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Imitation the Quickest Way to Grasp a Foreign Accent

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- If you have trouble understanding people with regional or foreign accents, imitating their accent may help you understand what they're saying, a new study suggests.

Researchers tested Dutch volunteers on how well they understood sentences spoken in an unfamiliar accent. But before they heard the sentences, the participants were given different instructions on how to respond to the sentences. Some were told to imitate the accent while repeating the sentence, while others were told to write the sentences as they heard them.

The participants who imitated the accent were much more likely to understand the sentences than those who wrote what they heard.

The findings were published in the journal Psychological Science.

"When listening to someone who has a really strong accent, if you talked to them in their accent, you would understand better," study co-author Patti Adank, of the University of Manchester in England, said in an Association for Psychological Science news release.

But you might want to be careful because attempting to imitate another person's accent could make the speaker angry, she acknowledged.

More information

The Linguistic Society of America has more about accents.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Association for Psychological Science, news release, Dec. 6, 2010

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