Speaking with an Accent

This is the conclusion to the Social Networking Made Easy series.  Maybe you’re wondering what the heck speaking with an accent has to do with social networking.  Let’s review: in Social Networking Made Easy, we learned about different communication styles; in We Meet Again, we learned how to introduce oneself to a new or little known acquaintance.  It all boils down to how we communicate and since a large percentage of communication is verbal, accents are relevant!

I speak just enough Spanish to get into trouble.  My accent is pretty good so when I meet a native speaker, they think I understand more than I do and attempt to communicate in rapid-fire Español, much to my chagrin.  In my broken Spanish, I beg them to slow down and even then I can’t understand half of what they say.  They soon take pity on me and switch to English.

I used to work as a phone operator for a health group that catered to low- and no-income families.  I took phone calls from patients trying to schedule appointments with their doctor.  Many times, I encountered an excited caller speaking English but with a thick accent from another language.  Sometimes it was difficult to understand what they were saying.  Sometimes it was difficult for them to understand me.  I found the simplest trick in the world for navigating the confusion.

SLOW DOWN.

It’s incredible how effective this little trick is.  When speaking English, if the speaker has a non-English accent, by slowing down, it allows the other person to better understand what is being said.  We native English speakers like to think of ourselves as unaccented and we get all twitterpated when someone says the words we’re used to in a different way.  If the non-English speaker slows down just a little, it gives us the time we need to wrap our minds around the different vowel sounds or accented syllables.  Likewise, when speaking English to a non-English speaker, slowing down can give them the time they need to understand the words that, to them, can be very unfamiliar.

Whether you have the accent or you’re speaking to someone with an accent, trying slowing down your speech just a bit.  You might be amazed at how you begin to command each others attention and make a strong connection.  So there you have it.  You are now a social networking machine! Get out there and network socially!  And have fun with it.  It’s kinda cool.

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