Dear College Mamma, 

I just finished up my first week of classes, and one of my professors has a really thick accent. I can barely make out what he is saying. Also, this is a math class–a class I’m not really good at. So, what do I have to do?

-Kenyuspeak Clearly

Dear Ken,

Having a teacher with an accent you cannot understand is a situation no one wants to be in. Would you believe this actually happened to me at a community college I attended during a summer break? Here are some suggestions for your problem.

First, it’s pretty early in the semester. So, chances are that you might be able to switch into another class. If you are in a required math course, there might be more course offerings. See if one fits in your schedule and is still open.

Second, if nothing fits in your schedule, you might try to stay and work it out with the teacher. Approach him during office hours or after/before class, tell him that you have difficulty understanding him. Ask him if he has any solutions such as providing the class with his lecture via the course LMS or emailing you his lecture prior to class. It’s understandable that some more seasoned teachers are set in their ways and may not want to offer you any accommodation. Alternatively, if you are a student who has a letter of accommodation for a disability, you might present it to him if it requires written lectures or the aid of a note taker. Read the grade breakdown in the syllabus really clearly to make sure that you will able to do well in all parts. For example, if you are not a good test-taker and the grade breakdown is 70% tests, avoid this class and professor at all costs.

Realize that your education is a choice. You can choose to take this course at a different college in some cases, such as a community college. Some colleges may even allow you to take a certain number of credits at a different university/college/ program concurrently with your current course load although may have some stipulation. Of course, this may not work in all cases, especially at ivy-league schools.

At this point, I’m guessing none of these suggestions will have worked.

So, here are the last few options.

  • Study the topic yourself with help of a campus tutor if you can.
  • Form a study group with other classmates and try to ace the materials.
  • Drop the course, and take a CLEP.

All in all, your grades are of the utmost importance. So, think carefully about how you want to proceed and think about how well you would work in different circumstances.

My Experience

In the math course I took in which my instructor had a thick accent, I received a C as my grade. I was deeply troubled by this for a while. However, when I transferred the credit back to my university, I was very pleased that the community college grades did not factor into my overall GPA. In the end, I’m glad I did it that way. However, I’d have rather taken the CLEP test and not have had to deal with any of this stress.


If you’ve ever had a teacher with a thick accent, what did you try? How did the course turn out for you? Tell us your experience in the comments below.



Author: College Mamma

College Mamma is a professor who blogs for students. She is also a mother of two and a lover of coffee.