Damien Smith's Spanish Interview.
I hope you enjoy.
The purpose of this project was to reveal the connection between language and identity. In our unit we talked about how language is used in various ways with different people such as family, friends, and strangers. We connected the concept to our personal lives. In my paper i discussed how language has effected how I see people. Things like accents and pronunciation of words. I also talked about other concepts like code-switching, changing how you talk while around different people. Code-switching is my most commonly used language concept.
I believe that language can change people’s thoughts of you. Like how when I hear a southern accent I tend to take offense to what ever they say to me. There was a time when I had adopted a few words from the south. I was in the 4th grade in a southern Georgia elementary English class. Ironically the teacher had the most proper pronunciations I have ever heard, even until this day. My English pronunciations were the best in the class, but never the less still only meeting the standards for good English in that town. Standards that were below hers.
It was a Monday morning and the teacher was becoming very frustrated with the class’ skills. We were downgraded to counting to ten. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ate, nine, ten” the class repeated adding emphasis on every E, O and I. I was doing pretty good until it came to “four”. “One, two, three, foe”. I was slipping up & the teacher noticed immediately. “Mr. Moore!” she yelled. “One two three four, four!” she tried to correct me but it was too late. I lost control of part of my tongue to southern slang and there was no going back. When I returned to Philly I could always see a person’s disgust hang from their face when I passed that number.
It showed me that an out of place accent singles someone out. People very often complemented me on my good grammar & when they heard “foe” I could see in their face how they regret past complements. Being that I only had slight slang from the area, I often wondered how people from the south are viewed and judged when they go to other parts of the country with an accent. I believe people do the same thing with race. For example, if you lived in a world were one race discriminated against yours you would most likely grow to not like that race. But if that race was always nice then you would like them. If someone with a certain accent has left a good impression on you you expect people also with that accent to also be kind & nice.
That tells us about how language cant effect identity. I’ve had person experiences with that. When attending my elementary school filled with kids that used bad grammar and slang most of the time I was sometimes shunned for speaking properly and with correct grammar. But in interviews when people heard me talk some would say things like “I bet everyone in your school is such a scholar like you!” I would nod. But the reality was that the school made me shy especially when presenting, when I had to be proper. It was like the girl in “Tongue Tied” how she was always told to speak up from being quiet. I can relate to her quote “What did you say?’ or ‘Speak up’ so I would have to preform again, only weaker the second time.” on page 165. That was a common dilemma in my early school life.
One of the best abilities you can have in this world is to be able to adapt, alter, and control how you say your words. In class we talked about this same concept. “Code-switching” changing the ways you talk for different people. Most people do it between elders and their peers. I am able to do it with individual people. There is a significant difference in the way I talk on one friend as opposed to another. Also the same with adults I am becoming better at this. I could talk to my friends saying things like “Wassup bro, whats poppin’” and have the intellectual capacity to hold a interesting discussion with my teacher, or write an essay.
As an individual who is bi-lingual, my personal experience with balancing different languages has at times proved to be trickier than one would think. Being born and raised in a place where the majority of the people I encounter on a daily basis speak English was quite different from the language I spoke at home. My parents are immigrants from Ethiopia, where the official language there is known as Amharic. The language is apart of the many Semitic languages that are native to that area of the world. As an Ethiopian-American I would initially master English, before being able to learn Amharic. Once I turned 7, my parents would send my brother and me to Ethiopia, to spend a whole summer with extended family before school would start. There is where I would be exposed to a different lifestyle, one that was exceptionally unique from my life in the United States, but ultimately being forced to take up a new language.
It all started when my uncle Tilahun would greet us at the airport.
He yelled out, “Enkwan dena metachu!”
This means “Welcome home/here!” I smiled
hesitantly, for this man was absolutely new to me, but I knew I was with
family. My brother at the time would be the one to engage anyone in
conversation for he had already managed to master the language. He replied
back, “Enkwan dena kwayachu” which translates to “Glad to be here.” We made our way to baggage claim to get
our luggage and soon afterwards we were in the back of my uncles old-school
truck. The trip to his house took forever, as my brother and I would
occasionally glance at one another, while we both looked out the windows
observing what would be our new home. We finally arrived and would be met by
four of my male cousins who were eager to see our faces. We made our way inside
and were shown to our rooms, as we were starting to unpack, my grandmother came
in, “Tsion, yene lidge adegeshal, ende enastash te meshlialish” which
translates to “Tsion, my child your getting big, your starting to look like
your mother.” I replied back with
the little Amharic that I knew; “Egserestelin” (Thank You) and I smiled. My
grandmother knew that I had a lot to learn still, while she hugged me.
