Posted & filed under Communication Skills Coaching, Presentation Skills Coaching.

Many of us enjoy hearing different accents. In fact we often have personal preferences on the value we attribute to one accent over another.

Linguistic Discrimination

Yet there have been reports of ‘linguistic discrimination’:

  • Non-native speakers interrupted during Zoom calls
  • Speaking disrespectfully to foreign colleagues with strong accents
  • Excluding people with strong accents from meetings

There’s evidence that we turn away job candidates who have non-native accents. Venture capitalists award foreign entrepreneurs less funding. The assumption is that they are less interpersonally effective and influential.

A foreign accent takes more brain power to process

Neurolinguistics may be to blame. Our brains find non-native accents more difficult to process. Our brains must work harder to decipher lexical and semantic information. Our preference for ease influences our impression of someone’s intelligence and credibility. At least that’s what psychologists have found. Native and non-native speakers were given identical statements to read. The statements read by non-native speakers were deemed less believable.

Reducing Linguistic Discrimination

Linguistic discrimination, whether conscious or not, is a form of prejudice. Accent bias does reduce overtime as our brains get used to hearing the accent. This is not enough to deal with the issue. Organisations need to embrace linguistic diversity. It should be included on their people development agenda. We need to consciously look out for accent bias. Meeting etiquette, improving our listening skills and body language can all help.

This is even more important as the trend towards remote working continues. We need to be able to convey respect and consideration in the way we communicate with everyone. Native speakers should be encouraged to increase their awareness of diversity. The impact on our non-native speaking colleagues can be demoralising. It can have long-lasting effects, including inferiority complexes.

If a non-native speaker feels that the problems continue to persist, a pronunciation coach can help. This can be on an individual basis or as part of a small group. This helps to reduce the impact of linguistic discrimination. Yet, the emphasis must also to be on the native speakers to increase their awareness to communicate with more respect.

 

About Kate Middleton, Aziz Specialist Pronunciation Coach

Kate has over 20 years’ experience of supporting professionals to improve their language pronunciation and communication skills. Kate uses a simple diagnostic task to highlight areas to work on based on the outcomes her clients require.

If you would like a conversation with any of our coaches please contact kate@azizcorp.com or call 01962 774766

FURTHER READING:

  1. Why the Brain Doubts a Foreign Accent – Scientific American
  2. Why do people discriminate against speakers with foreign accents? | Research and Innovation (europa.eu)
  3. Here’s why people might discriminate against foreign accents – new research (theconversation.com)
  4. The pervasive problem of ‘linguistic racism’ – BBC Worklife
  5. How to overturn workplace prejudice about ‘foreign’ accents | Financial Times (ft.com)