Photo by Darren Felon
I don’t have the world’s worst hearing, but I have trouble understanding a lot of people with accents. Oddly, I have no trouble with just about any kind of British accent. Well, maybe it’s not so odd because I fake a British accent frequently and a new study suggests that might just be the trick to making accents easier to decipher when we hear them. Here’s how the study, conducted in the journal Psychological Science, worked:
Following a pretraining accent comprehension test, participants were assigned to one of six groups. The baseline group received no training, but participants in the other five groups listened to accented sentences, listened to and repeated accented sentences in their own accent, listened to and transcribed accented sentences, listened to and imitated accented sentences, or listened to and imitated accented sentences without being able to hear their own vocalizations. Posttraining measures showed that accent comprehension was most improved for participants who imitated the speaker’s accent.
If you find you’re having trouble understanding a particular accent, just repeat what they said and see if it helps. They won’t be offended at all, I promise.
Imitate an Accent to Better Understand It [Scientific American]