Its Not What You Say

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Its Not What You Say

  1. 1. Its Not What You Say...This article was originally published on the Acclaro blog.Category: Global Trends...but how you say it, apparently. If you have a foreign accent, it is harder for native speakersto understand what you are saying and they are less likely to find what the person says astruthful, researchers found in a study (pdf) conducted by the University of Chicago last month,with funding from the National Science Foundation.“They misattribute the difficulty of understanding the speech to the truthfulness of thestatements," explained Boaz Keysar, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago andan expert on communication.Photo credit: timparkinsonHow did they find this out?American participants were asked to judge the truthfulness of trivia statements by native ornon-native speakers of English, such as, “A giraffe can go without water longer than a camelcan.” The purpose was to test the impact of accent on credibility.To minimize the effect on simply prejudice, researchers told listeners that the information in thestatements was prepared for the speakers, and was not based on the speakers’ own knowledge.Despite knowing the speakers were reciting from a script, the participants judged as lesstruthful the statements coming from people with foreign accents.Page 1: Its Not What You Say... Copyright © Acclaro 2012
  2. 2. On a truthfulness scale prepared for the experiment, the participants gave native speakers ascore of 7.5, people with mild accents a score of 6.95 and people with heavy accents a score of6.84. The severity of a person’s accent also affected the score; statements made by speakerswith heavier accents were rated as less truthful than those with milder accents.In another experiment, researchers told the subjects about the study to see if awarenessreduces the impact. It did have some effect: participants rated statements with mild accent justas truthful as statements by native speakers, but they still rated heavily accented statements asless truthful.We always knew that accent is a big factor that influences people’s perception of foreigners in asociety, but its insidious impact on credibility is a new finding, a researcher noted.Non-native job seekers, eyewitnesses, reporters or people taking calls in foreign call centers aresome of the people to which this new insight might apply. If they have a moderate to heavyaccent, theyll have a harder time being perceived as truthful, concluded Shiri Lev-Ari, leadauthor of "Why Don’t We Believe Non-native Speakers? The Influence of Accent on Credibility."About Acclaro: Acclaro is an international translation and localization company thathelps the world’s leading brands succeed across cultures. We translate websites,marketing campaigns, documents and software to give clients an authentic voice inkey language markets. North America: 1-866-468-5106 Worldwide: +1-914-468-0222 www.acclaro.com sales@acclaro.comPage 2: Its Not What You Say... Copyright © Acclaro 2012

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