Accent Issues for Scientist

Accent Issues for Scientist


Good communication starts with "ARRR!"
Sunday, June 18, 2006
The Seattle Times
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

A Chinese born scientist was asked by her US boss to improve her accent because her colleagues were having difficulties understanding her. The scientist is qualified as an MD and has a Masters degree from China, PhD from Britain and postdoctoral studies from Britain, Canada and the US.

Her boss was afraid that he might hurt her feelings. Her language coach wanted to help her produce American sounds.

- The scientist could not pronounce the letters R and L
- The company paid $1,800 for a 10 week course for two employees to soften their accent.

Language Issues:
- Spoken language does reflect external factors such as the influence of our mother tongue or even culture.
- As the article points out there is a difference between an accent and an accent that interferes with our communication.
- Accents are an interesting example, in my opinion, of noise in a communication channel when the channel is being used to transmit messages from a different system. However, when speaking within our group do we make allowances for accent distortions or does the accent become part of the spoken message?

- How much of the scientist’s problems were due to accent on the one hand and the inexperience of her colleagues in hearing a non American sounding English? How relevant is the fact that she also studies in Britain and Canada.
- Do we have some sort of duty to correct someone’s flawed pronunciation?
- Do we have a duty to make sure that those around us can understand us easily?
- Should accents be regarded as a racial issue or a communication issue?

What is the cost of miscommunication in a company?

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