accents

Tell people you care what they are saying

Anonymous said:

Another speech-impediment related question: Usually my ability to understand speech is perfect, but it deteriorates rapidly if a person has an accent or talks lowly, so I spend a lot of time smiling and nodding politely.

I feel bad about this with everybody, but especially if a person has a speech impediment or disability accent.

But to understand I’d have to ask people to repeat themselves three or four times for every sentence. Do you have any advice?


realsocialskills says:

Basically what I think about this is:

  • It’s ok not to understand people. That is not your fault.
  • Listening is important. It’s (usually) not ok to ignore people.
  • It’s not usually ok to pretend you understand someone when you don’t (unless you need to protect yourself)

Being honest about what’s going on makes communication much easier:

  • People don’t like being ignored
  • If you smile and nod, people can usually tell that you’re not really listening
  • They can’t tell why, because they can’t read your mind
  • As far as they can tell, you’re ignoring them because you don’t care what they’re saying

It can help to be be explicit about what the problem is, and what you think might solve it.

Eg:

  • “I’m sorry — I care about what you’re saying, but I’m having trouble understanding. It’s hard for me to understand low pitched voices - would it be possible to speak at a higher pitch?”

Or:

  • “I’m having trouble understanding your voice, but I’d like to listen. Would it be better to write things down, or should I ask you to repeat, or something else?”

Also, if there’s a particular accent you’re encountering a lot, it’s likely worth spending some time working on your ability to understand it. If it’s a particular foreign accent, one way to do that is to watch videos or shows in which people speak in that accent, and turn the captions on.

And just, generally speaking, this gets easier with practice. Once you get more experience listening to people with the accent you’re having trouble with now, you’ll probably understand more readily and not have to ask for as much repetition.

Don't miswrite dialects

passionslikemine:

matchbook-stories:

realsocialskills:

pumpkinskull:

realsocialskills:

So, I’ve seen this problem when people want to write characters from a culture other than their own:

  • They know that those characters speak a different dialect than they do
  • And they want to convey this
  • But they don’t realize the dialect actually has a rich grammar and other idioms and conventions
  • So they end up just using a lot of stereotypes, or mis-using well-known attributes of the dialect
  • For instance, white authors who want to write characters who speak AAVE often misuse “be” as an indicator (by replacing “is” with “be” at random times rather than learning how “be” actually functions grammatically and writing it correctly.)

It’s important not to do that. If you want to write dialogue in a particular dialect, it’s important to actually learn that dialect so that you can write it correctly. 

pumpkinskull said:

and remember, if you’re unsure of how to write a dialect - do research! There are lots of guides to “how to put on an accent” and it’s fairly easy to transfer that into your writing. Or, find someone who speaks that dialect, and ask them for help.

if you have learned the “markers” of the accent but aren’t sure of your ability to transcribe them faithfully all the time, instead of showing the differences in pronunciation orthographically, describe it once or twice when introducing the character.

(quote starts here)

“Can I take your order?” asked the waitress. She didn’t pronounce her Rs and her vowels had a bright sound to them. (Australian, British)

“Don’t do that kind of shit,” he said. Or, something like that. There was a be in there somewhere that I didn’t understand. Was that one of those new fads young Americans did? (AAVE - from a older British narrator visiting the states, perhaps)

My teacher spoke in a peculiar way, putting stress on the wrong syllables, with Ds and Ts for THs. (Québécois)

“The other day, I was trying to tell this one tourist how to get somewhere, so I said, "Oh, you know, you go down Main Street, and then take a left on Jordan, and walk about five minutes,” and he asked me, “Sorry, what boat?” and I realized that we do sort-of say “a-boat,” or “a-boot,” you know?” (Canadian)

(quote ends here)

And of course there are arguments for and against writing accents at all; some people think it’s “othering” to mark some peoples’ speech and not others, while others find it dishonest to pretend everyone speaks the standard (written) language. Do what you as an author are comfortable with, do your research, and try your damnedest to be accurate, polite, and take criticism to heart.

realsocialskills said:

What do y’all think of this?

matchbook-stories: said:

tbh i would never ever figure out what accent those descriptors were trying to convey and would probably at that point stop reading. 

that doesn’t mean you have to phonetically type an accent. i don’t see why there’s anything wrong with just saying “she had an austrialian accent”.

additionally, you can write in a dialect without phonetically typing the accent it’s spoken in. In fact, writing a regional dialect is actually a great marker for the accent in and of itself. You probably don’t want to write your canadian character saying “Oh sohrry I missed your call, I was oot and aboot” because that would be silly. But if you use the syntax and idioms of canadian speech, you can still convey their canadian-ness, and the accent is implied.

passionslikemine said:

As a Southerner who cringes when a Southern accent is very obviously written, even by fellow Southerners, I advise on exercising a great deal of caution when writing anything phonetically (just don’t do it), or even doing more than just the absolute bare minimum of switching of syntax or use of idioms. And by bare minimum, I mean, only use things that make sense in their context and do not even try to go further than that, especially if you are improvising. Southern character uses “buggy” instead of “cart” as they and their friend go to get groceries? Fine. Saying “Howdy” or “y’all” excessively? Noooooo. Southerners who don’t live in the South are very conscious of the way our vocabulary alters perceptions of us; it took me a few years before I started using “y’all” as a form of group address again, especially in a classroom setting, and even now I hear the occasional titter. (Shit, even in the South, one of my student teachers got a full round of laughter from the class for saying pee-can instead of pe-kahn; in South Georgia this is common, being a more rural area with pecan farmers, in N. Georgia we tend to use the more neutral version.)

