On Having an Accent

On Having an Accent

A personal account of a non-native English speaker
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First encounters often tend to be rich in the elements of awkwardness and in my case such occasions are also accompanied by crippling shyness and an obviously foreign accent. Normally, first conversations start off with casual salutations, shift into idle discussions about the weather and eventually plummet into an unsettling silence. If one is lucky enough one may uncover a previously unknown commonality with the other speaker, which would evidently salvage the conversation. However, I have always shied away from inquiring about others’ lives and as people frequently comment on the phonetically alien quality of my speech I often feel discouraged to converse with them. Therefore, lowering the chances that I and the person I’m addressing will learn about the similarities we share.

I believe that in such situations it is easier for me to overcome my shyness than to mask my accent because with enough effort I can push myself to be more outgoing, but, my attempts to sound convincingly “American” always tend to end up as failures. It’s rather frustrating and even amusing at times that one of the first questions strangers ask me is: “Where are you from?” What bugs me about this question is that people are not interested in knowing about my origins within U.S.A borders. I know this because if I answer saying that I am from Massachusetts they often chuckle and refine their question. “No, silly, where are you from from”- They add. When asked this I start reassessing everything I said and did prior to being posed this question, as I wish to understand what exactly branded me as a foreigner. If I stare back at them long enough, after they’ve asked this, they start to feel embarrassed and attempt to explain that it’s not that I don’t look like I’m from the U.S.A. It’s just that my “cute” accent, as they often say, suggests otherwise.

Although, “cute” may be a positive adjective I do not perceive it as so in these circumstances; because if my “cute” accent suggests that I’m not from the U.S.A it may also convince many that I do not speak English well. I am quite aware of the fact that I am not originally from the U.S. and I am proud of my African origins, although, my motherland is rather minuscule and many are incapable of locating it on a map. However, after spending so many years in this country and putting so much effort into acquiring a proper level of proficiency in the English language, I find it offensive that people have the need to covertly remind me of my linguistic shortfall in pronunciation.

It is not as if all Americans speak the same standard form of English across all states. Those born and raised in the South sound contrastingly different from people up North, and the same applies for Americans in the Eastern and Western ends of the country. Yet, these regional differences in phonetic and intonation patterns do not pose that big of a problem, as long as you’re not a non-white immigrant. In the case of immigrants, their fragmented English is often scrutinized and mocked. At times one may even be automatically thought of as being uneducated just because they cannot pronounce a word in the manner that everyone else does. This can be specially damaging to those who are in the initial stages of learning English. There have been numerous times when I have felt too uncomfortable to utter a word in front of others just because I was afraid I’d mispronounce it, and I am sure I’m not the only person to have felt this way. If one is too afraid to practice the spoken version of language then how is one expected to ever be capable of properly communicating in the said language?

Due to all this I believe that it is time we start embracing the linguistic diversity of those around us as it does not matter that my speech is not an identical reflection of everyone else’s. Let us stop pointing out that someone has an accent, they are probably aware of the fact that their pronunciation is not like everyone else’s. Saying that someone’s accent is cute is not a compliment, it simply points out that they sound different and that may make the person feel self-conscious about the way they speak. Having an accent does not mean someone’s an idiot either. Those people whom some assume are dumb may speak several other languages and be excellent communicators in their native tongues. Let us try to appreciate the fact that not everyone is like us or speaks like us and in that manner we may end up learning something new about someone else.

Cover Image Credit: http://www.myenglishlanguage.com/2015/07/21/is-the-scottish-accent-dying-out/

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To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

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When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

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Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

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Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

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Dear Nancy Pelosi, 16-Year-Olds Should Not Be Able To Vote

Because I'm sure every sixteen year old wants to be rushing to the voting booth on their birthday instead of the BMV, anyways.

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Recent politicians such as Nancy Pelosi have put the voting age on the political agenda in the past few weeks. In doing so, some are advocating for the voting age in the United States to be lowered from eighteen to sixteen- Here's why it is ludicrous.

According to a study done by "Circle" regarding voter turnout in the 2018 midterms, 31% of eligible people between the ages of 18 and 29 voted. Thus, nowhere near half of the eligible voters between 18 and 29 actually voted. To anyone who thinks the voting age should be lowered to sixteen, in relevance to the data, it is pointless. If the combination of people who can vote from the legal voting age of eighteen to eleven years later is solely 31%, it is doubtful that many sixteen-year-olds would exercise their right to vote. To go through such a tedious process of amending the Constitution to change the voting age by two years when the evidence doesn't support that many sixteen-year-olds would make use of the new change (assuming it would pass) to vote is idiotic.

The argument can be made that if someone can operate heavy machinery (I.e. drive a car) at sixteen, they should be able to vote. Just because a sixteen-year-old can (in most places) now drive a car and work at a job, does not mean that they should be able to vote. At the age of sixteen, many students have not had fundamental classes such as government or economics to fully understand the political world. Sadly, going into these classes there are students that had mere knowledge of simple political knowledge such as the number of branches of government. Well, there are people above the age of eighteen who are uneducated but they can still vote, so what does it matter if sixteen-year-olds don't know everything about politics and still vote? At least they're voting. Although this is true, it's highly doubtful that someone who is past the age of eighteen, is uninformed about politics, and has to work on election day will care that much to make it to the booths. In contrast, sixteen-year-olds may be excited since it's the first time they can vote, and likely don't have too much of a tight schedule on election day, so they still may vote. The United States does not need people to vote if their votes are going to be uneducated.

But there are some sixteen-year-olds who are educated on issues and want to vote, so that's unfair to them. Well, there are other ways to participate in government besides voting. If a sixteen-year-old feels passionate about something on the political agenda but can't vote, there are other ways of getting involved. They can canvas for politicians whom they agree with, or become active in the notorious "Get Out The Vote" campaign to increase registered voter participation or help register those who already aren't. Best yet, they can politically socialize their peers with political information so that when the time comes for all of them to be eighteen and vote, more eighteen-year-olds will be educated and likely to vote.

If you're a sixteen-year-old and feel hopeless, you're not. As the 2016 election cycle approached, I was seventeen and felt useless because I had no vote. Although voting is arguably one of the easiest ways to participate in politics, it's not the only one. Since the majority of the current young adult population don't exercise their right to vote, helping inform them of how to stay informed and why voting is important, in my eyes is as essential as voting.

Sorry, Speaker Pelosi and all the others who think the voting age should be lowered. I'd rather not have to pay a plethora of taxes in my later years because in 2020 sixteen-year-olds act like sheep and blindly vote for people like Bernie Sanders who support the free college.

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