Yet, I would manage to pick up the language relatively fast, for over the next the couple of weeks, the biggest lesson I would learn wouldn’t come from my family, but from the kids in the neighborhood. It was a warm day, I wore my white dress that my mom had bought back in the states and I was eager to show it off. I was accompanied by one of my younger cousins, for he was my guide while my brother was away with my uncle exploring the city. My cousin introduced me to his school friends and I met two other girls named Gelila and Wusho. They were friendly, with two white bright smiles, long hair, and their jean jacket outfits. For a second, I even thought they were twins. One of them carried a jump rope and the other a bright set of colored chalk. “Enechawet!” said Wusho, which meant, “Let’s play”. I replied back, “Ishe”, which means, “Okay”.
We started jumping rope and would take turns when one of messed up and got caught up in the rope. They taught me different words as we played while they sang songs. I would repeat what they would say and gradually I would end up managing to speak more fluently. The sun was soon making its way westward, which meant that we needed to go home. We said bye to one another, “Chow Tsion” and I replied back “Chow Wosho” “Chow Gelila”. My cousin and I made our way back home, to find my brother drinking coffee with my uncle. “How was your day, Tsion?” my brother asked, “It was good, I think I’m getting Amharic now”, I replied back.
If it wasn’t for those two girls that would spark my interest in learning Amharic, I think I wouldn’t have ever let myself learn. My parents were amazed to see me speak it so fluently, when we came back, because I was able to understand every word they would say and be able to respond back. This relates to James Baldwin’s “If Black English Isn’t A Language, Then Tell Me, What is?” in which he states, “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances, or in order to not be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate.” This factor is what forced me or influenced me to take up a new language, because of the situation that I was placed in. Ultimately, it made me draw further connections to people and further/better my communication with others.
I never really thought about the way I spoke. I always just assumed that I sounded normal, nothing out of the ordinary, and definitely not too far off from everybody else. My friends in grade school never mentioned anything about my way of speaking, and neither did my family. Everything went on as usual, until I began going to Summer Camp. People that went there were from all over the place. Everyone talked a bit differently. As we were all introducing ourselves one boy asked where I was from
“Oh, I’m from Philadelphia.” I said, assuming he was just wondering which region I was from.
“Really? I didn’t think people from there had any accents.”
“…What?” I thought it was odd, I didn’t have an accent. “I don’t have an accent.” I defended myself, but he wasn’t trying to insult me, so he just laughed,
“Yeah, you do. It’s cute.” Of course, I just thanked him, but it lead me to think about other things. I began noticing the way other’s talked more, and the way I talked. I now heard and recognized which words I may be pronouncing differently, I don’t know why I did it; it was just how I’d always talked. Throughout my time there, people had kept on mentioning it, I’d gotten used to it and just responded with a simple ‘I don’t actually know why I have an accent. I guess I just do.’
As time went on, I began to notice it more, I noticed when I did it and what it sounded like. I realized I had an accent when I got angry or upset, and I realized when I tried to hide it. Accents, and just language in general can have a big affect on a person and those surrounding them. The way I speak and present myself entirely depends on who I’m with and where I am. When I’m with my family, I’m loud and less cautious of how I sound, but more cautious of what I say, and what terms I use. Around my friends, I’m more cautious of keeping my accent reigned in and less about what I say. I think the cause of this is, while I can still be myself around my friends, I know I don’t have to impress my family, or try to gain their approval with anything. This lead me to realize the fact that my persona when I’m alone and my persona in public are so different. When I’m alone, or with close friends, I tend to be louder and less reserved. I tend to share my opinions more because I know that they will more or less not judge me on it. When I’m in public, or in a place where my opinions and what I say may be disregarded or I may be judged on what I say, I definitely take more time to think about what I have to say and make sure I sound smart when I say it.
