We speak the same language

By Alondra Tamayo, May 7, 2024

For the longest time, I felt like I had no voice, because the one I had would get ridiculed.

I grew accustomed being cut off in conversations and asked where I was from because of my accent. I became used to being mocked because of the way I pronounced certain words instead of being corrected. Those encounters killed my self-esteem and heightened my anxiety on public speaking because I felt like the way my voice sounded was more important than what I had to say. There were instances where I was mocked in group settings only to realize they weren’t laughing with me, but at me.

I thought being bilingual would bring me more opportunities; instead, I faced bullying, discrimination and mocking – even from my own friends and teachers. I was once told my homework wasn’t good enough because of the assumption having an accent equated to a lack of understanding.

Since CPP is a diverse campus, with many different ethnic backgrounds, cultures and different unique accents.

I wondered if classmates with accents similar to mine have had similar experiences.

Business student Maria Rodriguez faced discrimination growing up with a Latino accent.

“One time there was a group project and the person who felt like the group leader started assigning tasks,” Rodriguez said. “I enjoyed public speaking, especially because in my native country I never faced any challenges publicly speaking. So I decided to volunteer and say that I could do the presenting, but everyone in the group told me that nobody would understand me anyways and that we might lose points because I wouldn’t be able to deliver the information like they would.”

According to an article led by a psycholinguistics researcher Alice Foucart, having a foreign accent can lead to discrimination and judgements from individuals who don’t speak your native language. Foucart stated this happens because the human brain puts extra effort into understanding individuals with an accent. This extra work shows in native English speakers brain activity, indicating a struggle to process words and their meanings. This can make individuals have a negative perception of people with foreign accents.

Expressing a foreign accent can often bring feelings of discouragement and low self-worth. This might happen because of stereotypes or biases people hold about accents. Some might wrongly assume that a Latino accent means a lack of proficiency in English or intelligence. However, accents don’t reflect a person’s abilities or worth. Instead, they showcase diversity and richness in language.

A study by Laura Cerrato, a student at Helsink, Finland Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, demonstrated that individuals with a foreign accent find it harder to find a job and are perceived as less educated simply because the way they speak English is different.

I have lived in this country for about 18 years now, my accent is still strong and I have lost interest in “bettering” it because it’s a unique part of me and is a voice to my Spanish speaking parents.

“I have now realized that having an accent doesn’t mean I am not less intelligent, less educated or the jester for the night,” Rodriguez said. “It means that my brain is able to process information in two different languages, that I am educated and that I can express myself in two different languages. I have a voice, and I intend on using it no matter how it sounds.”

Feature image courtesy of Casey Villalon 

Verified by MonsterInsights