Unmasking Powerful Communication

Mar 1 , 2024
By Kidist Yidnekachew

I have noticed that many of my acquaintances, including myself, lean towards an American accent that might be linked to the schools we attended, the influence of teachers or the impact of movies during our formative years.

For me, summer breaks often meant English language classes, where instructors predominantly had an American accent, varying in intensity. Movies and song lyrics contributed to this linguistic influence. I associated fluency with a flawless American accent. However, I later realised that true proficiency lies in grammar and vocabulary. Meeting people with charming accents who struggle with certain words emphasised this point.

In adapting to various situations, I find myself adjusting my accent to sound more American. The issue intensifies during conversations with foreigners at work. I become extra cautious not to overdo it, always mindful that the essence of communication lies in proficiency rather than a particular accent.

A recent work meeting provided a humorous twist to the tale. During a pitch to overseas investors, our team coordinator's flawless presentation captivated the investors. However, when our technical team member took over, an overly exaggerated American accent turned a potentially successful presentation into a confusing ordeal. The unnatural accent became distracting, overshadowing the intended message. This incident highlighted the disruptions that can arise from trying too hard.

Despite the perceived advantages, mimicking an accent without being aware can pose difficulties to effective communication, as it can create unexpected obstacles in message delivery and comprehension. Unnatural ways of talking detract from the core message being conveyed. Listeners may become fixated on the disparity between the speaker's native speech patterns and the attempted accent, disrupting the communication flow. In return, it can make it more difficult for the intended message to resonate effectively with the audience, impacting the overall delivery.

Imitating accents imperfectly can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. The subtleties of language, like sounds and intonations, are deeply ingrained in native speakers. When people attempt to mimic, inconsistencies may arise, resulting in mispronunciations or unnatural intonations that can change the intended message. It is vital to understand that effective communication transcends accent: clear articulation, appropriate vocabulary and confident delivery in one's native accent for a more impactful connection with the audience.

Particularly when done without sensitivity and understanding, it might even land us into being perceived as culturally insensitive. It is important to ensure that accent imitation is done with respectful intent. Taking the time to learn about the diversity and richness of different accents is critical. When exaggerated or done without nuance, it can reinforce stereotypes, perpetuating existing biases and contribute to a narrow or inaccurate portrayal of certain groups of people.

Multilingualism and cultural appreciation are crucial aspects of successful communication. Recognising the value of diverse languages and accents provides respect and facilitates deeper connections. Embracing our native language and cultural background while striving for proficiency in other languages allows us to navigate the globalised communication arena, providing a more sustainable and fulfilling experience. Ultimately, prioritising clear and confident delivery enables authentic communication and genuine connections with the audience.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 01,2024 [ VOL 24 , NO 1244]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (kaymina21@gmail.com)

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