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How to deal with clients who don’t understand your accent

Many live-in carers arrive in the UK and find that although they have a good grasp of the English language, their client battles to understand them – and vice versa. This can be a daunting and embarrassing issue, not to mention frustrating for both carer and client.

It is true that in the UK there are many different accents, some easier to understand than others and you may find that you are in an area where the local dialect is so pronounced that you simply do not get what your client is saying. Worse, your client does not have any idea of what you are talking about either.

Can you work it out?

There are some things which will make understanding each other better. You may never be able to crack a joke with each other but at least you will know what the other is talking about.

A point to remember is that you CAN speak English, after all your agency hired you knowing you could speak English. The words are the same, just said a little differently.

Turn down the volume

Ever notice how high volume of music or television gets you flustered and even annoyed if you are trying to have a conversation? Try to have a quiet environment when you want to talk to your client. 

Focus on your client

You will never get what they are saying if you are trying to do several things at once. Stop what you are doing and sit next to your client. The same level is good as you appear non-threatening. Give them your complete attention, ask your question, and then wait until they answer.  

Before you speak, listen

You will soon hear the different tones in your client’s voice. You will find that you understand most of the conversation by simply listening in quiet surroundings.

Show your client

If you simply cannot get it across that you want your client to do something, then be prepared to show them. ‘I do, you do’ is a good mantra to follow. This will work even with clients with mild dementia.

Keep calm

This may be the most important thing you can do in the battle of languages. Try not to show that you are impatient or annoyed if your client does not do what you ask. Stay calm and repeat or show them what to do. 

Listen to the local radio

You will be surprised at how quickly you start to pick up the local dialect if you turn on the local radio station. Try it and see!

Final thoughts

Although in the beginning you may have difficulty understanding another accent, with patience and perseverance you will very soon get used to some of the peculiarities of the different accents. 

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