10 Accents Outside of the U.S. Americans Find Difficult To Understand

When I lived in New Mexico, being English, some people struggled to understand my accent. It went so far that when I ordered at the drive-thru, I resorted to putting on an American accent to complete the order. A recent online post asks Americans to name non-American accents they find problematic — like mine.

1. Scottish

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Our first poster opens with Scottish. Being an English neighbor, I also find pinpointing our Scottish cousins’ rhetoric hard. “I met a guy in Glasgow who, after drinking before a football match, said something and even the other Scots there looked at each other and me, then shrugged as if to say, ‘Yeah, we don’t know either,'” jokes the commenter.

2. U.S. Virgin Islands

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The next observer talks about a coworker from the Virgin Islands whose strong Caribbean accent is sometimes tricky for him. “I’ve heard him talk to other island people, and I can’t understand anything except picking out a word here and there,” notes the writer. “But he can switch to normal English with a Caribbean accent.”

3. Cuban Spanish

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“Cuban Spanish is like Australian English,” a thread member notes. “Between the slang and shortcuts, it is measurably different from its ‘root’ language,” I speak Spanish and live in Andalucia, which is famous for its lightspeed velocity. Cuban Spanish is easy in comparison — once you learn their idioms.

4. Indian English

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“Punjab, Hindi, and other subcontinental languages tend to speak fast and have odd pronunciations when they learn English,” warns a poster, “so Americans generally have to be seriously concentrating on making sense of what is said.” Being from the U.K. gives us an advantage, considering how many Indian residents we have.

5. Jamaican

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“I have to pay extra attention when talking to a Jamaican,” says an honest New Yorker. Jamaican English is known as Patois and includes some curious treatment of traditional English words. “I was watching an interview with Bob Marley, which was subtitled,” replies someone else. “My dad looks at me and says, ‘someone out there understands exactly what he’s saying.'”

6. Irish

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Most Irish people begrudgingly speak English, considering how many don’t like their English neighbors. “Irish people sometimes have that really deep voice that makes it hard to understand what they’re saying,” comments a Wyoming resident, “and when they’re drunk, it’s next to impossible, in my experience.”

7. South African

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“I have trouble with South African accents for some reason,” explains a Texan native. I am unsurprised; South Africans’ linguistic heritage is diverse, drawing from Dutch, Zulu, Lesotho, and English. The resulting accent is somewhat sharp and quite tricky for the first-time listener.

8. Northern Irish

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Anyone who has seen Derry Girls will know the Northern Irish accent well, and to a familiar ear, the accent sounds geographically precise — somewhere between Irish and Scottish. “Derry Girls does a great job of intertwining the accent into the lives of regular people,” says a commenter. “But you will need the subtitles.”

9. Geordie (Newcastle, U.K.)

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“Had zero issues in London understanding anyone, and as a Newcastle fan, I listen to lots of the accent regularly,” says an English soccer fan. “But nothing prepares you for an impromptu conversation when you look like you’d fit in.” I can’t describe the Geordie accent, but even English people struggle with it sometimes!

10. Welsh

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A New Englander once visited Old England and its neighboring Wales but got lost when a Welshman spoke to him. “I once attempted to speak to a Welshman,” he states frankly. “He spoke English. I spoke English. It was impossible.” I don’t know where the Welsh accent came from; the country is almost entirely mountainous, full of Celtic heritage, and has lots of sheep — maybe there is an explanation here? Despite most Americans being wholly against being taxed by the government, nobody speaks up about the sales tax levied on nearly every item a person buys. No other country willingly accepts sales tax the way Americans do. Even fundamental utilities and perishable food items are taxed, which is less prevalent in European countries.

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