Now, sounding ‘smart’ to me meant enunciating my words, regardless of the accent, and making sure I know exactly what I’m saying before I say it. In society, a generally accepted idea is that having a voice gives you power. Speaking out and making yourself heard and having your opinions recognized are all things that gives you power. But I think something that isn’t often recognized is that a voice can also take away a lot of the power that you have. If someone deems the way that you speak to be ‘wrong’ it makes you insecure about the way you speak. I have been told that the way I pronounce some words are wrong, which ultimately leads to me trying to change the way I speak, or just not speak at all. I don’t want to be told that something I’ve been doing all my life is all of a sudden wrong and that I should change it, it knocks down my confidence and takes away any power that I had before.
There are many key roles in the way that we speak, one of them being the company we keep, and one of the others being our history. We don’t necessarily have to be from a certain place to pick up an accent, or a saying, or other ways of speaking from that region. My grandparents are Italian, and although even my grandmother doesn’t fully speak Italian, there are some words and phrases that she uses. From being around them so much, I’ve picked up some ways of speaking from her, such as the way I use an accent when pronouncing Italian foods. When we were kids, my grandma would pinch me and my sister’s faces and say
“Look at the faccia” ‘faccia’ being the Italian word for face. Throughout time, I began picking it up and found myself saying the same thing with my little cousins, that along with ‘bambino’ the word for ‘baby.’
Although I’ve picked these things up and using them has become sort of involuntary, I’ve had to stop saying them in the company of people who don’t exactly know my background. People have asked me if I spoke Italian, which I don’t, and when I tell them that, they accuse me of faking it. This reminds me of a the writing “ If Black English, Isn’t a language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” In this story, they're arguing whether something is or isn't a language. They say that some people take speaking "black english" as just being wrong. But I don't think there is one right or wrong way to speak, and nobody has the right to take anybody else's speech away.
I have seen this problem with many people, not just myself. The way that they speak is criticized to the point that they have to change everything about it. Something that once gave them power, is now a burden.
“ This is too much, this is a manifesto” says Ms. Pamohov.
Read anything by me one can’t not hear the terms “civilization” “patriarchy” “society”“objectification” “imperialism”“slavery” “myth” “Economics” “religion” “science” “hypersimplification”“Leftism” “capitalism” “poverty” “conquest”“rape” “nature”“zombies” “disease” “cosmetic” “superficial” “hierarchy” “indigenous” “lies” “land” and “industrial”.
My language is how I perceive the world, and how I see through the chains and insanity of our society. Everything I see, I attempt or sometimes involuntarily see how it relates to the centralized purposes of distant powers. It all started as soon as I entered highschool. I just started to question everything and see the truth.
When my teacher said language the first thing I could think about was how different types of languages actually alter perceptions of reality, I thought about the Nords taking over Britain and giving the English language swear words, and I just couldn’t help thinking cultural white-washing, and the stupidity of relationships built on pretence.
Now I think about how seriously far attached I am from my peers, and the majority of this society. Most people don’t even truly understand what “civilization” or “science” is. They don’t give a damn about “nature” or “overshoot”. I often get laughter and smirks whenever I read things I journal in history class. I’m not sure if it’s either jealousy, malaise, or misunderstanding. Am I really that alien?
That’s why I rarely talk outside of class, no one to talk to, nothing to talk about to them that won’t leave me saying something that sparks controversy and arguments. Rarely can I go about daily activities without comments or the input of other people, guess it just makes them uncomfortable that they can be wrong and I can be right.
I can’t help to see the reality of traditions fully based on cloth. It would be pointless for me to waste my time trying to censor and numb my thoughts because of what is passively accepted and upheld in the mainstream.
My pier’s vocabulary only ranges from “Homework!”, to “Hipster”, to “OMG!”. They may talk of every flavor of Snoop Dogg blasts, but they would never talk about how many salmon are sacrificed in the manufacturing of those disgusting beverages, like me.
They’ll talk about how awesome it is to get baked, I talk about how sad it is that marijuana is the only plant people think is worth saving. They say “iphone 4”, I say technology is not neutral. They say Obama to sound political, but I’ll talk about how he is just another capitalist warhead.
I’m not sure of whatever power that entitles me, or If I honestly gain anything from accept constant depression when I look humans.
