Home Education Language Learning The accent dilemma: How to make yourself understood in your new home
Last update on February 13, 2020
Written by Kelly Dunning

When you are living in a new country, it can sometimes be difficult to make yourself understood. Here are some tips for communicating with your new friends.

One of the challenges of being an expat in a foreign land is that even though you are speaking the local language, everyone has trouble catching what you are saying because of your accent. If you have moved to Great Britain on a UK visa it can be irritating to have to repeat yourself numerous times and for your accent to get in the way of your day to day interactions.

However, you don’t want to completely erase your accent because it is part of who you are and where you come from. You simply need to find some ways to make communication easier when everyone else around you has a different dialect.

To avoid confusion and frustration, here are some tips that will help you be understood no matter where you have relocated to.

Use the local vocabulary

Depending on where you are in the world, the place where you throw your refuse can be called a rubbish bin, garbage disposal or trash can. The room with the toilet can be called the bathroom, washroom, restroom, ladies’ room or simply the toilet. One of the tricks to being understood is picking up the local vocabulary and using it as much as possible.

It might sound strange if you are not used to it, but the people you are talking to will have a much easier time understanding what you are saying when you use the same terms they do. When I lived in England on a UK visa I got used to saying nappies instead of diapers and rubbish instead of garbage.

Mimic the cadence

When you listen to the local accent of your new home, you will start to hear the rhythm of the way that people speak. Some accents have a sing-song quality and sound very lyrical, such as the Irish accent. Other accents are very fast, some are slow, some go up at the end of each sentence and some go down.

Simply being able to talk in a similar cadence to the people around you will help you to be understood. Finding the cadence of the local speak is like finding the tune to the song that everyone else is singing along to.

However, be careful to be subtle with these last two points, as you don’t want to overdo it. If you start copying the local accent completely then this will appear strange and some people might think you are making fun of them.

Slow it down and simplify it

If you have tried the above but you are still struggling to get your message across, think about the simplest way you can express what you are trying to say while using the least words possible. Say it carefully and deliberately while paying close attention to pronouncing each word properly. This should help you to be understood if all else fails.

Be sure to do this without increasing the volume of your voice or having a condescending tone. Smile, laugh and apologize for the confusion and you will save anyone from feeling uncomfortable when they don’t understand you.

Practice makes perfect

Above all, the best way to get better at communicating with people in your new home is to practice talking to them! The more you talk to people the more practice you will get in speaking so that they understand. It can take time to make friends as an expat on a UK visa or in any country for that matter, but make sure that you get out there and socialize as much as possible.