July 07, 2013

Why you should most definitely betray your heritage and hide your accent (and why sarcasm rocks my socks off!)

So here's the deal: I always had a thing for imitating accents. I can do a pretty solid German accent (much to the disgust of seemingly ALL my Austrian friends), my Spanish is accompanied by a lovely tongue-roll and a quasi-lisp, when I speak French my voice changes to a deep smokey whiskey tune and don't even try putting me in the same room with a Scouser.

Reason enough for most of Australian acquaintances to do the bewildered "You don't even have an accent?!?" - speech. It's extremely interesting to watch how once they realise you're not from their country, they listen really carefully and try to pick up on every word you say funnily ("Oh...ooohhhh I could hear a bit of an accent then when you said "preposterous" wink wink ha ha"). I am yet to figure out if they want to make me feel stupid or just suck at small talk. Wink. Wink. Ha. Ha.

I didn't always live an accent free life, but it quickly became apparent that the need to get rid of it is a much greater one than I had ever anticipated. People, especially stupid people, develop this amazing superiority complex around fellow humans with accents. They automatically assume that because I say my "Vs" and "Ws" differently I am mentally challenged, have no opinions on anything and can entertain myself for hours banging two spoons on a pot. It's that same kind of species that declares all your points as "invalid" in a discussion, because you pronounced something the wrong way. "You can tell me all about gender equality when you can say "very well" quickly three times in a row". Because that would truly support all my points.

Customer service is another reason you are better off camouflaging your accent. If you work in retail or hospitality you would know that customers in general can be extremely difficult and impatient, but wait until they find out you have an accent. All of us non-native speakers have been there but just to make a point the following happened to me the other day, when I accidentally let my accent slip while helping a (100 % NOT deaf) customer:

Me: These are the only...
Customer: Whaaaat was that?
Me: The only strappy ones...
Customer: WHAAAAT?
Me: These are the only ones with straps
Customer: NOOO that's not what I said. I WAAANTED STRAPPY!!! I SAID STRAPPY!!!
Me: Bangs head against the wall, then runs out of shop screaming while tearing off clothes

As for my current position, I've had issues with just a handful of self-doubt riddled people trying to get me caught up in challenging conversations, thinking they could out-talk me and make me look stupid. (It never worked. Trust me when I say if I can't think of a word, I am more than prepared to mime or awkwardly describe it using song titles and movie quotes. You wanna play ball? I can play ball alright.) I've had one human ask me if I could read a book in English (I can write one, motherfucker!!!!), and then wonder why I found this question extremely insulting (fun fact: I was actually reading a book when that person questioned my literacy. What do you think I was doing for the last half hour? STARING AT LETTERS AND SPONTANEOUSLY TURNING PAGES?)

And since we are moving with light speed towards the famous "bottom line" of this post, let's just sum up the obvious, point out the elephant in the room, pick up what was dropped: Society essentially consists of a bunch of racist, condescending and most of all insecure bastards who will jump at every opportunity to disrespect and talk down to another person to boost their own lower-than-life self-esteem. We are so scared of being different, because it makes us vulnerable to criticism, but we completely forget that people who have the tendency to criticise quickly usually have a whole parade of dancing skeletons in their closet.

It's not me who should be ashamed of having an accent, it's essentially you who should show a little less ignorance and arrogance. The amazing news is there are approximately 7300 main languages spoken in the world. SEVENTHOUSANDTHREEHUNDRED. Get off your high horse, English speaking world. The only reason so many people speak Anglais is because it is such a profound language. HAH! There you have it.

And for all you accent sporting, "R" rolling, "TH" detesting, "V&W" mixers and minglers: Don't hide who you are to earn respect from people who can't even spell the word (RESTECTP ANYONE?). Be proud of being bi- or multilingual and remember that you're probably more eloquent than the average native speaker in the country you choose to reside in. If people doubt your intelligence, confront them then and there ("You think I'm stupid or something? Point out Finland on a map for me and we'll see who of us is an idiot!"). Don't let anyone get away with hating on your accent and most of all do NEVER apologise for it! The next time you feel tempted to say "It's my accent!", voice what you really want to say. If you're anything like me, you should have a pretty large repertoire of witty and sharp could-be responses stowed away in your head cavity anyway.

The accent of one's birthplace remains in the mind and in the heart as in one's speech.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

That being said, don't fake a British accent to sound like Niki Minaj. Seriously. That's just wrong.