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Zimbabweans abroad face difficulties with accent

22 Feb 2019 at 08:31hrs | Views
Speakers with foreign accents can face discrimination even in a country with a diverse population and a long immigrant history. But much remains to be done. "We're going to increasingly be exposed to accented speakers in the workplace, in doctors' offices, in our neighbourhoods, and in all the places we encounter folks we don't know well,". This according to Alene Moyer, a linguist at the University of Maryland, whose new book, Foreign Accents, probes the social implications of sounding like a non-native speaker. "The question is," she adds, "whether or not we accept and acclimate to that reality."

Being a foreigner in the UK is amazing most of the time. You're super proud of your heritage, but when you're trying to have a regular conversation without having to explain where you were born, or where you grew up, or where your parents is from, that charming accent of yours can quickly become the bane of your existence. These are the times when you wish you could just be home or speak in signs like the South African sign speaker at Mandela's funeral.Zimbabweans have face serious problems abroad because of their accents. To start with there are Zimbabweans who grew up in the Dales and they speak their own language which is normally known as the nose brigade. The nose brigades have the most difficult accent to understand or to be understood. One wonders where the nose accent came from it is not only gibberish in the UK but it is clearly nonsense and difficult to understand. As long as you have an accent People interrupt you every two sentences to ask you where you're from. If you have gone for a job interview it is your accent they question and obviously the writings are on the wall. When a Zimbabwean attends the doctor's surgery for treatment there is drama untold. It is difficult for a Zimbabwean patient to describe her pain in English. The English have descriptions of pain in their own words. Pains like pins and needles, how do you describe your pain? It is difficult to describe pain in English. This is a problem especially when you are having a pain which needs a special description of the pain. This has resulted in many people shunning doctors because of communication problems. Not only shunning the surgery but it ends up having people being misdiagnosed. Some are given wrong medication because they have failed to describe their pain. They fall short in words to describe their pain.  Make no mistake Zimbabweans speak English very well and they understand it so well. The problem comes on how they coin the words how do the other person understands the words as they are coined out. On the other hand, people who don't ask often assume you're from somewhere you're not. If I had a dime for every person who asked me if I was Nigerian (which I'm super not), I'd be able to fly to Nigeria.

The problem you encounter when your accent is different. You have to change how you say some things. Have you tried ordering anything in Zimbabwean accent? I usually repeat my order about three times before faking my best British accent, at which point I just sound like I'm making fun of the server. You have to apologetically "warn" people that you have an accent, or run the risk of repeating yourself five to six times — especially on the phone. When the person you're talking to is expecting everyone to speak in a British accent, it makes sense that it takes them a minute to adjust to the way you speak. Doesn't make it any less frustrating? Pamela Muhwati from Corby said "Creepy guys in bars tell you your accent is hot, as if creepy guys needed yet another reason to be creepy. Honestly, dude, I'm just trying to order my vodka soda. Please show yourself out. "People assume you don't know basic cultural facts because you speak differently. Actually, believe it or not, it needs courage to say "I'm from a different country, not a different planet".

In most cases People assume you're a tourist. The reality is Zimbabweans are here to stay but the accent does not change fast. A number of things escape them. Zimbabweans are so innovative they then turn to their own funny accent which is neither English nor Zimbabwean. This complicates the situation more than sticking to the first accent. Even if English is actually your first language, you still get complimented on how well you speak it. Strangers ask you to say words in your accent.  If you do speak another language, people start speaking to you in it. They mimic your accent in a funny way and identify you with your accent.   "You constantly feel self-conscious, because some days you just. Want. To fit in. Maybe you even avoid saying words that make your accent sound too pronounced, so you can actually have a conversation without all of the above happening. It's called self-preservation."  Said Petros Makamba from Luton England. The problem is that when you go home, you sound "so British" You've essentially developed a hybrid accent that doesn't really belong anywhere, but you know what that means? That you're a super-special bicultural unicorn princess, who walks around serving platefuls of awesome.

Discrimination becomes a problem even Scientists are finding that the reasons for that discrimination may actually start with how our brains process foreign accents in the first place. For one thing, if you're not used to it, it's simply harder to understand someone who is speaking with a foreign accent. The utterances are about 30% longer, they contain many pauses, the individual sounds may differ from ones we're used to, and where stress is located in the word and in the sentence also differs. This perceptual difficulty can alter how non-native speakers are perceived.  People are less likely to believe something if it's said with a foreign accent," says Lev-Ari. In her view, negative judgments are the result of the additional effort that our brains must make to process foreign speech. Our brains then shift the blame for this effort onto the veracity of the speaker. In another experiment, Lev-Ari showed that native speakers remember less accurately what non-native speakers say. This is because "we expect non-native speakers to be less proficient speakers, so we rely on our expectations about what they're going to say, rather than what they actually do say," she explains.

From experiments like these, it can be tempting to conclude that the cognitive difficulties imposed by non-native speech inevitably lead to social discrimination. After all, its linguistic bases seem so unavoidably natural. Even babies prefer native speakers of their language than they do non-natives. Even though our brains are plastic, people's stereotypes of non-native speakers are much less so. Ultimately, it's those stereotypes that shape what will happen when people hear foreign accents.

It is only our children who can fully articulate English in a better accent. Even our children laugh at us for our accent. Just imagine doctor treating you of a pain which is not your pain.

Source - Dr Masimba Mavaza
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