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The different English accents

Posted: Sun Oct 12, 2014 12:28 pm
by jimbob
Hi All

I'm new to the boards and haven't yet had a good look around so forgive me if this has been answered in the past.

How do you go about addressing concerns about the different english accents?

My new group of students (Southern Germany - medical tech sector) have all identified their biggest issue as understanding what people from the UK/US/Australia/India/China/Singapore are saying when they have to deal with them.

I know accent comprehension is largely a matter of exposure, but they're all exposed to a multitude of different accents depending on their jobs and departments, and they ALL want help in learning how to understand the people they're dealing with.

I'm working on reported speech right now and would like to incorporate a bit of 'accent work' in the lessons from this point on. I'm just not too sure how best to approach it.

We have a 15 week semester. I'd like to be able to offer something more concrete than 'listen and guess what is being said' lessons.

if anyone out there has had some success with this topic I'd be very grateful to hear what you've done.

Thanks in advance


Posted: Tue Oct 14, 2014 7:37 pm
by FrankS
A question after my own heart! I have faced this same problem for years and found there is only one way that works for me.

Since the students are already experts on their subject, I find I am able to help them by getting them to concentrate on prediction. If they know what might be said and how it might be said, my students can predict what has been said with only a few "marker" words that signal what the general tone will be and they are then able to piece together the rest from what they know is coming.

Most native speakers use this as a matter of course, but we do not sem to expect learners to use the same trick, or even be aware of it. A trick I once tried in a team teaching situation, just to prove it worked, was when my other teacher came in to take over and asked me how I was. I answered "three o'clock." The teacher just assumed I had said "fine," but the students thought I had lost what little mind I had. The teacher had used prediction and the students had not.

From then on I have stressed prediction quite strenuously for business situations. The grammar might not be spotless, but they get the "job" done.

Posted: Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:31 am
by Sally Olsen
I used to invite people to my class to give a small talk about their business. As they talked, I would summarize it on the board behind them with key words and phrases and any new vocabulary the speaker brought up. The speakers were all from different countries and had a variety of English accents. They spoke for about 10 minutes. I then gave their talk again in my Canadian accent which the students were used to and the speaker explained vocabulary. Then they gave their talk again and the students were always amazed that they understood much more the second time.

I suggested that in real situations they try to get the person to talk as much as possible for the first few minutes of the interaction so they could get used to the accent and then paraphrase to see if they had the true message. "You said, blah, blah, blah." or "Let me see if have that information correctly." That usually slows down the speaker because they realize the listener is having trouble if they don't give back the right interpretation.

Posted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 10:13 am
by jimbob
Thank you Frank and Sally!

I like both your ideas. I've tried paraphrasing in class before (before moving to Germany I was a psychotherapist - so paraphrasing is my bread and butter). They had some difficulties with the execution of the concept, but I was just starting out as an ESL teacher then and didn't want to push things. I will go back and revisit that topic.

Thanks again and thanks in advance for anyone else.

Posted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 8:44 pm
by FrankS
Having read Sally Olson's reply I am going to alter my own methods slightly. I have no access to many different accents in person, but I am now going to search the internet for sources and add them to my classes, using the same methods as always, but adding in the new accents. It should add confidence in their abilities and, if I use a combination of video and audio depending on the level, I can see much potential!

Cheers Sally!