I spent a decent amount of time tonight conversating with one of my favorite people about internationalism. We started the conversation talking about the Florida primary, weaved through the topic of how to raise children without them rebelling and ended up talking about accents from different countries of the world.
Personally I don’t think it’s fair that my two younger sisters who attend colleges in Minnesota and Michigan are able to speak with their/our “natural” accent yet if I attempted that here where I live and work, I would be thought of as a poser. What accent is this I speak of? (ha, pun, get it?) It’s a combination of several but the base of it would be Kenyan. We spent our high school years in Kenya and have since picked up their accent. That is mixed in with whatever accent we acquired from living in Papua New Guinea and the accent bred within us from being Malgache. It’s a jumble but it really does sound quite cool; you can definitely tell it’s not an American accent though. (But don’t let that fool you, we are all able to speak with an American accent when the time calls for it.)
A good point was made in our conversation tonight. Think about this: Say you and I are both from Mexico and we both speak Spanish but no English. You move to Baltimore, MD and I move to Minneapolis, MN where we both learn English. Without ever knowing English before, when we learn it in these different areas and different cultures, we end up speaking English with the same accent. It’s quite fascinating.
I know speaking between languages is difficult for my tongue and speaking in different accents makes me sound not-so-smart at times but I wonder how it is for the rest of the people who can do the same. I know for a fact that being immersed into a different culture you can’t help but learn and absorb things in that culture but at what point are you considered fluent in that accent?
The reason I can’t speak with my natural accent here is because I’ve established my accent to those around me as being the same one as everyone else around. And because of that I think it would just be difficult for people to understand me. Sad. I should have continued speaking that way when I first arrived here. When I am around people I am comfortable with however, the natural does emerge. Would you wish to be so lucky to experience that?
I challenge you to learn a different accent. Not necessarily how to speak with it, start by attempting to understand every word said with that accent. If you need a different accent come find me. I would love to be able to speak with mine. Might take some prodding but eventually I will get there.