Why Are Accents So Important for Interpretation?

by | Jul 19, 2021

Most of us know that professional interpreting is always best done by native or near-native speakers with expert knowledge of the cultural and linguistic nuances of the languages they work with. If you’ve ever planned a multilingual event, you might have noticed that your language service provider enquired about the target audience or their accent.


What Exactly is Accent?

An accent is the way you sound when you speak, but there are actually two different kinds of accents. One is a ‘foreign’ accent which occurs when someone speaks a language and uses rules and sounds of another language. The results sound wrong or ‘foreign’ to native speakers of the language.

The other kind of accent is the way a group of people speak their native language. Geographical location and social groups determine this kind of accent. A good example is the Texas accent, which is easy to distinguish if you’re not from Texas yourself.


Can Interpreters Use Universal Accents?

There is something called universal conventions that can be used to group different accents and dialects together to make the task of interpreting easier. For example, French accents are grouped together under the francophone world. Spanish accents that work best for interpreting come from Castilian or Colombian Spanish. English accents are grouped together in big categories like British and American accents.


Why Are Accents So Important?

Well, for starters, accents are indicative of someone’s native language. An interpreter might not be as fluent in their language of specialization if they’re not near-native. To an audience listening to a sub-par interpretation, it can be draining to listen to interpreters speaking an acquired language.

Accents are critical for diplomacy. You wouldn’t want to use an interpreter with a Taiwanese accent for a conference where the attendees are all from Mainland China. Mistakes like these can cause a bit of a stir, and in order to avoid hurting sensibilities, it’s essential to be aware of these details.

In stories, a character’s accent or dialect often plays a critical role in the way they are portrayed. In business, getting your message across to the audience in a way that resonates most strongly with them means speaking with the language and accent which is wholly theirs.

Nelson Mandela once said that linguistic skills are what makes the difference between speaking to your audience’s head and speaking to their hearts, and we couldn’t agree more!


What Is the Best Approach?

You want to establish smooth communication with your audience and avoid the message getting lost in translation due to accent issues. This is why you should always use native-speaking interpreters and pay special attention to regional variations within a language. These variations can impact the attendee experience and how well your audience responds to your event.

At Day Interpreting, we have an experienced team of native interpreters based around the world, which means we’re used to dealing with challenges related to accents and regional dialects. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our interpreting standards and how we can help you get your message across!


Seldean Smith
Seldean Smith

Seldean is a multi-skilled content wizard that dedicates herself to writing content that goes beyond merely sparking interest in the audience.

Seldean Smith

Seldean is a multi-skilled content wizard that dedicates herself to writing content that goes beyond merely sparking interest in the audience.

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