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Enjoying the accents

- Ying Sa is the founder and principal certified public accountant at Community CPA & Associates Inc. and a co-founder of the Immigrant Entrepreneurs Summit. 

I have an ear for accents, so I enjoy listening to all kinds of them.

When growing up in the melting pot of Toronto, Canada, I learned an easy way to make friends – when I met someone, I liked to guess where they were from based on the accent I heard. I would say, "Oh, are you from Australia?" Many times, my new acquaintance would be thrilled and say: "Wow! You are the only person who guessed I am Australian! People think I am British all the time!"

Such compliments from my new friends and new clients make me beaming with excitement when I see someone new to America. Out of habit, I pay attention to how people speak English. At the right time I surprise them by saying, "You are from Canada!" These easy discoveries help me to bring new clients to my business and to build a new friendship with someone I've just met. 

In today’s business world, it is almost a required skill to be able to connect with business affiliates who speak English with strong accents. If you find yourself uneasy around the thick accents, or struggle to make sense of what they are saying, take a deep breath and let them know. "Excuse me, I love your accent, but can you please speak a little slower so I can understand what you are saying?" 

The worst mistake in communication is automatically nodding your head as if you understood what was said. And both professionals and newcomers do it.

The newcomers often take things very seriously because they have no experiences and everything feels so intense in their environment. This could be his or her first job in America and they just do not think that they can be understood easily because of their accent.

On one hand we need to give them time to get comfortable, and on the other hand we need to overcome our own mental barriers by simply recognizing that accent is part of a culture, not a bad habit. Accent has nothing to do with how smart the person is and should not be used to judge their intellect. It is, however, the mark of someone whos new to America.

If you enjoy being open-minded or want to be at home with folks who are new to the USA, start with listening to and appreciating their unique accents. I do not speak Spanish, but I have many Spanish-speaking clients who speak strongly accented English. I was told many times by these folks that I understand them perfectly. After hearing their accents for so long, I do understand them. And I enjoy the sound of their speaking. It helps connect me to these hardworking people. I look at the people and I think, "They speak a language that I do not, and they are smart for that!"

So enjoy the sound of their accents and see the world through the eyes of these newcomers. Dont let someones accent become a barrier between you and them -- use it instead to come together. 


What a simple and respectful manner to handle accents. Thank you for your insight and guidance.

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