Discover more from Aamer's Letters
Linguistic Racism, Accents & Trevor Noah's Amazing Summary
Instead of 'Sorry, what was that?', try 'If I'm understanding this correctly...' It might just salvage someone's confidence.
This one’s about sounding right.
A Story For You
Accents are social identifiers. Whether we like it or not, they’re an ode to our origins; and if meeting new people was a game of poker, accents would be our tell.
It’s comedic that accents are inevitably multipurpose: they can either be favorable or non favorable, depending on what you sound like and where you are. Decide for yourself! Solely based on their accent, who do you think is in a favorable position?
Know someone that would love to take a guess? Send it to them and make sure they subscribe!
An English-speaking Indian in the U.S. applying for an IT job or
A Hindi-speaking American in an Indian bazaar looking for souvenirs.
If you’ve smiled and murmured about how stereotypical these examples were, you’ve got it right. It’s the unemployed Indian. The American is, without a shadow of a doubt, overpaying for most of the souvenirs.
However, there are factors that play a major role in what we’ve just described, one of them being past experiences, which ultimately lead to biases. Let’s take the examples already penned down, to explain.
If an interviewer has had negative experiences with Indians in the company, the chances of them hiring an Indian for the role again, are extremely slim.
If the Indian sellers haven’t got their way with Americans in the past, they would ultimately stop haggling and give in after minimal effort.
But the real world is a lot more malignant than just negotiating in bazaars.
Unfamiliar accents correlate to foreign and unfamiliar places. There’s a bit of overt discrimination on the grounds of accent but it’s nearly impossible to uncover the extent of it. And it’s all because it makes the human brain work harder.
People with thick regional accents have a tougher time finding jobs in different cities within the same country. We can only imagine what foreign nationals or expats go through then.
“When English is spoken by some Europeans, including for example French-, German-, Italian-accented English, they can be considered really cute, sophisticated, stylish and so forth,” explains Dovchin. But, she adds, English spoken by Asians, Africans or Middle Easterners may be viewed as challenging and unpleasant.” (Credits: BBC)
Accents are a determinant of intelligence, fluency and personality. If you’re rolling your R’s, you’re confident and well-spoken. If you sound like Apu from The Simpsons, you’re shy and good-spoken. Trevor Noah summarizes accents pretty well.
Linguistic racism is more discrete, yet more imminent in the racism buffet. Seldom does it pose a physical threat - all it does is break your confidence and destroy your self-esteem, that is, if you allow it.
Overtime, I have known amazing storytellers, with one-liners that would put most stand-up comedians to shame. It’s the command over their language and the insecurity with their accent that prohibits them from coming forward and displaying their skills.
To them and to all others that feel their accent is a deterrent, I would only say this.
If an unfamiliar accent makes the brain work harder, be out there as much as you can. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes second nature to those who first judged, made of fun of, discriminated against or berated you. They laugh at you before joining you.
A Story From Someone Else
This is from John on The Accentism Project’s website. Accentism is a term which refers to linguistic discrimination and describes any situation in which an individual feels as though they have been judged, treated, or commented on, because of the way they speak, write, and communicate.
“Being from the South of Ireland working in England I take advantage of my accent. I’ve noticed a trend in that older women especially seem to like it and ask me to say ’33’ and then tell me ‘I could listen to you all night’. When I was out one night this lad said I sounded Jamaican! Then when I joined a rugby club the lads thought I was a plumber/tradesman/policeman [due to my accent] only to reveal to their surprise that I am a Uni Professor. Having a different accent has been overall positive for me. After a lecture once, I had someone ask a question for the sake of hearing my voice. The British really seem to like it.. It’s an icebreaker in conversations and makes the ladies smile.”
And this one’s from Ella.
“I’m American by birth, English by accent and face an awful lot of criticism for it. I was once detained in a horrible little room at JFK airport because my accent and passport didn’t ‘match’ and I was questioned about false documentation before being brought to tears because I thought I was going to be arrested. That was the most unusual experience. Other than that, I often get odd looks when I speak about my history and my parents very much do not like that we sound unrelated.”
How about this from Anon?
“A few years ago a girl at my English department at a German university had her final oral exam to become a teacher. Unfortunately this girl spoke English with a very heavy Swabian (southern German) accent/dialect. The external examiner who was from northern Germany was close to failing her. To be honest her English was very difficult to understand. And only after the girl’s supervisor insisted that she’ll only teach English in southern German schools (because that’s how the teacher program used to work in Germany) was the external willing to let her pass with a 4 (the worst possible grade he could give her without failing her).
On a personal level, I’ve lived in the US and UK for about 10 years now but as a German I occasionally still get the v/w distinction wrong. Especially when I’m tired. Saying vikipedia instead of wikipedia always gets a few good laughs in the office.”
A Story From You
In an ideal world, discrimination and prejudices would merely be fictional constructs, designed to spread hatred. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world… making them a jarringly real part of our daily life.
Have you ever been discriminated on any grounds? Or witnessed it happen to someone else?
In our newsletters, we aim to imbibe value, and sometimes that value isn’t simply about traveling and businesses, but about being a good human. An empathetic human, one who is willing to make others feel accepted and welcome.