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Accent Expansion Program strengthens language confidence for community members

Dec. 18, 2023

Lauren Wildman (middle) guides several participants through a session with the Mizzou Accent Expansion Program. Photo by Abbie Lankitus

For many people, the daily ritual of drinking coffee is the key to having a successful and productive day. And for some, a ruined coffee order can set a negative tone for the hours that follow.

While ordering coffee might seem like a simple task, Megan Martin knows how daunting it can be when you’re attempting to do it outside of your native language. A graduate clinician at the University of Missouri’s Accent Expansion Program, Martin works to assist people who want to improve their American English accents.

“One of the participants told me that every time she went to Starbucks, the baristas couldn’t understand her when she ordered,” Martin said. “She said, ‘All I want is to get a vanilla latte.’ I know it was such a frustrating thing for her to experience every day.”

To ease these types of challenges for international students, faculty and community members, the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences within the College of Health Sciences created the Accent Expansion Program. For the past 17 years, it’s led the way in helping people with speech differences access learning tools focused on intonation, pronunciation, stress and pragmatics in American English.

“We want participants to choose to speak with someone in person rather than send an email because they feel nervous,” said Dana Fritz, director of the Accent Expansion Program. “Nobody is crazy about public speaking, but it’s the confidence to interact and know they’ll have a better chance of being understood that propels them into more communication practice.”

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Dana Fritz

Dana Fritz

Clinical Professor