“It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is the vivid and crucial key to identify: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity” In this quote from James Baldwin’s “ If Black English, Isn’t a language, Then Tell Me, What Is?”, I definitely don’t agree the “Black English” is language, but just a variant of English, and I don’t think that language is the crucial key to identity- it is agreeable that language is most definitely a political instrument for me, separating me from public and or common thought and opinion.
I worry about language not on a basis such as what judgments people are going to try to make about me, being that I’m black, or how I was raised, or if I’m a know-it-all. As a political instrument I want to utilize it to the best of my abilities so it can be understood by anyone regardless of how well they know the English language, and I want my words to communicate every passionate rage, every fact, and reality to inspire the cynic and nihilist into actions. To cure the hedonists from his/her naïve ways, and to devastate the perpetually blissful. If I intend to.
“Sup.” I said.
“Tired.” my friend replied with a yawn.
“What Class we got first.” I asked.
“Spanish.” he replied.
“We mine as well get up dere now.” I said.
“Mine as well its already 8 o’clock.”
This is an example of my normal dialogue when I just get into the school building and greet my friends. I talk like this because it is a relaxing and much way easier to speak. Also, its something I have become accustomed to because this is how most of my peers and I communicate on a daily basis. Mostly because to us its such a easy and leisurely way of speaking to one another. Though we are educated enough to realize that this is not the grammatically correct way of communication in qworking field or profession. This is why during situations in school or the workplace I code switch. I switch my dialogue so the listener will pay attention to the information I am trying to tell.
For example, if I was to have a interview for a job I would not go in the employers office saying “Wats up I’m here for dat job interview jawn.”. Instead I would walk into the office and say “Hello I am Robert Jenkins I’m here for my job interview.”. As you can see this is a huge difference between the way I greeted my friend at the beginning of a school day, and how I speak to people of higher authority. The reasons for making this change is so that the employer does not look at me as something that I am not or to fit in with the kind of workers already with the establishment. For example I could be one of the best people for the job just as James Baldwin said in If Black English Isn’t A Language, Then Tell me What Is? “To open your mouth is to put your business in the streets” and this could cause people to have the wrong opinion of me. They could believe I am a poorly educated young man and is not truly serious about this job or my future. Even though this is completely untrue I could not blame the employer for coming up with that assumption because what else would that kind of speech apply. This the kind of Code Switch that I have to make for many different occasion through out life.
Another reason I might code switch is because I am uncomfortable with the people who are surrounding. Most of the time I use this kind of switch when I am going to new school, Church, or any other place that I am unfamiliar with. I remember the time I was in a similar situation when I was shadowing at SLA.
“Wassup” “Hi” I replied, “You ready for the day.”, “Yes I guess.” I replied. My Conversations with my Student Tour Guide went on like this for most of the day until I got use to the school a little and him. Once I was able to develop this relaxed relationship with my surroundings I was able to switch back to my usual sense of dialect.
A time where I mistakenly for got to code switch was when I was talking to my mom about the cost about of some Watch The Throne Concert Tickets. “How much are for good tickets.”, I said. “The Best Price and Seats I could find was 200.” “Are you serious!” I replied. “Very.” “Damn it” I said. Completely forgetting that I was having this conversation with my mom and not one of my friends in school, but luckily she really catch what I said so I was able to get out of it with ease. This is a situation where using the wrong dialogue could of got extremely ugly.
I change my way of speaking for many different occasion but they each are similar in the reasoning behide it. I do each change to try to either fit or to not be judge by others. I do not do it in the sense of being fake to new people and make them believe that I’m not because I truly am ok with my own personality, but the comfort of not being judged is always a plus. But Code-Switching is not something that I just personally have to do but everyone in the world might have to change their dialogue at some point in time.
My Grandma’s opinion
“Nuthn, HW bord listenin to music. hbu?”
“Same, hmewrk listenin to music. I aint see yu all day. Wht happened to us chilln aftr skool.?”
“O, ma badd I had 2 go hme. My ma got mad @ me for smethn dumb.”
“Well, yu need 2 stp makn her madd, u always doin tht.”
I’m in my room lying on my bed, messaging my best friend Jermel on iChat. The conversation goes on and on. Simple texts talk with a friend in my eyes but in my Grandmother’s eyes it is childish teen talk. She does not get the point of it and does not understand it. She looks down on people who talk and or write improperly. She thinks of them as lazy beings because they abbreviate their words or chose not to say them fully. What also grind her gears extremely is when people use extra punctuations, no punctuations at all, and the incorrect punctuations in their sentences.
