Use the opportunity to prepare yourself for future interactions

Dear Counsellor,

Our new history teacher has a weird accent and it makes it hard for many of us to understand him. He snaps when we ask him to repeat something saying we do not pay attention. Students are actually afraid to approach him. What can we do?

Martha

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We’re all blessed with the ability to create whatever sounds we choose and no one is accent-free.  Unfortunately, the decision to pick up an accent just like our skin colour really isn’t up to us, rather it’s influenced by a number of factors including mother tongue influence and exposure to a variety of other languages.  Your teacher’s accent as a matter of concern isn’t really something he can control and this is not his fault.

It is worth recalling that your teacher is not a native speaker of this language and can be highly accented but still intelligible and comprehensible. Here in Rwanda, there is a truly multicultural range of teachers which means students are open to hearing different accents and dialects. In general I think this is an opportunity for you to expand on your knowledge a lot by having teachers with diverse accents to prepare yourself for future interactions with different people across the world either on academic, career or business grounds. So don’t judge your teacher by his accents but rather, appreciate this experience as it will shape your understanding of a variety of accents as you grow to interact with a wide range people socially and academically.

Besides, try to approach your teacher during his happy moods and expressly demonstrate that you have trouble following him in class due to his complex pronunciation and be sure to suggest to him a variety of remedies such as being more audible, repeating the words/sentence at least twice or thrice when dictating notes and writing words with hard spelling on the black board for the students to understand the spelling of the words. Don’t pretend to understand if you don’t comprehend anything that your teacher says but rather feel free to ask him to repeat it for you. Your teacher is professional enough and he should not snap at students and this is why he was hired for this job

Remember that the classroom is the domain of the teacher with whom you need to enjoy a close and supportive relationship so as to be more engaged, work harder and improve your performance. So work on establishing a strong teacher-learner relationship and try to often interact with this teacher so that you become more familiar with his accent and soon you’ll understand every single word he pronounces. Before the teacher begins lessons, prepare yourself well by reading the lecture slides and readings beforehand, and then pay maximum attention during the lesson. You’ll soon begin get used to him and pick his accent well

Their thoughts...

Alice Uwase, Student

My advice is that you talk to the class representative to address the issue to the teacher. Class monitors are in charge of advocating for their fellow classmates regarding their academics, challenges and improvements. Teachers always listen to class representatives.

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Charles Washington, Student

Speak out. The teacher might not listen to you as students but he will surely listen to the Dean of Studies. In my opinion, address the teacher’s issue to the Dean of Studies. He will inspect and offer you a better solution.
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Thierry Nshimiyimana, Student

Since you all fear the teacher, he might not be aware of his accent problem and the influence it’s having on your academics, understanding the subject in particular. I encourage you to be bold enough and have a chat with your teacher about the issue. I believe the teacher will hear you out, since he wants the class to succeed in his subject..
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Francis Kami, Student

Bear in mind that teachers are always interested in their students’ progress, and thus if you approach him with respect he will hear you out. Talk to your class members and together address the problem to the teacher, and there is no doubt he will help you out. He will also use other methods to help you understand better than dictating. Don’t hesitate to address the problem.
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