Lesson 12

How to Improve Your Accent

On Tuesday, when I am at my work, something interesting happens. Two customers come to our cafe. They are a husband and a wife.

The man starts to speak to me. I know that he speaks English but I don’t understand him. I don’t understand what he wants. I think that he wants something we don’t have, so I call my boss. She speaks with the man and she sells him two coffees and two of our regular sandwiches.

I am surprised. When they leave, I go to my boss and I tell her that I am sorry I didn’t understand the man. She says that it is OK. She says that this can happen when people speak with an accent that is new to us. She tells me that the pair was from Scotland.

The next day, I go to school and I tell this story to my teacher. I tell her that I felt really stupid that I didn’t understand our customer. I wasn’t sure if my English was good enough for my job. I started to doubt myself. My boss was OK with it but I still needed some help from my teacher. I wanted to know what I could do in these situations.

My teacher says, “I understand. You are used to English that people speak in London, but you aren’t used to the Scottish accent. Your ears aren’t used to listening to the Scottish accent. All you have to do is to listen more to Scottish English. You need to train your ears to this accent as well.

What happened to you, can happen to everybody. When you already speak English at some level and you go to a country where people speak with a different accent, you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t understand. It is OK and it usually takes two weeks to get used to this new accent.

You shouldn’t think that there is something wrong with you when you don’t understand a new accent. With practise, you can train your ears to any accent.”

Then I ask, “So what can I do to understand the Scottish accent? I don’t live in Scotland.”

Our teacher says, “You can watch films with Scottish English or you can watch situation comedies from Scotland and soon you can understand.”

I tell her, “Thank you.”

After school, I go to my work again. At about 4 o’clock, two interesting customers come to our café. This time, they are not from Scotland. They are foreigners.

They want to buy some coffee. They are two ladies and it is clear that their English is very basic. My boss is serving them. When she hears that they don’t speak English very well, she does something very interesting. She changes her English. She uses very simple sentences with only three or four words. I can see that the ladies understand her. They buy two coffees, two sandwiches and two cakes. They are happy and my boss is happy too.

When the ladies leave, I tell my boss that it was very nice how she changed her English so that the two ladies would understand her. My boss says that sometimes she has to speak in a very simple English. It doesn’t matter if the customers speak English well or not. They are our customers and we have to do everything possible to make them feel comfortable. If they see that they can speak English here, they can come to our café every day.

I think that our boss is a good businesswoman. She does everything possible to make our customers happy. It is true that we have a lot of customers. Our café is busy every day.

When you want to understand people with a special accent, listen to audio with their accent for some time.