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Articulation Disorder or Accent?

Updated: Feb 12, 2023

If you are an SLP or teacher who works with students with cultural and linguistic differences, you may come across students who appear to be missing some English sounds. Should they be evaluated for speech-language intervention?

Speech Sound and Language Differences

Oh no! Your student cannot produce the R sound. However, if they speak, or are exposed to, Korean for example, this is not a sound that is found in their language and actually would not be considered an articulation disorder. Rather, it would be an articulation difference! It is important to know which language the student is influenced by, speaks, or is exposed to in order to determine if speech sound errors are a difference or disorder. If it is a sound that appears in both English and the language they are exposed to, then a speech-language pathologist can be contacted to determine next steps.

Consonants and Vowels

Not only can consonants be impacted, but vowels can too! Consonants could be missing, distorted, or present depending on the language influence.

Language Patterns

Additionally, what may come across as confusing English or grammar errors could just be a language difference. That same English grammar error could be perfect grammar in the language the student is exposed to.

Determining difference versus disorder

A speech-language pathologist will be able to assist you in determining whether or not a student has a speech or language disorder, or you can also utilize resources like THIS to help in determining. For example, let's say you have a student whose parents speak Arabic to them and you are concerned that they are producing /b/ for the /v/ sound. In looking at the chart below, you can see that /v/ is not a sound they would be expected to have in both languages, and it is an articulation difference, not an articulation disorder.


If a student is determined to have an articulation difference, that does not mean that you cannot practice producing that phoneme within the classroom with that student. While they may not require speech intervention services, a teacher may be able to help that student acquire those phonemes. A speech-language pathologist can assist with instruction and ideas for speech sound stimulability.


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