Fluency Overseas

I work with many Japanese engineers. They have varying levels of language fluency, but most can communicate fairly well. I recently had a conversation with one engineer, who has made great strides in grammar and vocabulary while working in the United States. I suggested to her that she might want to get with a diction coach to work on her pronunciation, which has not improved quite so much as her understanding of English.

She had an interesting response, based on her conversations with other Japanese and Chinese living in the United States. She pointed out that if a foreigner in the United States sounds too native they will have a more difficult time getting by. How could this be?

1) Americans are less likely to speak slowly, and tone-down complexity when speaking with them.

2) They would lose some of the recognition that they are working in a 2nd language, and facing great dificulty in doing so. How would you react if speaking to an Asian person who spoke with a clear and smooth Brooklyn accent? How different would it be if they spoke in clear English with a hint (perhaps deliberately preserved) of a Japanese or Chinese accent?
I suspect that the latter is more impactful, and a better situation career-wise and professionally for the foreign language learner in the US. I think that English sounds pretty good when spoken well with a gentle foreign accent. Madonna must have thought so too, with her adopted British tone.

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Kevin Ready

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