For a Southerner, the worst you’re going to do is annoy me, maybe hurt my feelings, or come off as classist if you deliberately make the character poor and uneducated. With other accents, AAVE being the first to come to mind, but also any sort of South Asian accent if you’re not from there, writing them phonetically or overusing syntax or idioms runs the risk of making a racist caricature. And then you’re just a dick.

Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having your POV character speculate briefly on where the other character is from, if you don’t want to take the direct approach suggested above. “She had a drawl to her voice, stretching vowels out for much longer than most of the Americans Stephen had met, but he had no clue where she was from. She didn’t sound like a Texan oil baron, but she didn’t sound like Scarlett O’Hara, either.” And later on he asks her and boom, she’s from Alabama. Or East Tennessee, and she’s actually got a really old-timey Appalachian accent. Or Mars, and she learned by watching True Blood. I don’t know.

invite-me-to-your-memories:

Don’t miswrite dialects

pumpkinskull:

realsocialskills:

So, I’ve seen this problem when people want to write characters from a culture other than their own:

  • They know that those characters speak a different dialect than they do
  • And they want to convey this
  • But they don’t realize the dialect actually has a…
Mostly good! But: * some “accent guides” on the Internet are rubbish. Linguists tend to be better sources than others. * native speakers remain the best guide to a language and dialect - they _instinctively_ know how the grammar works. When you learn a foreign language (or a new dialect), you have to think about things like verb tenses and sentence subjects and so on. The average native speaker has been able to make grammatically correct sentences, without thinking about grammar at all, since they were 5.

clatterbane:

Don’t miswrite dialects

realsocialskills:

pumpkinskull:

realsocialskills:

So, I’ve seen this problem when people want to write characters from a culture other than their own:

  • They know that those characters speak a different dialect than they do
  • And they want to convey this
  • But they don’t realize…

clatterbane said:

In a lot of cases, it seems better to convey the point through syntax and idiom, IMO.

Otherwise it’s a little too easy to come across like the hideous, deliberately Othering 19th century attempts at dialect writing. Even if you do some actual linguistic research, and aren’t trying to give that effect. I have seen modern examples that were just so bad (usually dealing with already stigmatized dialects) that I personally try to use a very light touch with that.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, this is definitely a much less risky approach.

tardis60:

Don’t miswrite dialects

pumpkinskull:

realsocialskills:

So, I’ve seen this problem when people want to write characters from a culture other than their own:

  • They know that those characters speak a different dialect than they do
  • And they want to convey this
  • But they don’t realize the dialect actually has a…

tardis60 said:

Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors. I can think of half a dozen instances where one of his characters’ unusual speech or pronunciation is written out phonetically to give a sense of personality. Sometimes this is over-the-top off the wall, for humorous effect, as it has no real-world equivalent that I know of (Mr. Tulip’s speech impediment in ‘The Truth,’ Findthee Swing in 'Night Watch,’ Edward d'Eath in 'Men at Arms.’).

Another favorite author of mine, Tad Williams, wrote my favorite series Otherland without making accents and nationalities obvious in dialogue with a few exceptions (Long Joseph Sulaweyo, Daniel Yacoubian spring to mind), to the point where I would forget a character was British or Australian. That effect worked really well for me to confuse identities and cast mystery, which added to my enjoyment. Some characters had unusual speech patterns or slang that conveyed personality in memorable ways without being distracting or obfuscating.

In the hands of skilled writers, both approaches worked for me personally, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the very things that were fine for me offended or turned others off. Everyone has different triggers and thresholds. I’ve found there are certain words and ways of expression that are much more likely to cause offense, and others much less likely.

Unilateral arbitrary rules don’t tend to work well in communication, and certainly that seems to go double for creative expression. If you’re concerned about causing offense, I’d recommend getting feedback from people in a position to understand and have a valuable point of view (e.g. those you want to avoid offending), and err on the side of caution. Be creative in what solutions you try. Figure out what you want to convey and all the ways of doing it. I as a writer love trying different things and coming up with creative solutions.

vinylharem:

Social skills for autonomous people: Noticing power

realsocialskills:

How do you know if you have power over someone? There are times when it’s obvious, of course, like if you’re someone’s employer or teacher or caretaker. But if you don’t have any power over them in any official capacity, you can still have…

vinylharem said:

I have found that not having a particularly noticeable regional accent and being relatively comfortable with using Fancy Words means that people unsettlingly often treat my opinions as having more weight. I’ve always been poor and have hilariously low self-esteem so I just don’t think of myself as having that sort of credibility, but it has very little to do with me as a person. I sound “posh” relative to a lot of people, and that affects how the things I say are read, whether it’s “knows what she’s talking about” or “snotty cow”.

realsocialskills said:

That’s true. Using words that way creates a certain kind of power.

And even when people are thinking “snotty cow” or somesuch insulting thing about you, they can sometimes *at the same time* think that your words have more weight and feel bad about themselves.

Resentment, contempt, and feeling inferior can go together.