How well can we understand each other? Does our experience listening to non-native speakers help or hinder our ability to understand when listening situations are difficult? Apparently, we may actually be biased based on our experience. In a study reported in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, researchers found that those with experience interacting with Chinese Canadians had a slight bias toward misunderstanding native-speaking Chinese Canadians as compared with white Canadians when they were shown a photo of the speaker. They showed no difference in their ability to correctly transcribe the speech of the two groups when no photos were shown. Read more about the findings here.
If you are concerned that your accent will affect your success in job interviews, you are not alone. Regional accents in British English are sometimes discriminated against, according to a survey of employers. It may be that choice of language including use of regional slang has more of a negative effect than accent, but when looking for employment, you may not know how to make the best choices for your interviews. Having some tools at your disposal, including an understanding of your own accent, and the best choice of vocabulary and expressions for formal situations, is your best defense when approaching an interview situation.
You can read more about this issue in a recent article in the Guardian.
To learn more about slang and American expressions, check out this earlier post.
In a recent study at Charles University in Prague, researchers examined how accents can affect listener perception. Among their findings was the fact that when intonation differs from standard, such as shorter or longer vowels on stressed words, listeners rate speakers as more "nervous-sounding." Even if you are confident during your presentation, interview, or conversation at work, your listeners might think you are nervous based on hearing your accent. Learning to use American intonation, specifically stress patterns and correct vowel length, will help you come across as the knowledgeable and confident speaker you are.
Read an interview with the researcher Jan Volín here.
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