English with Indian Accents
My first exposure to difficult to understand accents was in school when we had some students from South India. I could not understand some letters and words being pronounced in a way different from what I was used to hearing particularly ‘M’ & ‘N’. 29 years in the Army exposed me to different Indian accents, most notably, ‘Punjabi’ ‘Bengali’, South Indian and ‘Haryanvi’. I also found that foreigners had all sorts of funny accents. I also realized that whenever competent and mature people were required to speak in public fora they adopted a ‘neutral accent’ and could be easily understood. I have several students who are conscious of their accent and desire to change it for success in life. In this blog, “English with Indian Accents” I have discussed the issue.
Problems of Accent for Listener
The functional problem for the listener is the inability to understand clearly what is being spoken. The other problem is that the listener has to concentrate harder to be able to comprehend the speaker. The listener is also uncomfortable because of the accent.
Problems of Accent for Speaker
Functional Problems of Accent
- The listener may not comprehend what is being spoken.
- The listener may not be comfortable with the accent.
Psychological Problems of Accent
- Feeling that accent lowers chances of selection/promotion in jobs.
- Feelings of inadequacy because others speak English differently.
- Lowered confidence.
Overcoming Functional Problems of Accent
The experienced speaker knows what words cause comprehension problems for listeners. The speaker has to just do two things:
- Make an effort to come as close as possible to a neutral accent on the problematic words.
- Speak more slowly and deliberately and pronounce each word completely. Speaker should not speak fast and ‘eat up parts of some words’.
- With focused effort the problem can be overcome in one/two months.
Overcoming Psychological Problems of Accent
The speaker should realize that overcoming the functional problems is important. We should realize that with fast globalization our interaction will sooner or later be with people from all over the world. International tolerance of different accents has increased considerably. In this situation the psychological problems of accent can be comfortably ignored. This is the best solution I recommend to most of my students. However, there may be persons who are unable to ignore this aspect and it may be affecting their confidence greatly. The solution for them is to make deliberate effort to develop a neutral accent. For a determined and dedicated person this may take up to 6 months.