“Sorry, it’s your accent”. You’re probably tired of hearing that. But everyone has an accent. In other parts of the world, like Europe, people seem to have less difficulty understanding each other. They come from different language backgrounds, and they still make it work. If the USA is truly a “melting pot” of cultures, why...
American Accent TrainingWhy Can’t Americans Understand Me?
“Sorry, it’s your accent”. You’re probably tired of hearing that. But everyone has an accent. In other parts of the world, like Europe, people seem to have less difficulty understanding each other. They come from different language backgrounds, and they still make it work. If the USA is truly a “melting pot” of cultures, why is it so hard for Americans to understand newcomers?
Sometimes it may seem like everyone is a bigot. But that is not necessarily the case. There are many circumstances and factors that can help you understand why we Americans have such picky ears. This understanding may ease your frustration and complement any American accent training you take.
Americans Listen For What They Expect to Hear
Really, everybody does it. We anticipate the next thing someone is about to say so that we can keep up. But then, when it is pronounced in a way that we didn’t expect, it’s like a short circuit, and our mind has to rewind to clarify. That doesn’t mean you pronounced it wrong or made a mistake in your grammar. You simply said it in a way that we didn’t expect.
It takes extra effort to listen comprehensively to someone with an accent unfamiliar to us. Of course, we should put forth that effort and pay attention. But unfortunately, most Americans don’t do that. We haven’t trained our ears to accept the unexpected.
One Language Culture
English is the primary language spoken in the USA, so most Americans only speak English. Maybe you have moved to another country or even traveled the world. If so, you likely had to learn another language, perhaps even two or three. This is an outstanding achievement for your career prospects, as well as your personal and mental development.
Multilingualism is an increasing phenomenon in other parts of the world. But when Americans stay in America, they usually don’t appreciate the need to learn another language or open their ears to other accents. Their expectation is that foreigners learn to speak with the local accent most people are used to hearing.
Cultural Exchange in the USA
One of the main reasons is lack of exposure to people from other language backgrounds. In England, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and other countries, there is more cultural interchange with surrounding nations. So Europeans are accustomed to hearing a broad spectrum of accents. This is why accent reduction or accent training is not as common in those countries.
Although there are many regional accents in the USA, speakers with foreign accents come from far away. The only foreign language speaking country that shares a border with the U.S. is Mexico. So Americans generally tend to be raised with limited access to international cultures.
The Rural/Urban Divide
Of course, there are many Americans who reach out to other cultures and expose themselves to cultural diversity. These are more commonly found in cosmopolitan centers, like New York City and San Francisco. It is less frequent in smaller cities or more isolated regions.
This tends to be the case in many countries, but it is especially true in the US. There are many sizeable cities here, but vast stretches of the country are rural. People who live in small towns are less likely to understand someone with an unfamiliar accent. That’s not to say they don’t want to understand you. They simply don’t hear other languages or accents frequently.
What Can You Do to Be Understood?
Patience is key. When someone misunderstands you or asks you to repeat, they probably don’t intend to be rude or unwelcoming. Someone might even laugh at your pronunciation now and then. But, don’t worry. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Listening to your accent is probably a new experience for them. It could be that they are simply delighted to hear something new.
Even if people mean well, it is usually uncomfortable to have your differences pointed out. One option you have available to you is signing up for American accent training. As you learn the complexities of American speech, you will also learn much about our culture. Why not try it out with an experienced accent coach?
Discover what you can do to improve your communication skills and lessen the awkward moments of misunderstanding. American accent training can also increase your career prospects as you unlock your language potential.