“Hay gmom, hw was ur day.?”
“What Yanna, what is hw? And I wish you spell your words correctly you smart you don’t have to talk like that sweetie.”
“Sry gmom.! I mean Sorry Grandma.”
She thinks that if you text or talk like that to your friends and others, then you will not go anywhere in life. Also, that if you talk and write that way daily then it will become a habit, and you will not be able to change that. “Childish teen talk” drives her crazy, she despises the fact that it is made and used by young people. She thinks that people who use slang, or who does not know how to speak properly when they are capable to speak or write correctly are hoodlums, up to no good, and they have no priorities in life.
This reminds me of the story "A Women Warrior" by Maxine Hong Kingston when she says, “I like the Negro students (Blacks Ghosts) best because they laughed the loudest and talked to me as if I were a daring talker too.” I interpret this, as the character in this story likes the black students most because they are loud and talk a lot. Which is a stereotype for most African Americans. This is related to my grandmother’s situation because they both make judgments on a person because of the way they present themselves.
Their opinions could be, and are proven to be false. Someone might have been raised that way and may not know another way to behave or how to say a certain word, as they should. You could be the greatest person in the world with a perfect behavior and have the worse grammar and spelling. Their theories both tie back to the quote you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; it’s the inside that counts.
“Are you from New York?”
“No. I was born here in Philly. Why would I be from New York?”
“It sounds like you have a New York accent.”
“No, I don’t. How could I have a New York accent?”
“You just do.”
This happened in school. Here in SLA. A few of my friends and I were playing games on our computers, typical. Then he says that. I would have never expected someone to say that I’m not from Philly just because of my accent. I was thinking this question after I left the conversation, “How would he know what a New York accent sounded?” On my latest trip to New York, I was thinking this. I couldn’t dilate any voice to see if it sounded like mine. I also found out that New Yorkers were pretty damn arrogant.
So, let’s get back on topic. Now I think this is a huge regret I feel and maybe my Dad as well. If only I could fluent Spanish like my Dad, but unfortunately, I can’t. It was probably my Dad’s and my greatest mistake in life. He wanted his son to speak Spanish like him, and I wanted to speak to him in perfectly, fluent Spanish like Dad, yet I cannot say a phrase in Spanish with confidence. I want to say what I’ve learned in Spanish class, but I’m always worried I may say the wrong thing. I am thinking right now how some people say I’m Italian. If only I could speak Spanish, prove them wrong. They would be scratching their heads, saying, “What did you just say?” I would say, “I just said ‘I am not Italian. I’m Puerto Rican’ in ‘Español’ or Spanish to you guys.” I just wish I could be a bilingual, speaking English and Spanish, but I think it’s too late to be that.
Here’s something I can think about my dialect. Does my dialect intersect with my identity? Yes and No. Now I said yes because there are times when people question my dialect. There are questions or comments like the example I have on the top of the first page, or there can ask…
“Why does your accent sound like that?”
“You sound stupid!”
“Well, I was born with accent like this, and I am damn mighty proud of it.” No, I don’t say that line, but that’s what I think about. Now it gets a little sentimental. When I was going through a bit of depression through one of my summer break, (7th grade I believe), I thought the bad things that was said to me through my current 8 years at my old school, and I would think I sounded stupid. The way I spoke, probably made some of my “classmates” lose respect for me (that is if they had any respect in the first place.) I said no because since that “New York” accent questioning, I have not been made fun of my accent or commented on my accent for a while. I can’t remember the last thing that someone said to me about my accent in a negative way. Probably 7th was the last time I heard something about my accent. In 8th, it was about personality, but that’s different story.
Now this maybe interesting. When my current 10th grade teacher taught us about a relationship between language and power, I thought there was no relationship at all, but once we got into the discussion, I had second thoughts. Yeah, that was kind of obvious. Any whom, there was a good point when you would have a president who would speak formally than informally. For example, if Barack Obama spoke like, “Yo, what’s up, my fellow Americans,” than, “Good evening, my fellow Americans,” you would have thought twice to elect him as president in the first place. The thing is… having a slang could mean power, just not a chance for presidency. It could mean it on the streets. Gangs and clubs would be on the street with slang, and they show their power with that kind of tone. Politically speaking, you must speak formally (and learn to keep their promises); they can be president people look up to. Kind to think of it, what would happen if we did have a slangy president, but he still did good job while in office?
