My husband's father is from Puerto Rico, and has quite a strong accent to his English. When I first married my husband, I had some trouble understanding his father. The hardest for me was when he would call on the phone. I remember almost panicking when he would call, and doing all I could to pass the phone to my husband. It's weird, but over the years, I have become so accustomed to his accent that I don't even think about it anymore. Can you imagine growing up as my husband did with a father who has a thick accent? I think the effect it had on him is that when he talks to people from other countries, it is easier for him to understand them. His brain has been trained to listen beyond the accent.
Recently I went with my husband to a doctor's appointment. His doctor at Kaiser is Greek, and has very strong accent. I was shocked I could understand him without any problem. In fact, to me his accent sounded much like my father in law's. Do you think Greek and Spanish are close? Or has my brain been trained too? While we were waiting for him to come in the room, we could hear him talking to an elderly person in the next room. He was talking VERY loudly, probably because their hearing wasn't the best. I think the patient was also having a hard time understanding his thick accent. I bet it was a relief for him to come to our room where he had patients who understood!