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Accents at Work: How to Handle with Care - with Heather Hansen
Episode 4721st May 2024 • Happy Space Podcast with Clare Kumar • Clare Kumar
00:00:00 00:59:08

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Heather Hansen, accent bias and linguistic inclusion expert discusses how English speakers can address their own accent bias and how non-native speakers can communicate more effectively in work environments.

In this episode, Heather Hansen, Accent Bias and Linguistic Inclusion Expert shares her experiences with accent bias in three different continents and how cultural attitudes vary across the world. She discusses the universal language, English, and gives English speakers advice on how to handle their own accent bias as well as tips for non-native English speakers on how to communicate more effectively in workplaces. Accent bias brings up many questions like does having a certain accent make you sound less or more intelligent? Can you get rid of accent bias completely? And where does humor fit in? As our world becomes more and more diverse, it’s becoming important to think about communication across cultures, especially in a business context. Join Heather in this exciting conversation about language expression and cultural inclusion.


Heather Hansen is Managing Director of corporate training firm Global Speech Academy where she helps top professionals show up, speak up, and inspire action in a changing world. She fights microinequities related to language and accent in international teams, and helps global companies build UNMUTED communication cultures where every voice belongs.

Heather is an External Expert in Communication for National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School's Executive Education programs and she is pursuing her PhD in Linguistics at Nanyang Technological University where she is studying the effects of accent bias in multinational organizations.

Not only does Heather study accent bias, she has lived it in three languages across three continents, including over 20 years living abroad. She is also one of the only practitioners in the world actively running training interventions on accent bias in global organizations.

This is partly why Heather has been named to the Thinkers50 Radar 2024 Class - an exclusive list of 30 up-and-coming thinkers whose ideas are expected to make an important impact on management thinking in the future.

Heather is author of the multi-award-winning book, Unmuted, published by Bloomsbury Business. This book outlines her framework for successful global communication in multinational companies. She is also the author of Powerful People Skills and has contributed to three other books published by Marshall Cavendish International.

Heather’s next book (coming in 2025) is a comprehensive guide on how to manage accent bias and promote linguistic inclusion at work.


4:40 Heather’s connection to empathy

10:30 How language affects how intelligence is perceived

15:50 Canadian study with children and how they perceive teachers

17:30 Film examples of accent bias

21:20 Our human nature to mimic

24:13 When is language mockery?

29:51 Why are we offended by some language?

31:50 Cognitive dissonance of language and facial expression

32.34 Can accent bias be stopped?

34:00 Accent bias and call centres

36:00 Learning language as children

41:50 Where does humor come into accents and language?

44:00 The increase in diversity in cities and how immigrants can be successful in English

51:11 Cat trick time

51:45 Pacing in language and tips to speak English more effectively

54:30 Accent bias in a business environment

55:40 Life and death situations - accent bias and aviation English


University of Toronto Missisauga Study - Children have biases toward different accents

Communication accommodation theory

Unmuted by Heather Hansen

Heather Hansen’s website

TedTalk - 2 Billion Voices - How to Speak bad English perfectly

IMAGE CREDITS (see images on Youtube video)

Ontario Science Centre - Ontario Science Centre

Thinkers50 logo -

TedX Talk - Heather Hansen - TedX

Map of Switzerland - Brittanica

Map of Tokyo - Brittanica

Map of Singapore - Brittanica

Other images and video - Canva

Harry Potter book cover - Wiki

Mufasa - The Lion King - Wiki

Scar - The Lion King - Wiki

Mufasa and Scar - The Lion King - Wiki

Cars poster - Cars - Wiki

Mater - Cars - Wiki

Apu - The Simpsons - Wiki

Russell Peters - Wiki

Little Mosque on the Prairie - Wiki

Jacques flying photo - Clare Kumar

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