I was a amused today to hear dynamic Sheryl NussbaumBeach https://twitter.com/snbeach relate a story from years ago of getting up at 2am in the USA to be involved in an online conference. At one stage she grabbed the microphone to share her experiences only to be asked to please repeat what she said. After the third ‘please repeat’ she asked what language they spoke. When English was the reply, she realised her accent was providing a barrier to understanding.
This reminded me of the time I hosted a Tech Talk Tuesday webinar during global education week. I noticed in the chat that someone asked me to slow down. So, politely, I asked what first language they spoke and the response was “English.” My Aussie accent was too broad and fast for them despite me thinking that I was speaking slowly and clearly. Earlier this week I spoke to year 2 students in Russia. Their teacher stated that their questions would be very simple and may be unusual. When asked “Do I have a bed?” I said yes and tried to describe it, only to be interrupted by the teacher to say that the question was “Do I have a pet?” Oh dear!
On Tech Talk Tuesday this week, Marc Grossman from the UK presented on “Coding for everyone”. He stepped Peggy George from USA through creating a simple type game in Scratch. I quietly laughed as the two completely different accents wanted reassuring of what was said eg Did you say ‘hall’? etc When classes connect and try to communicate, we know that something is not quite right when we hear laughter at the other end when nothing really humorous was related! But, we continue to try and make ourselves understood and just laugh together.
Overcoming the accents!
- Use a backchannel for questions and to support understanding eg skype chat with video, chat in the virtual classrooms, todays meet etc
- Slow deliberate talking helps!
- Laugh together and work through it all as much as possible.
It is interesting to note that skype is working on a translator during video calls. See http://mashable.com/2014/05/27/satya-nadella-microsoft-2/