Don’t Make Fun Of My American Accent


Photo by Paul Weaver on Unsplash

The other day, my family was talking about rivers and my mom pronounced “Grande” like “Grand,” which earned immediate correction from my sister for not using the Spanish pronunciation.

I hear this all the time, usually after I mispronounce a Spanish word slightly, though I have heard it for other languages as well.

“You said that like such a white girl.”

This makes me so angry because it is the most obvious example of white stereotyping in society, and people don’t just ignore it, they aren’t even aware that it is happening.

I do not “talk like a white girl.” I “have a West-Coast-American accent,” and the fact that I pronounce Spanish words incorrectly is not a reason to make fun of me.

Without going too deep into anatomy, the way we talk (our accents) is determined by around age three, when we’ve moved beyond the babbling stage of speech and way into actual language. Different languages require different types of pronunciations (phonemes), and so humans’ mouths develop around pronouncing those different sounds, and struggle to pronounce phonemes outside our language(s).

The reason I don’t pronounce Spanish like a native speaker is because I can’t, not because I do not care about the culture or the people or whatever it is.

I mean, I don’t make fun of people who speak English as a second language, like the many international students at school whose native language is Mandarin or Cantonese or my friends’ parents whose native language is Spanish.

That would be utterly ridiculous, as foreign languages are complex and difficult to work with, especially when two or more people are having a fast or medium-paced conversation.

The phrase itself makes no sense anyway.

“White people” have many languages, and there are even different accents within the English language (British, Scottish, New York, Southern, etc.).

At this point, the phrase “saying it like a white girl” is really just a microaggression that’s meaning is “white people don’t try to accommodate or adapt to other cultures or races.”

I do try. I almost always try to pronounce foreign words correctly, but I often do not have the energy to make a sound that my mouth is not trained to make or to think about how a particular language pronounces a certain vowel or consonant.

I refuse to be put down by people who think that the color of my skin means that I act a certain way or think a certain way because it does not.

Somehow, we as human beings allowed skin color, gender, sexual identity, and so on to get in the way of effective and thoughtful communication. Ironically, we have gone so far as to allow language itself to act as a barrier to communication.