I have two accents but only speak one language or not, who knows?
The outside accent is, I’ve been told, a decent Canadian accent (though I’ve told I ape a good Mid-Atlantic accent as well) but my inside accent is my natural Trinidadian accent.
One I regard as a tool, the other I regard as part of myself.
I spent a year out on the East Coast for my first year of university and ended up with an East Coast accent. My parents laughed like drains for about a month after I came back to Ontario.
I didn’t plan on having a Canadian-or-whatever-it-is accent – it just happened. Between choral speaking, not being allowed to talk in dialect in my high school English class, being told to ‘speak slower’ by my housemates in my first year of university, and the year of broadcast class for my journalism degree, it seems inevitable that my accent would change.
I’m embarrassed to admit it but not using my home accent in public probably was my subconscious attempt at assimilating into this new country. I was already experiencing culture shock because I had come from a country where I was part of the dominant society and now was a visible minority and I made a strong effort to fit in. As much as we don’t like admitting it, accents have connotations. People love a British or Australian accent yet other accents? Perhaps not as much.
These days the work accent is a useful thing to have, just like my blackberry, my laptop, my recorder and my pen. I’m easily understood and I’m not asked to repeat things. I am asked to speak in my Trinidadian accent though.
My home accent is the accent I use when talking to family, to discuss my day, to tell my parents that I’m ok, to call them and ask how they’re doing. It’s the accent I use when playing with my niece – a singsongy version of “Sweetheart,” and the voice I use when I yell, “Mom, where you put the pepper?!” Picture a Trinidad accent here. Which is not Jamaican in any way, shape or form so please stop doing one when we talk, it’s irritating.
Of course, the Trinidadian accent also the accent I use when I’m tired, frustrated or annoyed. So maybe my accent(s) aren’t two separate accents. Maybe it’s just one accent that changes to my mood.
Christ, I don’t have an accent, I have a vocal mood ring.
This post is part of the Ethnic Aisle blogging project. If you’re interested in race, ethnicity, diversity and the GTA, check out the other posts by some great writers.
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