Career development

Language Diversity—Where is Your Accent From?

Many misunderstandings can be avoided if we recognize that when we speak a second language, the accent might be new and difficult for others to understand.


Effective communication is essential in the workplace and in society. What are the hidden messages that we share when we speak? Could it be that our accent or the way we express ourselves conveys secret meanings to our audience?

Many members of the oil, gas, and energy industry speak English as a second language. Consequently, speaking English with an accent is a characteristic of our diverse workforce. In fact, speaking with an accent applies to any second language in any work location.

As a nonnative speaker, you might have been asked, “Where is your accent from?” or heard the straightforward comment, “I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

Many misunderstandings can be avoided if we just recognize that when we are speaking a second language, on certain occasions, the accent might be new and difficult for others to understand our message. Still, it’s important to never be wary of expressing your opinions on account of your accent.

Also, if you are a native speaker, practice mindfulness and inclusivity when communicating with nonnative speakers. Native and nonnative English speakers might consider a few strategies when having a conversation.

1. Speak slowly and clearly

2. Use simple English that is free of slang, idioms, and complex grammatical constructions.

3. Repeat yourself whenever the other person looks puzzled, even before they ask. For example, when you say, “I want to help you” and the the nonnative speaker understands it as “I won’t help you.”

4. Avoid using phrasal verbs
You say: “I’ll drop you off at the hotel after the meeting.”
The nonnative speaker thinks: “How high up will I be?”
You can instead say: “After the meeting, I will bring you back to the hotel.”

5. Avoid sports and military idiomatic expressions. Nonnative English speakers might miss the meaning of an idiom that uses sports or military expressions as a metaphor.
“Am I in the ballpark?” means “Am I right/accurate?”
“There is no magic bullet” means “There is no universal solution.”

6. Avoid using complex sentences. It would be very difficult for a nonnative speaker to grasp the meaning of long complex sentences used with a couple of connectors.

Speaking a second language is a valuable skill that demonstrates a person’s effort to communicate with others and hopefully advance their career. Embrace your accent proudly.


B. Peterson, 2004. Cultural Intelligence, A Guide Working with People from Other Cultures, Intercultural Press.

F. Trompenaars and C. Hampden-Turner. 2012. Riding the Waves of Culture, Understanding Diversity in Global Business, Revised and Updated Third Edition.