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Needs A More Accented Approach

, , , , , | Right | January 11, 2022

I get an email from a coworker.

Coworker: “Can you please call [phone number] and ask him what he needed help with? I tried calling him myself, but for some reason, he said that my English was terrible and he couldn’t understand barely a word I was saying. I’m guessing it’s because he’s a native English speaker and my accent is different? I’m very confused.”

This particular coworker is from Colombia, and although she does have an accent, no one has ever had any trouble communicating with her. In fact, one of the requirements to even get a job here is to be able to speak English.

When I dial the number, the software advises me that the number is in the Czech Republic. The conversation — heavily condensed — is as follows.

Me: “Hello, this is [My Name] from [Company].”

Customer: *In a thick accent* “Thanskyoucallingmebackinmiddleofmeetingyousetanothertime…”

Me: “I’m sorry, can you say that that slower?”

Customer: “DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?!”

Me: “Yes, sir, I am from the US. I just need—”

Customer: “Nooo… it’s very bad English, like you start learning two months.”

Me: “Sir, if you are going to be abusive, I’m going to terminate this call. Now, you contacted us asking for assistance, and we are trying to help you.”

Customer: “WhatIsayIwasinmeetingyougivemeanotherforcallisverycomplicated—”

Me: “Sir… slower!

This goes on for a solid five minutes until I am finally able to gather that he can’t talk to me because he was in an important meeting and wants to set up a time for a call-back to discuss the issue in detail.

After getting off the phone with him, I leave my coworker an email.

Me: “First of all, this customer isn’t even remotely anywhere near any level of fluency in English, let alone native. It took me five minutes to understand that he was trying to tell me that I needed to call him back at another time. Then, it took a good two minutes to communicate a new time to call. Unfortunately, you have people out there who think that since they can speak a comprehensible amount of a foreign language at a level where others can understand them, they feel that by ‘stepping on the gas’ and talking fast, they’ll sound like a native. And when the other person has difficulties understanding them (and vice versa), they try to flip it around and say your English is bad. Don’t worry about Donald Duck here; there is absolutely nothing wrong with your English whatsoever. I actually wish my fluency in German was as fluent as your English!”

And she was able to perk back up and confidently continue on with her shift.