Fall 12-13-2016



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Barbara Swanson, EdD

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Harry Pontiff, PhD

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Harold Torrence, EdD


Every year thousands of international students come to the United States to study. Many who pursue advanced degrees are adults whose first language is not English, and they most likely speak English with an accent. Since social interactions are fundamental for learning, speaking English with an accent can be a barrier in communicating with others and impact their learning. This study had two foci: How speaking with an accent impacts the learning of international graduate students whose first language is not English and the impact of speaking English with an accent in their professional and academic environments. The study was based on a qualitative survey and interviews. The study used a modified version of Seidman’s three-interview model for in-depth interviewing to gather the experiences of those students and the meaning they make of those experiences. Even though participants claimed that speaking English with an accent did not impact their learning, they recognized that it impacted their social interactions and self-confidence in class, and overall their life in the US. Participants also acknowledged they had to work harder than if classes were in their native language. Consequently, their learning process was more difficult because English was their second language which included speaking it with an accent. This apparent contradiction can be explained because the participants were adult learners who can focus on achieving their goals, overcoming obstacles by working harder. Interactions in the professional environment seemed easier. Participants revealed that once others got used to their accent, the focus shifted to the common task at hand. Finally, findings suggested that participants had better experiences when the environment was more diverse or fellow students had been exposed to different cultures, perspectives, or languages. In time these international graduate students improved their English skills which in conjunction with their achievements increased their confidence and made them feel more empowered.

Research Methodology

Interview, Survey (attitude scale, opinion, questionnaire)

Included in

Education Commons