On Languages And Accents
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

On Languages And Accents

How my accent made me realize a big tragedy of my life.

152
On Languages And Accents
cpjobs.com

A couple of days ago, I was talking to a friend at an event. We had met each other a couple of times earlier, but that day we actually got the chance to sit down and truly learn about each other. At a moment, she paused and asked something about whether or not I had lived in England for a while. I laughed and said no, but was curious as to why she had thought that maybe I had.

"You have a slight accent. It sounds English. I really like it," she said. I smiled at that. I mean, who doesn't like English accents?! Despite that, her question left me intrigued. I know I have an accent when I speak, it's very slight. But if I'm nervous or stumped, it comes out more than usual, which is pretty annoying. It bothered me that I, a girl who had spent 95 percent of her life in America, had an accent. I spent all my life speaking American English, so why was it that I still spoke in that accent?

Although I had already known of my accent, over the few days after, others also randomly pointed it out. So, I became extra-conscious of the words I said. When you think of not doing something, I guess you end up doing it just because of how hard you're trying not to do it. Maybe that's what was happening with me. As I started being really picky about how I talked and avoided words that had an "R" (because those are the words that I usually mess up) I found it hard to even talk to people. I'm probably still in that phase at the very moment, but I'm trying to overcome it. I promise.

Anyway, this lack of talking and overthinking my accent made me realize something that hurt on levels only sad, mostly unchangeable, realities did. I am multilingual. I can speak English, Urdu, Arabic, Spanish, and Punjabi. I can understand more than those too. But in each of those languages, I had an accent.

What bothered me the most was that amongst those languages I am most proficient in English and Urdu. Over the past few months, I had been working on my Urdu to improve my writing of it for a script. So I spoke in Urdu a lot and as I did, I couldn't help but feel ashamed that I did not know it enough. As I spoke it, I pronounced a few words incorrectly. It was my mother language and that should not have been true. It was a similar case with English.

Language is the basis of so many things, besides a speaking value. Languages help shape our way of thinking and allow us to better understand others as well as best connect with them. Although I am very proud of a number of languages I know, I couldn't help but feel so upset over the fact that I had trouble speaking both English and Urdu.

America and Pakistan are both countries that I love with all of my heart. They are apparently the two countries that define me, but I cannot help that lately, I do not belong to either.

When I came to America, I was around three or four years old. I spent around two years at home because my parents didn't want to send me into a public school in our neighborhood. They had heard bad things about it. During that time, I learned Urdu and spoke it all day. My mom taught me numbers and letters, and some basic words in English that were commonly used in Pakistan as well. I was exposed to a library where I mostly brought picture books because I didn't understand the English sentences that were written within them.

My parents were new in the country so they didn't have too many friends and of them, only a couple had kids my age, so the only people I spoke to were my parents and baby brother. English, although, spoken by the cartoons on the television, wasn't a language I understood. My mother did not know English so she couldn't translate, and my dad was usually at work during the time I watched the TV. So when I finally started school, I did not know English.

The first day of school was scary. I had enrolled in school around the middle of the year and the students were already friends. I was the new girl who was too shy, too scared and who didn't understand a thing anyone was saying -- every bit of an outsider as you would imagine. In fact, I got punched and bullied that very day and got my money stolen as well. I was only six years old and it traumatized me. Being different was not a good thing.

I used to think maybe that had happened because I could not speak English and so as a six-year-old, the insecurity settled in. I worked as hard as I could to better my English. Now that I was learning things in school, I started to understand the cartoons and slowly with the help of television, improved my pronunciation. But I mostly learned English by reading and understanding the words with a big dictionary for kids my mom had bought for me. Because of that, there were times when I didn't pronounce some words correctly. It was similar to my situation with Urdu. I may know the words and phrases, but the way they come out has an obvious accent that people love pointing out and laughing at. This makes me think that I am slowly losing grip on that as well.

With no strong connection to English and Urdu, I realized that I didn't belong to America or Pakistan because each of the countries looked at me as the outsider. I couldn't speak either language perfectly. I realized something big about where I had brought myself subconsciously.

For the longest time, to figure out who I was in America, I tried to perfect myself to appear American. In my struggle of trying to become a native in a country in which I was a foreigner, I became a foreigner in the country where I was a native.

In an attempt to open the foreign door, I got locked out of my previous home. And today, as I'm being pushed out of this unwelcoming home, I find myself in between two locked doors. I belong neither to America nor Pakistan, and though I love each country dearly, neither accepts me as its own.

I have no solid identity and perhaps because of that, I am finding my identity as a member of humanity. A woman of all languages, all cultures, all religions, none perfectly embodied, but still 100 percent human.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Featured

4 Common Reasons Couples Get Divorced

Are some people just not meant to be together? Is there any way to prevent an impending divorce?

15264
4 Common Reasons Couples Get Divorced

We've all heard the statistics. Roughly 50% of married couples eventually end up divorced. This can lead to complications, problems with your children, financial issues, and no small amount of negative emotions.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

​Pets are Good for the Soul

Millions of Americans have found comfort in pet ownership. The media has been awash with stories about a surge in pet ownership, as Americans have taken advantage of the ability of pets to improve emotional well-being.

32172
Good for the Soul
Pets are Good for the Soul

America is going through a mental health crisis. This crisis predates the global pandemic, but has in many ways been dramatically exacerbated by it. In 2019, 19.86% of adults, or 50 million Americans, reported suffering from a mental illness. The emotional toll of the pandemic has been heavy, with over half of U.S. adults saying that they have experienced stress and worry related to Covid-19. Anxieties over work, uncertainty about the future and other triggers have intensified the mental health crisis. Millions of Americans have found comfort in pet ownership. The media has been awash with stories about a surge in pet ownership, as Americans have taken advantage of the ability of pets to improve emotional well-being.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

How Your Sleep Position Affects Your Health?

You changed into your pajamas, turn off the lights, and get yourself ready to sleep. How do you prefer to sleep, on the back, on your side, or on your tummy? Although there’s no scientific result that sleeping position affects your back, here are some interesting facts that have been discovered.

153216
Sleep Position

You changed into your pajamas, turn off the lights, and get yourself ready to sleep. How do you prefer to sleep, on the back, on your side, or on your tummy? Although there’s no scientific result that sleeping position affects your back, here are some interesting facts that have been discovered.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

How to Throw the Ultimate Winter Bash

As the year starts to come to an end, make sure you find the time to have some fun as well.

109064
Ultimate Winter Bash

As the year starts to come to an end, make sure you find the time to have some fun as well.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Prose: When The Gavel Falls (Story Excerpt)

Johnathan Yarrow is a successful defense attorney, until he takes on a personal case he cannot win. Ruined by the loss and haunted by his past, Yarrow, a man who desired to see the good in all people, starts to learn that not everyone can be good... not even himself.

105047
Prose: When The Gavel Falls (Story Excerpt)
https://unsplash.com/s/photos/lawyer

I woke up, like any other night, in a bed full of nightmares, drenched in sweat that stuck coldly to my skin, as a reminder of the dreams I couldn’t escape. The dream was so vivid, I felt it physically burn on my cheek. I wondered if the sting from the slap was worse simply because her eyes held no remorse, not an ounce of respect.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments