Specialist Language Courses

A world of accents

World of accents
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Are you studying Medical English with the hope of working one day in an Anglophone country? If so, you’ll need to understand a variety of accents. There’s the accent that’s local to where you live, but cities across the world contain many people who were born in other countries. Some speak with an intonation that may be unfamiliar to you. What do you do when someone in your consulting room has an accent that’s difficult for you to understand?

Firstly, you’re not alone. Plenty of native English speakers find themselves in a similar situation. Strong accents can be barriers to communication, and that’s nobody’s fault. If it happens to you, try paraphrasing what you think they’ve said. Ask, ‘Are you saying that …?’, add what you think the answer might be, and wait for confirmation or correction.

If all else fails, you have the great excuse for being a non-native speaker, and putting the blame on yourself for the lack of understanding. See if you can find someone who can help the communication along – the patient’s family member, perhaps.

To pre-empt this, you can try learning the ways people speak English. The good news is it’s relatively easy, thanks to the wide availability of films and TV programmes. However, it’s easy to think that passive understanding is the same as active learning. Try the following tips to help you with learning the accents of global English.

  • Set yourself a task of watching Anglophone films from different countries. As you listen, compare the differences in accent, from India, to Jamaica, to Ireland.
  • Download podcasts from different Anglophone countries, on topics that interest you. Unless you’re a fluent speaker, only listen to a little bit at a time so you don’t tire yourself out.
  • Search for YouTube learning videos made by teachers from different countries. SLC have a series of videos on learning Medical English, delivered by UK-based experts.

We’re here to help you with all aspects of Medical English, whether you’re a nurse or a doctor. Plus discover more free tips here.

Stephanie Lam
About the author

Stephanie Lam is a writer, journalist, and English teacher. She specialises in writing fabulous words for the wellbeing and health industries.

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