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Southern accent

Is/can it drive clients away?

     
12:16 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I live in the south (KY) and have a very strong southern accent, I mean strong :) … when I speak with some clients on the phone and they first hear my voice, they sound surprised… almost like they have the wrong person; can this harm my relationship with my existing clients and even more so my future clients?

Thanks yall lol

1:28 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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My opinion? It could, though not likely in the case that a client is serious about your services. I suppose it would depend on the types of clients targeted by your business. If they are professionals, they should have an understanding of cultural and lingual differences, even within the confounds of the US. If your target area includes they “grey area” of narrow-minded folks, (usually this means doing less-than-reputable business dealings) then I suppose it may effect business.

This is an interesting subject... This is sort-of off-topic, but not really. I have a guy in the south that I purchase our local weekly T.V. listings from so we don’t have to worry about it in our publication. He has an EXTREMELY thick southern accent. Really nice guy. As far as his accent goes though, I actually find it kind-of funny. The way he says his name Don Johnson sounds more like Dauwn Jauwnson. Does this make me a bad person, that I find his accent humorous? I mean I have to bite my cheek when I talk to him sometimes. But back to your subject, I wouldn’t do business with anyone else. He has served us very well... I’d just never thought about how others may look at it. hmmmmmmm... lol I may just ask him next time he calls, just to see what his opinion on the matter is...

Again, very interesting subject...

-- Zak

1:33 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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you mean it aint said; Dauwn Jauwnson? :)
1:37 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I think it could, but I assume it helps you with the southern people you deal. If someone from Brooklyn called someone in Kentucky it would probably hurt them too.
1:39 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The only time I've had trouble with accents is when I've called a company in the USA and they've not been able to understand what I'm saying (I'm a Brit).

This is frustrating, when I can understand them perfectly well but they can't understand me at all - it gives me the impression they've never left their home town.

Personally, this is the only time I care at all about accents...

Best wishes,
Andy.

1:40 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I can tell you that some people in the UK don't like to get an Indian accent. They assume they're talking to someone in a call centre in Bangalore. That seems to make some of them very, very angry. "S*d off and stop stealing all our jobs". <phone banged down>. The fact that I'm in the UK and I'm the only person in the world who can help them with their specific problem doesn't seem to make a difference.
1:52 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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"S*d off and stop stealing all our jobs"

That must be very annoying!

I'm the only person in the world who can help them with their specific problem

That must help with the feelings of annoyance. :)

Best wishes, A.

2:02 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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LOL
2:04 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I live in the south (KY) and have a very strong southern accent, I mean strong :) … when I speak with some clients on the phone and they first hear my voice, they sound surprised… almost like they have the wrong person; can this harm my relationship with my existing clients and even more so my future clients?

I live in the south, you can not get much further south in the UK than Southampton, and have no problem with clients further north, not even with Geordies and Scousers.

Matt

2:08 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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casey133,

Yup, you're right, it is said that way. It's also said:

Dan Jansan
Ron Ronsen
Doon Joonsen
Den Jenesn

Depending on where you're from. ;0)

andye,

This is frustrating, when I can understand them perfectly well but they can't understand me at all - it gives me the impression they've never left their home town.

I can say that I am most likely one of those you are talking about. However I don't think that this has to do with "never leaving my hometown". I served a few overseas tours a while back. Esp. Europe ;0) Granted a Brit accent is far easier to understand than some of the Asian accents. But there you are talking about someone who is versed in a completely different language than you, not just a different dialect. But I still have trouble sometimes with a think British accent.

Look at it this way, at least none of us is asked to speak cat:

>^..^< --- Meow

-- Zak

2:11 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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While we're talking about UK accents - I picked up an Eastenders accent from god knows where (I am from Hertfordshire) and I worry about that sometimes but it's really not worth it. Most people do just accept regional accents. I live in Wales though and they don't understand me!

Maybe us Brits find American accents easier than they find ours because there is a lot more pop culture coming over from them than the other way?

2:16 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I'm the only person in the world who can help them

I always wondered who that was.

6:28 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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There was a time when a southern accent could be a serious impediment to doing business outside the region. You could be regarded as a dumb hick. I think these attitudes are gradually fading away now. I have a strong drawl. It used to be a little bit of a problem, but I am now regarded as an expert and my business associates accept me as an equal.

One key is to use an educated vocabulary. Even if it is heavily accented, vocabulary can identify you as a person who has some expertise. Also, try to avoid colloquialisms when speaking with someone outside of your region. For example, if a client from Boston or Seattle or L.A has an unworkable idea don't say "That dog won't hunt".

