DEALING WITH ACCENTS: 7 WAYS TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION

May 3rd, 2011 | By | Category: Personal Development

By Susan Berkley

Dealing with Accents...

Dealing with Accents...

The United States has always been a nation of immigrants and with the global economy, many of us deal with more non-native speakers of English than ever before. These relationships are valuable and to make them work we need not only good communication skills but also mutual respect.

1. CULTIVATE RAPPORT

I have lived abroad and know how difficult it can be to express yourself in a language other than your own. Non-native speakers may be sensitive about their accent. They may lack confidence or may have been humiliated by some insensitive person who made demeaning remarks about the way they sound. Help put them at ease by showing genuine interest. One way is to ask them about the origin of their name. People are generally proud of their heritage and like to talk about it. The more comfortable you help them feel, the better they will communicate; a win-win for all.

2. POLITELY ASK THEM TO SPEAK MORE SLOWLY

Tell them you are taking notes and want to make sure you don’t miss anything they have to say.

3. SPEAK SLOWLY YOURSELF

And don’t raise your voice.  Just because they have an accent, doesn’t mean they are deaf.

4. AVOID JARGON AND SLANG

This is especially true if the non-native speaker doesn’t live here or is newly arrived.

5. INVITE THEM TO ASK YOU TO REPEAT YOURSELF

You sound just as foreign to them as they sound to you. Ask them to tell you if there is anything you can do make yourself more easily understood.

6. SUMMARIZE

At the end of the conversation, summarize key points. This will give both of you an opportunity to correct misunderstandings. For mission critical conversations, back everything up in writing.

7. BE PATIENT

Put yourself in their shoes. While English may be easy for us, non-natives say it’s one of the more difficult languages to learn. Many people from other countries speak several languages, yet most Americans speak only one–and some become easily annoyed when a foreigner’s English is less than perfect.

8. SPELL YOUR NAME AND SAY IT SLOWLY

If your name is of foreign origin, it might be difficult for others to understand. Say it slowly and spell it, especially when leaving voicemail.

By the way, the preceding guidelines are not just for non-native speakers. The United States has many regional accents and dialects that can make communication difficult, even among natives. If you can’t understand somebody, don’t suffer in silence. If your intention is to foster good will and open channels of communication, these guidelines will help in any situation.

From “The Voice Coach” ezine by Susan Berkley.  Copyright 2005, reprinted

with permission. For a free subscription visit http://www.greatvoice.com.

Susan Berkley is a professional speaker and international communications

expert. She is a top voiceover artist and author of “Speak to Influence:

How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Voice, ” available at bookstores or

from The Great Voice Company at  800-333-8108.

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One Comment to “DEALING WITH ACCENTS: 7 WAYS TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION”

  1. Great article on accents and how to help those with accents. I am a retired Speech Therapist and have been asked to do accent reduction. It can be very difficult for some to learn to speak English with less accent, since it is a difficult language. I especially like your tip on speaking slowly and asking your client to speak slowly. i’ve found that is the best advice ever. That works with people with hearing challenges too. Excellent job!

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