When learning a new language in an educational institution, one would usually undergo a cross cultural training in order to further understand and grasp the tradition, the stories and the beauty behind the language you are studying. If you are studying the new language with several people from different nationalities, you will notice something quite distinct from each person—their accent.
That’s how the English language is. No matter how fluent you are, you will always have an accent. For example, while some may say the Americans do not have an accent, to the British they do and vice versa. In fact, these accents may go unnoticeable for years or even decades until somebody points it out to the person speaking. Having an accent is most certainly not a bad thing; however, it can affect your word articulation especially if your first language lacks certain vowels that the modern English alphabet uses, such as ‘r’ or ‘v’. If you are studying English to further your chances in climbing up the business ladder, then it would be best to read on to increase your understanding as to where your accent can take you from the gate of every business—the hiring process.
How the Brain Works In Noticing the Foreign Accent
The moment you step into the interview room and introduce yourself, the human resources personnel will notice three things about you: the way you look, the way you speak, and the way you carry yourself. Focusing on the way you speak, the personnel will also immediately notice if you do or do not have an accent simply just from the way you say your name.
Unconsciously, they may already be discriminating against you if they sense a strong foreign accent. Their brain is already noticing little things such as the words said seemed a bit longer drawn out, the stress points seem to be much different and the pronunciation just a smidge different from what the ear believes is the correct pronunciation. These are what make the personnel infer that you do have an accent. This applies not just to those who speak English, but all other languages as well such as French, Portuguese and Spanish.
Why The Discrimination Against a Foreign Accent Happens
In the master’s thesis presented by Lam Thanh Nguyen to the San Jose University, entitled “Employment Decisions as a Function of an Applicant’s Accent”, the study wished to explore the effects of the standard American English accent versus a Spanish accent of an applicant. It was concluded that the Spanish accent English speaker had a lesser chance of getting hired as it seems that speaking with a foreign accent is not a trait deemed to be within the ideal qualities of an applicant. In addition, there are unconscious stigmas in relation to accents, with some believing that having an accent only means you cannot perform just as well as someone with a standard American English accent. In the United States, believe it or not, it’s even legal not to hire someone simply based on the accent.
This only means that despite you being perfectly qualified for the job (and perhaps even overqualified at times), you may not be hired because of the way you pronounce words deviating from what is considered to be the standard tones.
Preventing Your Accent From Preventing You From Getting Hired
Don’t let your foreign English accent stop you from getting that dream job. Take a few deep breaths before entering the interview room. This will help you relax. Also, don’t speak too fast! You have to ensure your interviewer can understand you, so it’s best to speak slower rather than faster to get your message across clearly. If your accent still bothers you, it would be best to enroll in an educational institution that offers how to speak or to enhance their English language skills without the accent, therefore allowing their conversation partner to truly believe they are native English speakers.
Accents are part of who we are; it’s just sad how much prejudice there is against it even in this day and age. Just remember to be confident in your answers and show your interviewer you are competent and suitable for that job, even with an accent.