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to think If you have a heavy accent the onus is on you to be understood

(45 Posts)
NewYearsHangoversHurtAlot Sun 11-Jan-15 14:19:23

And not on the other party to feel they can't ask you to repeat yourself because your accent meant what you said wasn't understood? And if you are asked to repeat yourself don't get shitty about it especially if your job involves communicating with the public

IamTitanium Sun 11-Jan-15 14:22:48

Depends, some people just use it as another stick to beat someone with, or lazy listen themselves.

silverstreak Sun 11-Jan-15 14:25:43

Oo this is a tricky one as it gets me all the time! :/ tbf I think I kind of get where you're coming from but if it's circumstances similar to what I'm thinking (along the lines of foreign call centres) it always feels slightly 'racist' to object/complain, iyswim.... Although i definitely hate it when folk get irritated at being asked (nicely!) To repeat themselves! what circs are you taking about?

blanklook Sun 11-Jan-15 14:27:07

Agreed, there should be some sort of elocution test for people who deal with the public by using their voice.

TrendStopper Sun 11-Jan-15 14:29:24

I agree OP.

I hate phoning big companies because a lot of them use call centres in other countries where english isnt their first language and i find that i have to repeat myself over & over because they cant understand what i am saying.

AwfulBeryl Sun 11-Jan-15 14:29:52

Well no, people shouldn't get shitty because they've been asked to repeat themselves, but I don't think the responsibility lies with either person. It's down to everyone to communicate well.
I do feel a bit blush at asking people to repeat themselves, I have go a slight hearing problem and struggle in loud busy situations, especially with someone who has got an unfamiliar accent. I hate having to ask and always try and figure it out or blag it a bit.

fairyfuckwings Sun 11-Jan-15 14:33:16

I have the same hearing problem as you Beryl and I know it's irritating when I ask people to repeat themselves but strong accents just make it even harder for me to understand. I often blag it as well!

Sistedtwister Sun 11-Jan-15 14:44:47

Thing is who's to say who has a strong accent. When I talk to my mum neither of us has an accent. When I talk to sil, she has a strong accent, I'm sure she says the same about me. IYSWIM

Flippityflip Sun 11-Jan-15 14:46:18

Well some in England would consider I have a thick accent,and coming from another region of the uk,I often find some parts of London much harder to understand plus Birmingham etc,do you consider your English 'accentless'? I think you'll always find someone who considers this is not the case.
I also find the Royals and 'plummy' accent can be difficult to catch every word.If everyone in the South of England could provide their own subtitles for me actually that would be great...
Is the onus on them or me? I would have thought a bit of both.

BringMeTea Sun 11-Jan-15 14:49:48


Hatespiders Sun 11-Jan-15 14:50:28

I've always adored strong accents and can't get enough of them. I like to think I can usually understand, as I have a bit of an 'ear' for languages and accents. But I do agree if people, especially on the phone, find it hard to understand, then something is wrong and the speaker should have better training. It must be very difficult if one has a hearing problem.

One of my nieces has the same 'gift' and can imitate and mimic any kind of speech. She's a hoot. When she was tiny she had all the Sylvanian families and each one had a different accent. She had the rabbits as Cockney car salesmen, the badgers were Welsh and so on. She had me in stitches.

ChristmasPuddin Sun 11-Jan-15 14:52:26

I think the problem is the shirtiness.

Everyone speaks differently. I'm in Ireland and there's enormous variation in regional accents; I truly struggle to understand people who live half an hour away from me, especially older people. I think everyone should accept that it can be an issue and that there's no need for either party to be embarrassed by it - or to be rude about it!

KissMyFatArse Sun 11-Jan-15 14:59:14

Mmm I'm not sure but I am verging towards yabu. I work in a call centre and am from Glasgow, occasionally people complain that 'I can't speak English' which I find rather rude. I do struggle sometimes to understand callers from wales or foreign customers however that's life and people come from all over now.

Although do agree people shouldn't get pissed off if asked to repeat, personally I find just slowing down works but I think us Scottish folk speak fast in general so can see their points sometimes.

EatShitDerek Sun 11-Jan-15 15:07:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BreconBeBuggered Sun 11-Jan-15 15:16:07

Most non-RP speakers have an accent that somebody somewhere will consider impenetrable. Do you think we should all be able to switch to RP as a kind of second-tier English?

BringMeTea Sun 11-Jan-15 15:26:10

Exactly BreconBeBuggered. Weird thread. We are all incomprehensible to someone. All we can hope for is enunciation.

Angel1983 Sun 11-Jan-15 15:26:42

Whey man, ah divvent kna what yees are aaal talkin aboot. Ahve Neva had anyone complain that they cannet unnastand me like!