Now I must admit, I think I may have a different public persona than an internal persona. Why do I think this? Well, I tend to have stage fright, a bit of it any way. When I want to speak up, I feel the words come into my head, but once I try to get the words out, they just dissolve from my mind and I cannot explain the situation, even though I had the words to explain it. Those who read this probably know what I feel. My internal persona is something else. This would kind of relate to an essay I read in English just before I typed all this into this log. The essay was by Richard Rodriguez, and the essay was called, “Hunger of Memory.” A quote from the essay, “In public, my father and mother spoke a hesitant, accented, not always grammatical English…” That’s what I meant. When Richard’s parents spoke in public, they would be a little hesitant. That’s how I feel. You try to say it, but you stammer and sputter like a car that ran out of gas, and then you don’t make a noise after all that, and you are thinking
Philadelphia, home to some of the rich and Famous and the young and struggling. It is like a mixing pot for Pennsylvania.
Pittsburgh, known as the Steel city a place where everything has and is in its place. A quaint and quiet city not much of a moving city compared to Philadelphia.
Although they are in the same state, the differences between them place them on opposite sides of the world.
The place where they meet is me. I was born and for a short period of my life I was raised in Pittsburgh. But ever since I can remember I was here in Philadelphia and grew accustom to it ;I have had a Philadelphia soul. I haven't forgotten my Pittsburgh roots and those roots show in me for the most part like they way I act, but Philly… Philly is my home and it shows all in my speech.
" You are still coming downtown with me right?"
"Yeah, didn't I already say that?"
"Alright, you didn't have to get smart"
" Haha, I was just playing"
You can also see my family roots when we're talking with each other.
"You finna go to the store?"
" Yeah I am you want something?"
" I want a bag of chips and go' on and get some of den cookies that I like please"
" Sure, will do daddy"
" Oh and can you make sure that you go get den there uh cooking oils and my orange juice."
"Anything else you would like daddy?"
" Daddy can you please put the K back in Breakfast? Truly dad that is all I ask."
" Okay snobby Breakfast Sausages"
"Thank you daddy I will be right back"
My father, born and raised in Pittsburgh, had never been outside the 412 and he was proud of it. He always had this unique way of speaking. I was always a fan of grammar and the proper way of speaking, and I think that comes out when I write and I speak. My father's side took well to "modern day slang" and I didn't. I think that always separated my Brotherly Love and my Steel city. I think that the way that one side of my family speaks is entirely different from the other.
My mother who was born and raised in North Philadelphia and was sharp as a tack made something out of herself even though she doesn't think so, she is the strongest and most proper woman I have ever had the pleasure to meet. She is the sole reason why I carry out grammar as strongly as I so. She makes it almost impossible for you not to speak proper English. I feel as though without my mother I would not correct everyone's speech every time I hear it.
In the short essay “If Black English isn’t a language then what is it?” by James Baldwin he said “People evolve a language in order to describe and control their circumstances” I think that in a way that is where slang originates from and although I do love my grammar I do sometimes partake in speaking slang with my fellow peers. Taking control of an environment not only means that you are knowing where you are but where you come from. I think in the African American society “slang” or “Ebonics” is a way that we express ourselves with one another. It is a way for us to be and feel comfortable. The slaves found a way to cope with not being able to speak their own language and not fully learning the language of so called “pure white people” slang is that escape route. “Slang” is something we can call ours. It doesn’t define African American but it does help control their circumstances.
In the short essay “ Hunger of Memory” by Richard Ramerez he talked about how by a chance of geographical luck he was a Hispanic boy of working class wound in a Catholic school full of Senators children and he didn’t know English very well which was kind of a Burdon on him because nobody else knew what he was talking about. He said “What they understood was that I had to speak a public language” English is this language that is spoken everywhere and it is kind of a language that us universal. When people in other countries think of English they think of America “The Land of Opportunity” when English isn’t even the official language of America. There is no public language every single person on the planet is different and sometimes the only way some of us can connect is through our language and that and it is commonly assumed that English is spoken everywhere since it is a dominate language. I am different from him but we both share a common factor and that is we both speak English. There is so much diversity that there really couldn’t be a public language.
