I confess to having a big problem

understanding accents. It's very frustrating and sometimes embarrassing as I usually have to ask people to repeat themselves a few times. It's all accents: British, Irish, Chinese, Japanese. East Indian in particular is the hardest for me to decipher. This almost feels like a learning disability because my co-workers don't seem to struggle. So bad that if I watch a British movie for example, I have to see subtitles or I'm lost.


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Irish No Problem

Jun 24, 2019 at 1:47pm

Scottish is one I can't get!
They also write the same way...

The same

Jun 24, 2019 at 1:58pm

Are not alone. When I was a server it was a huge problem. I could barely decipher a thick New York accent. And it hasn’t gotten any better as I get older.

11 8Rating: +3

The same here

Jun 24, 2019 at 4:04pm

I stopped watching any shows that were British.

Brit in Van

Jun 24, 2019 at 10:47pm

Try harder, we have some great banter!

12 8Rating: +4

Takes time

Jun 25, 2019 at 8:44am

If you watch the same British shows over and over, you eventually start hearing the language over the accent.

Music, mix and diction

Jun 27, 2019 at 11:23am

Did you play a musical instrument when you were growing up? I've found that people who studied music usually have a better ear for accents.

I was married to someone from the British Isles and still have family there, so I enjoy hearing the different regional accents from that part of the world. I regularly listen to podcasts from BBC, RTE (Ireland) and RN (Australia); not only is the content better than most N American podcasts, but I find identifying the various regional accents fascinating - at 1.5x speed!

I agree with "Takes time": like with music, you just have to practise - but the payoff is worth it.

One of the problems I've been having, though, watching shows from other Anglophone regions (and occasionally from here, too), is the random poor audio mix and/or diction. In the quest for "authenticity", too many actors nowadays are slurring words and swallowing (especially terminal) syllables - to the point where even viewers in the countries of origin complain about not being able to understand them (viz. Happy Valley, Jamaica Inn).

Some of it could be down to production audio issues as well (i.e. micing), especially when an actor who's perfectly intelligible in one show is nearly incomprehensible in another. I occasionally turn on the subtitles myself as a "backup" if there's something I don't catch.

I occasionally have trouble with that in podcasts as well - usually when some self-important Brit academic holds forth in a manner that clearly communicates their total lack of concern for making themselves understood: even down to the words they're speaking, never mind the content.

(btw, did you know that Brits used to whinge about not being able to understand Idris Elba's character in The Wire? It goes both ways.)

Another issue is the general audio mix. Nowadays, I think post guys are generally mixing for a show to be viewed on big TVs with 5:1 or 7:1 sound systems. As a result, the dialogue sometimes gets lost in the mix when there's a lot of background music if you're streaming the show on a computer or phone. I suspect that public broadcasters especially don't have the budget to give the audio guys time to test the sound on a variety of systems and devices.

Don't give up! Some of the best content these days comes from foreign sources! Comedy especially: you haven't lived until you've watched Mock the Week or The Last Leg!

12 5Rating: +7


Jun 27, 2019 at 11:27am

I used to have the same problem. Working in a coffee shop forced me to adjust and learn to listen better. Thing that still trips me up is when someone says something too quickly, you ask them to repeat and they say it again twice as fast.

7 8Rating: -1

@ OP

Jun 27, 2019 at 2:51pm

look - its paragraph guy, at it again.
you "struck a chord"

9 13Rating: -4


Jul 5, 2019 at 8:11am

Look up audio dyslexia

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