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Display 15  of westminster student body is international students  representing 71 different countries
Nov 14 2016
by Hashika Dissanayake

Why My Accent Is Not A Laughing Matter

By Hashika Dissanayake - Nov 14 2016
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It’s tough to be an international kid.

New York University may be dubbed as “the most diverse university” in the United States, but I’m still yet to be convinced. NYU DC hosted a DC Dialogues event last week as part of a series of events about American politics, which included a number of distinguished panelists from various backgrounds and political views.

The event was going off without a hitch – that is, until the Q&A session began. One of the members of the audience who was chosen to ask a question had an unmistakably thick Indian accent. The moment he started speaking, I began to notice the number of snickers that arose from the audience. People began to glance around at each other, grins plastered on their faces.

I was left disgusted.

Some of the panelists themselves knew no better, one of them cupping a hand to their ear as if that would help them to hear better the man sitting in the first row with a microphone in his hand. A few of the International students met up right after the event, and they too had made the same observations as I had.

One of them asked a very good question: since when was the American accent a norm?

An accent is a very important part of an individual’s identity. It could signify a number of things, with one of the main ones being their ability to speak another language. This is a very valuable ability. I find it ironic that such an ability can be mocked in the United States where actually more than 40% of all employees are functionally illiterate. A good portion of this country has yet to learn the importance of being fluent in a single language, let alone more than one.

I myself have fallen victim to such mockery when my Sri Lankan accent comes up in my speech from time to time, or when I happen to pronounce a word slightly differently from my American friends. They call it mispronunciation – I call it a different way of pronouncing things. 

As mentioned before, it's hard to be an international student in the United States. Acclimatizing to the new environment and juggling all of your priorities while staying true to your culture and values is a difficult feat. The last thing I want to deal with is you finding humor in my accent.

Going back home and having my friends note that I'm pronouncing things differently as a result of me trying to fit in in America is actually kind of depressing. I shouldn't have to feel that kind of pressure.

It's also important that we realize the American accent is just another accent. People from other countries mock it, try it, laugh about it etc. However, never should it be considered the "normal standard of annunciation," just as being American isn't considered the norm nationality.

So the next time you hear someone pronounce something differently, don't try and correct them. It's just their way of saying it; since when was there anything wrong with that?


Featured Image: WikiCommons


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Hashika Dissanayake - New York University

Hashika is a freshman in the Liberal Studies program at the New York University Washington D.C. campus. You can follow her on Instagram: @hash.dee or contact her via email: hnd227@nyu.edu

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