In all seriousness though (as a Geordie) I am yet to encounter someone who has a completely unintelligible accent. However, perhaps that is just me.

Personally, I wouldn't feel uncomfortable asking someone to repeat themselves if I couldn't understand then. Also, I appreciate that I do speak quite quickly in a fairly thick northern accent so I wouldn't be offended if someone asked me to repeat myself!

FishWithABicycle Sun 11-Jan-15 15:37:48

No one should be embarrassed about saying "could you repeat that a little slower please, I didn't understand what you said". No one should be offended by having that said to them.

Those Indian call-centres which many people like complaining about - those staff are usually completely fluent in English - English is an official language for public life in India. It's just that they speak Indian English - which is just as valid as Glasgow English or Dorset English or Kentucky English.

An awareness on both sides of the conversation that its more difficult to understand an unfamiliar accent is all that is required.

WhereYouLeftIt Sun 11-Jan-15 16:10:21

"Do you think we should all be able to switch to RP as a kind of second-tier English?"
Well I definitely don't speak in RP, but I do adopt my 'telephone voice' almost all the time regularly. My full accent is pretty strong Scots (not Glaswegian but close) but I moved to England a long time ago. I speak more slowly and smooth it out quite a bit. I did so because it was clear to me that the people I worked with were struggling a bit. So I guess I agree with the OP - I considered that the onus was on me to make myself understood.

I'm also now finding I struggle to make people out if there is background noise, it's not always accent-related but a strong accent can make it more difficult.

Tanith Sun 11-Jan-15 16:15:53

My bank had a lady with a strong Glaswegian accent working on the call desk. Step-FIL is Scottish and I don't usually have a problem, but I just could not understand however often I asked her to repeat herself. I felt so awful for her.

In the end, she transferred me to another lady with a Yorkshire accent: much easier! I did ask her to give my apologies to the first lady, though.

I do think YABU, Op. It's not really anyone's fault if you struggle to understand someone's accent.

Screwballscrambled Sun 11-Jan-15 16:22:14

Being Scottish I find it hard being understood in England.

It took a few years for my dp's family to fully understand every word. They were lovely about it though.

I don't think it's the not understanding that's rude I think it's the rudeness from people both if they are asked to repeat or a person being rude if they have not understood.

When I am in a shop (in England) and they don't understand me I much prefer them to ask rather than what I usually get which is a blank stare that I then have to work out if they didn't understand me or didn't hear me say anything!

That's annoying because I'm not sure if I need to repeat myself or they are just being rude by ignoring (me) what Iv said as they didn't understand! Grrr

HolyTerror Sun 11-Jan-15 16:27:25

I think part of the issue is that accent is strongly correlated to social class (and worries/sensitivities about race) in this country, more than in other countries I've lived in. To say you don't understand someone is therefore bound up with things other than pure comprehension.

To echo a point someone else made up the thread, my husband and my uncle grew up thirty miles apart in the same part of Ireland, and my husband, despite knowing him for over 20 years, still has moments of complete incomprehension. My husband hasn't a tin ear for accents, I think it's that my uncle still lives in the place where he grew up, has limited contact with people from elsewhere, and has zero ability to code switch.

Fabulous46 Sun 11-Jan-15 16:32:18

DH is Irish and has never lost his thick Irish accent. I'm Scottish and have a very thick accent too. We've been married 28 years and I still struggle to understand my MIL. People who aren't used to being in our company often struggle to understand us so we've learned to speak much more slowly than we normally would when in company. My friend and her DH visited from Birmingham before Christmas and poor guy looked bewildered for the first hour or so.

OmnipotentQueenOfTheUniverse Sun 11-Jan-15 16:40:19

It's exposure isn't it? I mean, you get used to accents that you hear and find them easy / easier to understand.

I have met a couple of people - maybe 4 or 5 - in my life in the UK that I couldn't understand at all and it is really embarrassing as you can't ask someone to repeat themselves more than twice really and then you just have to guess confused

I think if you are working in a part of the world you need to make sure your colleagues can understand you without too much trouble? Just otherwise everything's going to be a total PITA.

We are lucky speaking English though I work with people from different parts of the world and it's all English so I'm in my native language and others not. OTOH we are shit at languages aren't we as we're so complacent about it. It's embarrassing when you meet people and they have 4 or 5 languages that they can converse in. Well for me anyway I didn't concentrate on languages at school and am pretty shit at them.

FailOfTheCentury Sun 11-Jan-15 16:41:24

I think what a PP said about the class connotations raising their heads is very relevant. It's common in many countries to be able to switch between commonly understood speech and your local vernacular. I have relatives who switch between nice standard easy-to-understand High German and their (to me) impenetrable dialect effortlessly.

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