How the Dalai Lama’s Accent Caused him Embarrassment

An Embarrassed Dalai Lama?

Did you know that the Dalai Lama’s accent resulted in him being mistaken for saying an offensive swearword?  Accents don’t need to be embarrassing.  Have your accent ever caused you to make an embarrassing statement; a statement that you didn’t even intend to make?  You might have even felt like you’re the only one who’s ever been in that situation! You’re definitely not the only one!  Again, accents don’t need to be embarrassing.

At a Brown University event, the closed captioning transcriptionist actually heard the Tibetan leader say “f*ck it!”  The Dalai Lama had encouraged listeners to share his thoughts with others, had they found his ideas interesting.  Had they not, he remarked that they could “forget.”  You see how the word “forget” was confused for “f*ck it”.  Apparently this is not the only time this has happened.  Questions had arisen previously, concerning the same comment in other venues.   Would His Holiness benefit from accent reduction?  The science of accent modification outlines rules that can  clear up communication confusion.

English Sound System

Can the sound system of English explain the Dalai Lama’s pronunciation challenge?  His native language was Xining, a dialect of the Chinese Language.  Some Chinese dialects do not have the sound that corresponds with the letter “g”.  It is possible that the “g” in “forget” was mistaken as a “k” sound.  Individuals who speak Chinese dialects also often struggle with pronunciation of “r”.  It is also possible that the “or” sound in “forget” was not heard, and instead was mistaken as the short American English vowel that corresponds with “u”.  These two sound differences could explain why the Dalai Lama was heard to say “F*ck it.”  With accent reduction training, accents don’t need to be embarrassing.

Syllable Stress

Is it possible that the syllable stress of the Dalai Lama’s voice caused the confusion?  Since the word “forget” is a verb, we follow the rule that we stress the second syllable: “for-GET”.  Sentence stress rules say that we stress the last important word in a sentence.  If the transcriptionist thought the Dalai Lama said “F*ck it”, then that would make sense.  He would have raised the pitch level on the verb “f*ck” and dropped the pitch on the last word of the sentence “it”.

How to Eliminate Mistakes Caused by Accent

Accent modification, sometimes referred to as accent reduction, accent training, or accent coaching, is a valuable specialty service that can eliminate mistakes in both pronunciation and in intonation.  These mistakes, when eliminated, result in speech clarity, and in many cases, less embarrassment.  When accented speakers are not worried about making embarrassing mistakes, they experience the joy of speaking confidently.  They no longer are worried that others will focus on HOW they say it.  They know that their communication partners will attend to WHAT they say.  Accent specialists explain, train, model, and guide accented speakers to apply the sound system rules.  Accented speakers can experience relief from knowing that accents don’t need to be embarrassing.

Did you like this article?  To read an additional blog related to eliminating embarrassing moments that accents cause, go to:

Leave a comment

Your comment

Site designed by: Webstylings