An accent is a part of a person's charm
|If you must acquire something, go buy a house. Or an elephant. Even some mutual funds for all I care. |
Don't go get yourself an "accent" just because you live in America. Or London. And please don't get one if you live in Australia. This is my account from living in two continents literary worlds apart in thought, action and especially speech, even though they speak the exact same language.
The Queens English, Ma'am. Thank you very much.
For as long as I can remember I've had a strong aversion to anyone from the South Asian continent who speaks with a Western accent. I think you know who you are, and I think you know what I mean.
Growing up in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in the 1980's when student exchange programs were big, many kids would go to Australia for six months and when they returned, we couldn't understand what they said for the next three weeks. Which I always thought funny, because half my childhood was spent in different parts of the world, yet I always managed to keep my accent intact (Super Woman, or what?).
An accent is a part of a person's charm.
To all the local radio personalities who were ever given 10 minutes of airtime, my advice is, if you are going with a British accent stick with it. Please, don't switch to a Yankee one in mid-sentence. You lose credibility with your listeners. They lose faith and begin to think you are cover versions or something equally bad.
Since I've moved to Boston, I've had the "privilege" (sarcasm intended) of meeting many, many people who in all probability, were, a-short-time-ago nice Hindi-speaking charmers studying at some Maha Vidyalaya or the other. What they sound like in their feigned accent is quite repugnant.
There is this one girl I ran into who went to a school in Kerala that prescribed that students speak only in Malayalam (in addition to only parting their hair in the middle). I will go easy on her very African-American (think Queen Latifah from Living Single) accent considering her English deprivation in school. Letting her hair down is fine, but putting on such an "act"-cent gnaws at me.
Then you find the "dudes" who consider the twang a necessary part of their fashion repertoire, along with their GAP sweaters and the Tommy Jeans that serve as uncompensated walking billboards for the companies.
Let me be gentle. I won't go off at all on the ABCDs, considering that for these unfortunate souls the American twang is a birth defect, my son included. It's the émigrés with the accent that get my goat.
The beauty of Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas, their physical beauty aside, which, by the way isn't too shabby, comes from their conscious effort to retain their ethnicity. Ethnicity is ingrained, it is a part of who we are and it is reflected in the way we speak. Ain't nothing wrong with that. How many of their films have you avoided because you couldn't understand their Hispanic accent? I would suspect, none. Desperado is an all-time favorite male movie.
Yet Americans seem to have this prejudice against outsourced workers in India. My American friends obnoxiously claim to simply not understand Joe Shmoe Patel (who is paid $0.60/hourly) to call you at 1.30 am Bangalore time to sell you that unneeded long distance calling plan. He is just doing his job. Don't hold that against him. He didn't get into it lightly; he had to take classes to learn to speak with an American accent only to be told that you don't understand him. Is it his accent or the fact that you hold him responsible for another lost job?
Sure there are those who claim that if you don't pick up an accent Americans won't understand you. I work with enough semi-intelligent Americans who don't understand a "can't" from a "caan't." But I am convinced that if you consistently say a word clearly with proper diction they are going to understand you. That's it. We don't need to bend over backwards to speak the way they speak. Where's the originality in that? Moreover, how superficial are we that we forget how we speak the minute we leave the old country.
Think about it. An accent can be lost faster than a bad boyfriend. All it takes is two minutes to make up your mind, and two seconds for your tongue to switch gears.