Benefits of having an accent

We all have accents.  If you have traveled even within your own country you have probably noticed differences in the speech patterns of others, and they have probably noticed yours.  The sounds and patterns of our speech constitute our accent. 

At The Sound Center, we work with many people who want to modify their accents.  Some want to be more intelligible using American English.  However, most want to preserve their native sound to some degree. 

Do you speak with a foreign accent in respect to those around you?  Accents can cause communication breakdowns, but they also can be beneficial.  If you have an accent, you immediately tell those around you that you speak more than one language.  It is likely that people who speak American English are monolingual.  You are telling people that you have experiences beyond the US just by speaking a few words.  These experiences have shaped you and made you unique, cosmopoitan, and bilingual…or trilingual…or multilingual.

You may have to repeat yourself frequently.  You may experience communication breakdowns.  Everyone does.  The way you deal with them will influence whether your accent benefits you or not.  When someone asks you what you said, the natural direct response is simply to repeat what you said.  You may repeat yourself more slowly or clearly, and that may suffice.  Rephrasing your message and using different words to say the same thing, takes a bit more thinking but can be much more effective.  Other strategies that can help are spelling key words from your message or writing your message.  You can increase your chance of success if you can control the environment: minimize background noise and distractions.  If you cannot, move closer to your listener and maximize eye contact.

Another challenge is managing the perceptions of others if you make pronunciation or grammatical errors.  Being proactive in acknowledging your errors is a mark of a great communicator and a mature individual.  Using humor can be very effective.  Of course you have an accent.  Of course you will make mistakes.  Seek to deliver your message instead of seeking perfection. 

In the global marketplace, people are becoming increasingly tolerant of accents.  They are also getting better at comprehending them.  Communication is a two-way street.  However, if you want to contribute your ideas to the conversation, if you want to be heard and respected, if you have a lot to say, you understand that you can only control yourself.  You can become more intelligible to others and increase your impact as you exchange ideas.

Posted on 18 January 2011 | Category: Accent, Communication, General

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