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- The Fucked Up English Accents to Latinos
So having covered before the easiest and hardest Spanish accents to understand as I wrote here…
And also having just covered how the gringo accent can make some words harder to understand in Spanish for Latinos listening to us speak in their language as I wrote here…
There’s another minor detail that I have noticed over the years when it comes to accents between gringos and Latinos.
In which, at times, it seems to me that some English accents are easier to understand for Latinos with non-native English to understand.
It’s a minor detail but one that might be interesting to a very few folks out there who find themselves speaking English to Latinos.
Just understand that whatever accent you carry in English might be more difficult for the other person to comprehend.
But let’s get to some examples to show what I mean in the real world.
A Party in Cochabamba
Back when I lived in a Bolivian city called Cochabamba, I was working for this NGO that you can read about my time with here.
Anyway, this NGO brought in a lot of foreigners mostly to work for them.
At times, we’d all get together and have little parties.
On one such occasion, we were all meeting up for a 4th of July party late a night and there happened to be some local Bolivians there also.
During that party, there was a small moment though in which I was hanging out for a few minutes in this small crowd of mostly foreigners and a few Bolivian chicks.
Both of whom wanted to practice their English.
Now, for the most part, their English wasn’t terrible but it could use some minor work here and there.
But you could understand them easily enough and they could understand you more or less.
So, during this small chat, they understood me fine for the most part outside of having to repeat myself like once if I remember right.
But there happened to be one guy in the party – a black American – who one of the chicks had a real difficulty understanding.
And they weren’t trying to be rude!
They asked him several times to repeat himself but had difficulty understanding.
Personally, I understood the guy just fine.
So did the other foreigners in our little group.
However, for some reason, this one black guy was difficult to understand for them.
Now, keep in mind, he was from Philadelphia so maybe they weren’t accustomed to accents from that city?
Either way, it was the first time, in hindsight, where the accent of the gringo in English can make it more difficult to understand him.
But it does remind me of something similar that might explain where the difficulty in this party came from….
“Why Do They Speak Like That?!?”
After I was done with Cochabamba
While there, I met a chick named Tami that you can read about here.
She was a white Argentine chick who I hooked up with a few times and who happened to speak English perfectly.
She did not have a South American accent of any kind.
Understood exactly whatever you said and could converse in English without any problems whatsoever.
I always said in other articles that you could have dropped in her the middle of Iowa and locals there would think she was Iowan or at least from the US.
So, with her, she knew English pretty damn well but was born and raised in Argentina.
So, on one particular day, she wanted to ask me something about English in the US.
She had spent some time living in either Kentucky or Kansas but I can’t remember which of the two it was.
So she knew the US a little bit anyhow.
And, having just listened to something on Youtube (whatever it was but I guess it was a song), she asked me “why do black people in America all speak so different?”
In which then she tried explaining how difficult she found it to understand Black Americans speaking English versus everyone else basically.
And, to be honest, I didn’t know what to say – like in that part, I understand black people just fine.
But I get what she means in that, for sure, you have a different way of speaking between different racial groups at times.
Also, as I implied before, you have different accents between different cities.
That black guy in that party before?
You know, he wasn’t speaking in some stereotypical way that black people are portrayed.
So, in all honesty, I think it was more his accent from Philadelphia that was causing issues.
Still, I can definitely see how a black person speaking differently can cause a Latino who is learning English to have difficulty understanding.
In the same way that, as a gringo, there are accents in Latin America that we find to be harder than others.
Like, for example, the Dominican or Chilean accent tends to be portrayed as harder to understand than others.
Or, even regionally in a country like Colombia, how the Caribbean Coastal accent is harder to understand than the one in Bogota.
The same thing can be seen also in the US in reverse for Latinos speaking English.
Does Rocky Speak English?
And to illustrate again how regional accents in the US can be tricky for some folks…
A few months ago, I was sitting at a Mexican friend’s apartment whose name is Angie…
And we were watching a scene of Rocky like you can see here.
Anyhow, Angie speaks English pretty well.
Not as well as Tami did but pretty damn well overall.
Still, there are small scenes here and there where Angie found the actor of Rocky. Sylvester Stallone, to be difficult to understand.
Now, keep in mind, that actor was born in NYC so that is where his accent comes from.
Anyhow, as we were watching the movie, we eventually turned the subtitles on because Rocky was turning out to be a tiny bit difficult to understand every word from.
Like I said, her English is good but that NYC accent was a little bit challenging.
And you know what?
Even my midwestern accent can be difficult at times!
“What Did You Say?”
Finally, in college, I remember encountering some Costa Rican guy who was studying at the same college that I went to.
Now, similar to Angie or Tami, this dude clearly spoke English well enough.
However, during the few times in Freshman year in which we walked to a nearby fraternity, he did have a few difficulties in understanding what I was saying at times.
And I’m from Iowa and we were studying in Ohio.
So you would think he would’ve gotten used to a Midwestern accent by then, no?
Still, in hindsight, I think his bigger issue was just some American slang stuff that he hadn’t learned yet.
So, at times, it’s not necessarily the accent that might trip a Latino up but instead the regional slang that you use.
In the same way, there’s words used in Australia or England that would confuse me also because I don’t use them.
I hesitate to say that there are “better” or “worse” accents.
But, truthfully, I do think that is something that could perhaps be said.
At the end of the day, it’s the vote by numbers.
If everyone thinks you are harder to understand, then you’re harder to understand.
Simple as that.
Like in Spanish, most folks I know consider the Dominican or Chilean accent to be the roughest on the ears for understanding.
Doesn’t mean that the way they speak is wrong necessarily but it’s not going to be as easy for most people.
Be it native Spanish speakers or non-native speakers.
And, in English, I’d imagine the same could be said but I’d let learners of the English language be the judge on which accents they prefer.
Afterall, it’s my native language so I don’t really care so much about “which accent is easier or harder.”
It’s fine to me.
Of course, the other thing that should be said also is that how Latinos learn English obviously influences which accents they are used to or find easier.
In the same way that, during high school and college, I never had to adjust to the Argentine accent in the classroom.
Though I don’t find the Argentine accent too difficult, there was some adjustment needed to be made when I spent time in Buenos Aires.
Same thing for Latinos learning English from what I’d imagine.
If most of your course material and teachers demonstrate a certain accent (American or British and whatever variety from those respective countries), then that’ll likely influence what they find easier or harder to understand.
In the same way that I have a Pakistani friend from college who speaks English with a British accent.
That’s how he learned it!
So it is what it is.
Just another topic when it comes to understanding accents between gringos and Latinos.
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