WHAAAT a big problem! Time after time, I have had English learners come to me and complain about accents. There are waaaay too many to count – British accents, American accents, Australian accents, Canadian accents, Indian accents, Italian accents… etc.
Why is this so frustrating? Because learners become comfortable with one accent, and when they hear another they are ripped out of that comfy zone, and thrown into a land of uncertainty.
Here is a typical situation…
Happy students come to class. Teacher has an English accent…
Students do a listening activity. The speaker has a Russian accent…
Students watch a short video. The actors have American accents…
Next class, teacher with English accent is sick, and replaced by teacher with Australian accent. The following class, English-accent teacher is still sick, so students have a teacher from the Netherlands instead…
Poor students are going red with concentration and confusion. One girl bursts into tears, a boy threatens to sue the school…
Woah! Hold your horses! How can this happen?
Here are some facts:
- England alone is made up of dozens of accents.
- In the British Isles, there are also Welsh, Scottish, Irish, and Northern Irish accents.
- These countries have different accents within them, too.
- The US, Canada and Australia have hundreds of regional accents.
- Additionally, there are also cultural accents, like Italian-New York (anyone want coaffee??)
- Many businesses these days are multinational. they have offices in different countries. For example, Infocrap have offices in Germany and Singapore. The employees need to communicate regularly with the staff in the other country, and they must do so in English.
So, maybe accents are more important than we think…
English is a ‘Global Language’. The problem is that everyone speaks it differently. This is a pain in the buttocks.
What can we do? You have probably had a high exposure to the American accent, thanks to Hollywood. Here are some ideas to maximize your accent understanding:
- Find British or Australian films.
- Check out iTunes podcasts and iTunes U for stuff that interests you – there will be many different accents to enjoy.
- Watch global news.
- Listen to digital radio.
- Search for different accents in YouTube.
Immerse yourself with accents, absorb them like a sponge.
Love, Corinne x