Foreign Accent: Benefits and Challenges
Everyone Has an Accent
You may not realize it, but you do have 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.
Your Accent Could Be an Asset
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 speak with 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. But by speaking just a few words, you are telling people that you have experiences beyond the US. These experiences have shaped you and made you unique, cosmopolitan, and bilingual…or multilingual.
Do People Misunderstand You?
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. Another strategy is to rephrase your message; Use different words to say the same thing. This takes a bit more thinking but can be much more effective. 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.
Does Your Accent Hold You Back?
In the global marketplace, people are becoming increasingly accustomed to various accents. They are getting better at comprehending them. This is good news, but the best communicators realize that although communication is a two-way street, you can only control yourself. If an accent is standing between you and success, contact us. We’d love to help.