Ethically speaking: Discuss communication issues around accents with respect | Toronto Star

Some good practical advice when you can’t understand some accents and how to raise your concerns:

Carefully. Very, very carefully.

I like the way you’ve framed the problem. Rather than launching into a racist diatribe about “foreigners who won’t even speak Canadian,” you’ve set the issue up in a way that is reasonable and respectful. You’ve tried, but remain frustrated by an inability to communicate with the folks behind the counter.

I suggest that you speak to the owners quietly, when there are no other customers in the store. Describe your concern exactly as you’ve told it to me. Make sure they understand how great you think their store is, and how much you want them to succeed. And leave it to them to act however they think is appropriate.

The version of your problem that is more difficult is the one where you phone a customer service centre — say for Bell, Rogers or whomever — and get an agent whose accent is so thick you can’t understand it. For many people, especially those whose hearing is less than 100 per cent, this is very frustrating. They’ve waited 30 minutes on hold “your call is important to us”; now they’re trying to explain their problem to someone they simply cannot understand.

Ethically speaking: Discuss communication issues around accents with respect | Toronto Star.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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