Supporting Non-native English Speakers

If you’re familiar with the Download, then I don’t need to tell you that every session at every Download has some valuable nuggets. If you’re not familiar with our semi-annual conference hosted right here at TorranceLearning, click here. We invite folks from all over to share their thoughts about learning. There are 16 sessions but no keynote address, no presenters reading directly from PowerPoint slides, and no chance to get bored. Each session has a “discussion leader” rather than a “presenter” because basically all the sessions are just conversations guided by someone with an interesting question or unique perspective. I was fortunate enough to attend the session facilitated by Barb Niemann from Accent Reduction Institute (ARI).

Barb suggested all sorts of ways to make elearning courses more accessible to non-native English speakers without compromising the delivery or content for native speakers. In fact, while many of the techniques were designed with non-native speakers in mind, they’re equally likely to support native speakers.

The session was called “People Act Like We’re Less Intelligent…so they talk louder or slower or both.” And that title is a good place to start: speaking extra loud or super slow does not help a non-native speaker process better. In fact, it can be pretty disrespectful. And if you excessively slow down your rate of speech, you lose the normal speech patterns of connectivity and linking that give English its rhythm. That rhythm not only keeps your speech from sounding static and keeps your listeners engaged, it conveys the message that you have a relationship with your learners. So don’t draw out each word or over-enunciate. Instead your voiceover should have a conversational cadence with adequate pauses between ideas. All listeners can use a little extra process time!

Here are a few more suggestions from Barb:

  • Come back to your main point at the end of the course. Many non-English speaking cultures conclude with the thesis.
  • Include visual aids (Elearning is the perfect medium in this regard. We design whole screens to support the audio!)
  • Use consistent vocabulary. Many writers, especially yours truly, tire quickly of the same word and so we use synonyms and euphemisms and substitutions. However, using several different words to express the same thing is confusing and (it pains me to admit) unnecessary.

Any other great tips for addressing the needs of non-native English speakers? Post to our Facebook page so we can all learn a little something new.

This post was written by Alison Hass, one of our Instructional Designers.

By | 2017-09-03T13:14:30+00:00 June 29th, 2012|News|