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What to do When a Professor Has a Different Accent

As an international student in a foreign country like America or Canada, which is home to all, it is very likely that you will encounter some foreign professors or lecturers with strong accents. This might sometimes make it more difficult to grasp what they are teaching or cause a stilt in communication.

An accent doesn’t mean they can’t speak English. After all, to study or live in the US, you must have a strong knowledge of English.

An accent is a tone an individual adopts when pronouncing words. It is usually influenced by geographical location, socio-economic status, ethnicity, and native accent. 

Native accents are formed in the formative years and other accents gotten later in life are influenced by it. Even you as an African have your accent when speaking English. Accents are usually from a person’s native dialect and it becomes audible when speaking a different in language (second language) like English.

The U.S. is home to immigrants of different ethnicities and races and a lot of them speak English as a second language.

Even a lot of natives can trace their ancestry outside of the U.S. Within the U.S., some geographical regions have peculiar accents e.g., southern drawl. Over the last few years, the Canadian government has been on a mission to increase its population through the immigration of unskilled and skilled workers, some of whom are in academia.

In this blog, we will focus on how to understand, accept and adapt to different foreign accents from professors during lectures.

Is There Bias Over Professors with Foreign Accents?

It is inevitable that some teachers will suffer bias from students due to their foreign accents. While some accents are pleasing to the ear, some can be distracting or difficult to understand. For instance, a study shows that Chinese or Korean lecturers are likely to have fewer ratings from students compared to a lecturer with a British accent.

Truthfully, it can be difficult to jostle understanding a lecturer’s foreign accent with understanding the course being taught, but it doesn’t justify looking down on the class or the lecturer.

It is important to understand that English is their second language and that doesn’t limit their mastery of the course in itself. So instead of blaming them for low performance in your grades, try to learn how to adjust to their accent to fully grasp what is being taught.

Full vlog on Youtube: Coping with a professor with a foreign accent

How to Adapt to Foreign Accent Speaking Professors

Foreign accents are pretty common, understanding them can be difficult at first but over time you get used to them. You go through different phases from surprise to toleration and finally acceptance and understanding. 

Here are some things you can do to help you enjoy your class taught by a professor with an accent.  

Sit in the Front:

The benefits of sitting in front of this situation far outweigh the “losses”. The front seat gives you full access to the professor, you can hear everything as clearly as possible and in worse case scenarios, you can read the instructor’s lips.

Also, accents can be a distraction so sitting in the front will help you eliminate extra noises from students in the back seat area. You will be able to cut out all distractions and concentrate on what is being taught.

Remember, you’re still trying to understand the accent so you need all the undivided attention.

Record the Class:

You may have some difficulty comprehending the lecture because your brain has not yet fully registered the professor’s accent so you will need to go over the lectures to fully grasp everything as you may have missed some vital information. 

You can ask the professor if the class is available online and listen to it repeatedly. An alternative will be to make an audio recording of the class but you have to seek the consent of the professor prior to recording.

Attend Class Regularly:

One way to get used to your professor’s accent is by attending classes regularly. This may be difficult to do but the end result is good. It doesn’t matter if attendance is not compulsory, attend the class. Over time you will get familiar with the accent and it won’t sound so foreign anymore.

Figure out a Pronunciation Scheme:

 Our brains are programmed to understand words a certain way. The fourth tip to deal with a different accent is to figure out a pronunciation scheme. Repeated exposure to a foreign accent helps you figure out a pronunciation pattern. All the aforementioned tips lead to this.

Be Patient:

We need to be kind to people, especially those we perceive as different. A lot of times, these professors are still trying to adapt to the system so a little empathy will go a long way. There is a possibility that their accent will evolve to become clearer with time, so the longer they stay the less thick it can be. And if it doesn’t, with time, you might be the one to adapt to it. 

It is also good to appreciate their efforts, many of them are not sure they are imparting knowledge because of their accents so a little appreciation will go a long way in reassuring them.

Build a Relationship:

To help you understand and easily adapt to the professor’s accent, you can try building a closer relationship with them. After academic hours, you can visit them in their office for a discussion about the topic taught or general conversation. 

This will help you get used to their accent and even respect them for their knowledge more. 

Conclusion

As an international student pursuing higher education in a foreign country, you should be able to identify with these professors and do better work adapting to their foreign accents. Having to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and not having anyone to support you is not easy. 

See their accents as a way of appreciating different cultures and nationalities. Professors from other countries work twice as hard to succeed in countries that don’t fully welcome foreigners.

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