It’s OK Not to Be Able to Understand Specific English Accents

By Robby

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Improve Spoken English

Hello my dear foreign English speakers and also of course any native English speaker who happens to be watching my video or listening to my English Harmony podcast!

Anyway, no matter what your background is, you’re all welcome back to English Harmony. And in today’s episode I’m going to talk about listening comprehension and the related issues. And to be more specific, it’s going to be about foreign English speakers’ ability to understand what native speakers are saying.

And as you can imagine this is where the accent comes into play, right? But before we start actually getting into the nitty gritty of the subject, let me just share some of my latest experiences with you.

As you may know, I’ve been attending a computer course for the last 6 weeks or so and just to let you know, the course is based in Dublin and I live in a region called Kildare. It’s actually a county. That’s how regions are called in Ireland, right? I live in Ireland, just for those unaware.

And I have to travel about 60 kilometers from Kildare to Dublin every day. And the thing is, Kildare people speak differently from the Dubliners, right? Dublin people have a very distinct accent, right? The fact of the matter is – even Kildare people have accents on their own but it’s just that I’ve been living among them for the last 13 years, so I am very well used to their ways of speaking, right? So it doesn’t present me any difficulties whatsoever to understand what Kildare people are saying.

It Took Me a Few Years to Fully Understand a Man I Was Working With!

And just to put things in perspective – when I started my last job, it was about 7 years ago or so, there was a senior citizen. Well, this is a politically correct way of referring to an older person, right? I just wanted to be politically correct, that’s why I didn’t say an old man, right? A senior citizen working with us and I was struggling to understand him big time, right?

But then after a while, month after month I started to understand him more and more. Well, obviously I would understand what he was saying, it’s just that I had to ask him every now and then to say it again because I just wasn’t used to his particular accent, right? And then a few years down the line I had no difficulties understanding him whatsoever, right?

Now I would understand any local coming from the county Kildare. But now that I’ve started mixing with Dublin people, I have to tell you guys there are some people that I struggle understanding even now in this day and age, when I’ve been speaking English nonstop for the last few years and I have my own Fluency Star coaching program and everything and I’ve been dealing with thousands of people. You would think that at this stage I should be capable of understanding any native English speaker in the world, right? But it’s not the case my friends!

It’s Just Not Possible to Understand All Native Speakers!

You see, and this is when I have to mention that I’ve been receiving a few e-mails asking me the question: “Why can’t I understand certain people? Why I can’t – why can’t I understand their accent? I’m a very good English speaker but when it comes to understanding for example Australians or the people from New Zealand or places like that, I just struggle big time. What’s wrong with me? I’ve been leaning the English language for the 20 years and I still struggle with that. I must be useless, right?”

So let me tell you right off the bat, there’s nothing wrong with you! It’s only natural. You see – the English language, I guess I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that it’s the biggest language in the world terms of the locations covered, right?

Chinese might be the first one topping the biggest languages list but it’s spoken in a particular geographical region, right? Whereas the English language originating from England, has spread into the United States, Canada and then South-Africa, Australia, New Zealand and obviously there’s plenty more regions: India, Nigeria where the language is spoken.

So as you can imagine it’s developing a bit differently in each case. So the pronunciation and accent is different, so there’s no way in the world that you would understand any English speaker, irrelevant of their geographical origin, right? It’s just not possible and there’s nothing wrong with you!

I, For Example, Struggle to Understand Certain Locals Even in This Day and Age…

The same way, there’s nothing wrong with me not being able to understand a few guys from Dublin. And as a matter of fact there’s only one guy who I struggle to understand big time. I have to mention that he speaks very fast on top of it all, so it’s his fast speech plus his accent, I can barely understand him.

And I’m not kidding you guys. I had to actually ask him “Can you say it again?” after every second sentence. It does get embarrassing at times, right? And I will admit, on a few occasions I’ve just been laughing at his jokes without actually understanding what his joke was and I’m just agreeing on certain occasions but I’m judging the situation, right?

If I can clearly see that he expects me to say something or that he is saying something to which I would agree but then I would have to kind of ask him a relevant question or something, obviously I wouldn’t just stupidly nod my head and then find myself in a very embarrassing situation. So I’m basically treading carefully. I’m agreeing when I can clearly see that he doesn’t expect any further response, right?

But this just goes to show guys that it’s not humanly possible to understand any native English speaker despite being actively immersed in the English language for long, long time. It’s just not possible.

Well, maybe there is some sort of a genius out there who can handle it but I’ll admit guys, I’m not that kind of person, you know what I mean? And so you shouldn’t be embarrassed or you shouldn’t be beating yourself over the fact that you can’t understand certain native English speakers.

Stop Beating Yourself Over the Fact You Can’t Understand All English Speakers!

I can imagine a situation where you’re probably working in a shop, for example, and there’s plenty of tourists coming in and then you have no issues understanding for example Americans because Americans possess the best accent or pronunciation – whatever you want to call it.

Many people agree that Americans speak the clearest – it’s just a fact, you know what I mean? Well, I would imagine, there are certain Americans coming from specific locations, maybe Southerners that are a little bit more tricky to understand but by and large I would say that the American accent is the clearest, right?

Even though I have to admit that the British one isn’t so difficult to understand just because I’ve been watching British TV for a long time, British films, TV programs and all that and I’m just used to that way of pronunciation, right? But I would imagine that if you’re working in a shop where there’s tourists coming in on a regular basis, you might be very successful at understanding what Americans are saying or Canadians but then you might struggle big time when some British person comes in and starts speaking with a Cockney accent or something like that, you know what I mean, or an Australian fella comes in and asks for something and you haven’t got a clue what he is saying, right? Or a South-African for that matter, right?

But you don’t have to beat yourself over that. There’s nothing wrong with you, that doesn’t mean that you’re a bad English speaker or anything like that. It’s just natural. And the thing is that you can only get better at understanding a specific accent purely by being exposed to that particular accent over a long period of time. It takes time. There’s nothing else at play here. It’s only time and exposure, right?

So that’s today’s lesson. And I hope that in case you’ve been beating yourself over the fact that you can’t understand certain English speakers, native English speakers for that matter or even some foreign English speakers, right? For example some East-Europeans.

I’m an East-European, too but I would – I don’t want to sound like bragging but my accent has been improved over the last few years just because I’ve been actually purposefully working on my American pronunciation but some of my fellow East-Europeans have a very distinct accent.

So you might probably be having a hard time understanding them, right? And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s only time and exposure that will do the trick and enable you to understand that specific group of people speaking with a specific accent, right?

So if you have any questions as always you are free to post it in comments in the comment section below and I will get back to you as soon as I can!

All right my friends, thanks for watching this video and bye bye!


P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System