Source: Listas Locales
I know, I know. It’s meant as a compliment. I mean… I’m married to a Latino. And his accent makes me swoon.
But I still recommend you by-pass the accent compliment upon first meeting someone.
Mainly because this opener is like walking up to someone and saying, “You’re different.” While you may truly appreciate their uniqueness, that person may not relish being different. They may want to blend in. And the comment can make them feel that they never can.
It also draws attention away from what you may have in common. Similarities tend to draw us to new friendships, so it’s more welcoming to focus on those characteristics.
If I hear that someone does have an accent and it seems plausible that English is the second language, I try to employ the “Golden Rule” and offer what I appreciate in my second language. I make extra effort to look directly at someone so they can benefit from lips and facial expressions (especially in loud environments).
I speak clearly and pay attention to how fast I’m speaking. There’s nothing more challenging than trying to understand a second language when the speaker is mumbling at rapid fire speed… or with food in the mouth!
I try to be conscious about nontraditional words, slang or cultural expressions. I want to do my part to create a reciprocal conversation where the other person does not feel confused or left out. I know I appreciate it when people stick close to the “textbook Spanish” when I’m trying to communicate.
Of course, those efforts may turn out to be totally unnecessary. When I first met Billy, I completely underestimated his ability to banter in English. He quickly made me step it up to stay on my game. Finally, I offer as much grace as I possibly can and never tease someone about their language skills.
What do you think about accents?