6:54 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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A strong regional inflection cannot harm a relationship with a client, since that implies they've seen your work and are willing to hire you again. It might hurt the impression made on a potential client, but those frightened off by such thing are only denying themselves.

And as walkman notes, any regional inflection would apply, and that inflection can be as much as boon as an impediment. The same applies to women or people with ethnic accents (including "urban" ones). An Upper Midwest accent that might imply "uncosmopolitan" is just as easily "unpretentious." As a matter of personal preference I find most Southern accents more pleasing to the ear than, say, blue-collar New England or Philadelphia, I just wish folks would talks a little faster when we're trying to get some work done :).

7:17 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Many US Southern politicians work to tone down their Southern drawl, because they think that most people assume a heavy Southern drawl means a dumb redneck.

But, I think more importantly is the grammer that is being spoken with the accent. Someone who uses proper English and keeps slang (esp local slang) to a minimum would probably be okay. Someone who has trouble with their verb tense and speaks slang like a first language will probably be even far more hurt with their accent on top of it all.

8:16 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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yer bigger hassle might jus' be that dem thar folks furthr down south would considar ya ta be a dayum yankee :)

(grins, thinkin' back to another lifetime, working in the south USA. Had a co-worker finishing college announce she'd decided to move someplace up north once her schoolin' was done.
"Where 'bouts you planning to land?"
"Anyplace up north ... maybe Tennesee, maybe even Kentucky.")

8:53 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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<humourous aside>I am the only person I know without an accent.
The rest of you sure make English sound funny.
</humourous aside>

Most of my clients are referrals (either them to me or me to them) so they rarely have a personal image of me. This has made surprise comments on my accent (I detest Americans asking me to repeat "roof") on occasion but much more often on my age. I am frequently queried about the availability of younger staff who can understand their "technical" requirements.

Just about any part of a person can be a liability at some point in life. You can't please all the people all the time and quite frankly I wouldn't want to.

5:33 am on Feb 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

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iamlost, I had to laugh out loud at your "humorous aside"....

I was born in the US "northern end of the South" - Missouri. In the next 12 years, I lived in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, California, Texas again, and California again. Then my family moved to Las Vegas. I left there only briefly (once to live in Reno for 8 months, once to live in Carlsbad, NM for 4 months after a 1 month stop in El Paso, TX) until I moved to Utah in 1990.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, I may be the only person in the world who has had someone say to her on the telephone, "Are you sure you're not a recording? You don't have any accent...."

Talk about floored. I almost couldn't keep from laughing. Which would have NOT been politic....

11:29 am on Feb 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

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If the customer(s) are too shallow and are worried about your accent then I personally say forget them.
8:56 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

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This topic brought me out of lurking because I too hail from south(east) Kentucky.

I didn't realize how thick my accent was until I moved to the northern part of the state when I graduated from high school. My new coworkers called me "cuz" and asked me to sing country songs and the like. I was rather dumbfounded; I certainly wasn't hearing myself the way they obviously were.

Since then, I've made every effort to neutralize my accent. I think I've been pretty successful, though I sometimes lapse back to my old hick-speak when surrounded by others who still talk that way (family get-togthers and whatnot). While some thought the accent was endearing or even "cute" (bless you ladies), I realized that it might hurt my chances of finding gainful employment later on seeing as how the popular media has stereotyped those with southern accents as being ignorant backwoods yokels.

10:54 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Smashing, I am from South East KY to!... Know of Letcher County?
8:12 am on Feb 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Harlan County sits between us - I'm from Bell County. I often joke with my online acquaintances by telling them that my computer is powered by coal. :p
8:17 am on Feb 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

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lol, ill have to remember that one for sure.
4:00 am on Feb 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I've recently heard about courses one could take to learn to cover up one's southern accent, presumably to appear more professional. If that kind of course is available, then I would assume the association between such an accent with backwater yokel-ism is alive and well.
6:59 pm on Feb 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I'm from the midwest, kansas to be exact, which is virtually accent free and the whole rest of the country sounds wacky to us. I find the Southern accent to be a bit more soothing and relaxing than a New York accent. New Yorkers talk too fast and sound harsh and rude even when they aren't. I'll vote for the south on the phone any day.

One minor exception - Oklahoma - those long O's and A's in words that shouldn't have them make it sound like you're on the phone with someone that needs to take remedial reading and have speech impediment therapy.

Then there was the call from Lotus UK way back when --

UK: "We'd like ya to be on our BEEDAH program."
ME: "BEEDAH program? What's that?"
UK: "It's where you get to test our pre-released BEEDAH products"
ME: "OHHH! You mean your BETA (baytah) program! Sure, why not."