythm, and intonation). The tutor may meet with you regularly, to check your progress and direct your lab practice.


How often should I practice in the lab?

You should practice as often as possible, but at least once a week for an hour.


What results can I expect?

Clearer, more polished speech and a more standard North American accent. Your improved pronunciation will help you perform better in school, during job interviews, and at work.