Your Very Thick Accent

By pearl - February 18, 2014



I love my African accent. It is who I am and don't think I will ever want to change it. I mean it's 
OK to have an accent. Everyone has one; the Bostonian accent with its non rhoticity and prolonged A, the glorified British accent,the Southern accent which I love the most and millions more. 

I had to repeat myself a lot of times in college. As a matter of fact before I got used to the southern accent i had to make people repeat themselves a few times too. But it's only after I started working that I felt the need to "improve" on my accent.
My very first time interviewing someone was over the phone. At one point,I had to repeat myself 3 times for him to understand what I was asking. I was exhausted. I remember complaining to my project lead and asking him to take me off interviews. "Well Pearl, this guy is going to be working with you so, if he can't understand you, then we can't hire him." 
Ouch! He said this to make me feel better I think, but I felt bad because no one should be at a disadvantage because of my accent. 

That same night I signed up for the American accent training class (I am still working hard on it! I still sound very African). But then I became so self conscious. Now each time I am asked to repeat myself I feel like my confidence drops by about 30 %( I have actually measured it :-)). So if your accent is clear and people understand you, then ignore these last 5 minutes. But if you have to repeat yourself, you might want to make an effort. Try enunciating your words different. In my experience it is more about intonation and speaking slowly and louder.

As people get closer to you they get to understand your speech pattern and understand you more easily. But what about first impressions? I think in the work place first impressions could be everything. 

The most hilarious thing is when I try to use the voice recognition tools like say a command on my phone or Siri on the Iphone, it Always gets the wrong memo. Have you tried yours? You might have some fun doing this. I only get success when I say single words.  

So it might be difficult. You might look at it like you are changing your identity, but communicating effectively is important. So make an effort. So if you have faced the same issues and want to do something about it, I will recommend the following resources.
1. The American Accent training by Ann Cook 
Pay special attention to Voice quality, Pronunciation, Intonation and linking between phonetic sounds. You can find it on Amazon
2. Loose your accent in 28 days by Judy Ravin
It feature Interactive CD-ROM that shows you exactly how to pronounce every vowel and consonant through video clips. You can also find it on Amazon

That said I am sure there are a lot more tools out there. Just read reviews and find something that works for you.


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14 comments

  1. Don't conform my dear! Your accent makes you who you are and is very much a part of your identity. When americans or other westerners go to Africa(or any non-western part of the world), they don't try to change their accent to fit into their setting. I encourage enunciating words clearer but i am not a supporter of learning a foreign accent simply to fit corporate standards.

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    1. Thanks GG i totally agree with you. By changing my accent I mean speaking more clearly so that people can understand you. And this might not only take a conscious effort, sometimes learning how your audience pronounce words helps them understand you.

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  2. Not sure how I feel about changing your accent to fit it. The world is becoming more global so if you can't work with someone who sounds different from you how will you be successful in the future? I work with a global company with Aussies, Scots, Indians, British etc. Is it hard to understand them? Yes. Do I get over it eventually? Yes. I don't understand why Africans feel the need to bend over backwards to assist people in understanding us.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Seeker, but I did not say change your accent to Fit in. I said change your accent to be understood and communicate effectively. If your career in mainly interacting 1:1 with people and you can even write out what you are trying to say, it is fine. But if you interact with large group of people and 90% of the people can't hear you I am pretty sure they wont all get over it would they? I choose to change my accent because I want people to understand me.

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  3. If People can Understand you, Don't change your accent. If they don't do something. I think is the point of this and I totally agree.

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    1. Thanks for coming to my rescue there :-) exactly my point.. I cant even sound American if I tried..But I believe I can be heard more easily.

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  4. I will definitely not be getting rid of my "H factor" anytime soon, I don't think having an accent is the problem..enunciation maybe?..Every time I listen to Wole Soyinka I can pick up on his accent!, the dude is clearly from my village..:)..but he pronounces his words clearly than I do. I can say I'm lazy and not willing to work on my enunciation and that is because I don't see myself in a career where that is important...it might be necessary for some though.

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    1. @Egba man..lol at your comment. I totally agree with you. Maybe I should have reworded things differently to avoid the controversy. pronouncing words differently will mean changing your accent. I am sure Wole Soyinka made an effort so that his public could understand him.

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  5. OMG, I love my accent. It is my God given identity directing me to Land and Country I came from. When people say; they do not understand me, my response: Because am from Africa. But you can understand Asians & South Americans wwhse accents make no sense. Same too our beautiful names. But they can pronounce complicated names from Russia, Yoguslavia, and the rest. We from Africa are "Specially Bleseed" to understand the MOST difficult accent in this world. This is a plus for us. I can't waste my time to speak like another person. If I can understand you, you too should understand me. God gave each Nation an accent to differentiate you from Nation A to Nation B - Z.

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    1. Hi Rose. I did not specify the African accent. My blog is very general.i assure you I have some Asian and Idian friends who learn to change their accents. Its about speaking clearly and being understood. You wont survive in the corporate world if you can't communicate with people esp here in America. I mean its their country. If they were in Africa it will be up to them to learn our language or accents bc then we will be the majority.

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  6. Please; can you create an Editing tap. Using a mobile phone is not the same as sitting on a laptop or computer screen. Thanks.

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  7. Interesting read...two points come to mind;
    *Articulating better can't hurt...au contraire, it makes us better heard and understood. Its all about talking more clearly, not changing one's accent.
    *I like this article because it bring up healthy arguments :). Its nice to see constructive disagreement...its healthy!
    Don't we all have a right to an opinion?
    Great article Pearl!

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    1. Thank you :). I agree with you. I think speaking more clearly is kinda changing how you speak, hence changing your accent? That how I see it. I know for sure I need to practice and take a course because my conscious effort has not helped me so far

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