You receive a call for an interview that you’ve been looking forward to. But you can barely follow the woman at the other end of the phone line. So you ask her to repeat a few times, on the pretext that the telecom line is disturbed.
You are facing an interview panel. But you just can’t follow their questions or comments. So you lip read and try your best to guess, and respond accordingly.
In both of these cases, the core problem is of accent. We might know the English language perfectly well, but we often struggle with the accent. Fret not, because a recent study found that the English language is spoken in 160 distinct dialects across the world, which are spoken in an array of accents. What’s more interesting, within the UK, English is spoken in a wide variety of accents, and it is quite common for the north of England to not follow the southern accent, or the Scottish people to not follow the Welsh accent.
How do you deal with it?
The answer is simple. Just ask: ‘Can you repeat, please?’ Say it clearly, using a grammatically correct sentence. This shows that your command over the language is no less, only that you don’t follow the other person’s accent.
Tips from the trenches:
- Remember the 7-38-55 rule. Only 7 per cent of your communication comprise the words you speak (accent is a much smaller percentage of that!), 38 percent is your tone of voice and 55 percent is your body language.
- If others don’t follow your accent, speak slowly and pronounce each word as clearly as you can.
- There’s no shame in not following an accent. In fact, if you show interest in understanding and learning another person’s accent, it means you are keen to learn about their culture. How would you feel if someone showed interest in your culture?
Dr. Paula Ray
PhD I University of Auckland