I speak three languages: Albanian (Native language), German and English. Whenever I write an essay or any intellectual writing assignment I have a certain self-conscious criticism to myself. I get so self conscious to the point where I dwell on imagining myself knowing one language exceedingly well — instead of knowing a little bit of each three that I know. I want to be monolingual instead of trilingual so I can exceed in English writing instead of simply meeting requirements. If a woman knows one language all of her life, she only focuses on that one language and doesn’t have others to get in the way of her focus- and therefore she has all her focus directed to that one language, and can do exceptionally well with it. I become unappreciative of my personal linguistic capabilities to the point where all of my gratitude for knowing all three of these cultures and their regions dissolves. It dissolves in my imagination for hope, so that I can dedicate my all to ultimately mastering one language, and thus feel accomplishment in my writing.
Inevitably I use quite a lot of time in studying and scrutinizing my work to at least meet the requirements that an English audience expects to be at least “good.” In spite of my grueling effort to try to improve the way I write, I always stumble on my structure. Invariably the way in which I structure my sentences tends to be my common flaw, I continuously get feedback on displaying my sentences awkwardly.
My incompetent writing skills that appear in my papers come from how I form sentences in my other two languages, as does my cadence in pronunciation and level of broadness in vocabulary. Also my quiet nature of projecting words comes from the shyness that used to be pinned to my character. Seeing as how I used to live with reticence, it became a part of me, and therefore I became oblivious to it. My shyness has stuck with me, shaping my style of speaking along with the influence that I got from my German classmates in Germany, and family members in Albania. Since I get unassertive about my English writing, sometimes I choose to be stubborn over logical when arguing about how to pronounce a word correctly. One time I can remember being stubborn about a word was when I was in 6th grade. I was twelve had been living in the US for five years. “I’m so much better than you! You’re dumb and I’m smart!” my sister yelled. She was eleven at the time.
“Yeah?! You’re dumb for calling me dumb, cause it takes one to know one,” I yelled back.
Then she said “Listen you are pronouncing this word just way out of proportion!”
“ No! YOU’RE blowing this conversation about this word out of proportion!” I retorted her defensively.
This fight went on for a while until I, the oldest (by a year), broke it off. Maybe I didn’t break it off as maturely as I should have, but at the time I thought that it was mature enough.
“Fine, how about we make a bet. You go to your English teacher tomorrow and confirm that the stupid word “determined” is pronounced your way- “ditermend”, while I go to my English teacher and ask her if it’s pronounced my way- “deder-mained,” pronouncing the “mind” in the word determined just like the word “mind” and all the “e’s” in “determined” just like the first “e” in elder. Whoever gets it right will do chores for a week”.
“It’s a deal.” She replied, and we both shook on it.
The next day I went to my
English teacher and told her about my situation.
“I’m afraid it is pronounced the way your sister pronounced it.” She told me.
When school ended, I walked home disappointed. After that day, my loss resulted in getting prune hands for a good five days straight (from washing dishes).
I could have easily won but at the time my sister and I knew little about language and that there is no right or wrong way in pronouncing words, it is just the way people show their own style of saying things influenced by their familiar surroundings which they grew up with.
Another time I can remember of a similar “mispronunciation”-incident was one day before coming to school. It was another day that I had fought with my sister, but I was older and it was right before I headed to go to school. When I arrived at school I just didn’t feel like reading or really doing anything. But my second class required doing so, and there was nothing to do about it. It’s not that I hate to read, no, I actually love to read and escape from reality, but I just simply wasn’t in that mood today since my sister caused me so much annoyance that I wasn’t willing to let it go and move on to my reading zone.
Ever since that age I didn’t really mispronounce any other words until two days ago in Spanish class, when we had to make questions for a project regarding a made-up interview.
“Hey Matt! Can I check out what you have so far?” I asked.
“Sure.” He said.
“What can you contribute to this job?” I read his question to
“Wait. What did you just say contribute like?” Matt asked, looking dumfounded.
“Contribute”. I said pronouncing it like “kon” (like a con in pro & con’s) and tribute like “trabute” (KON-tra-bute).
“What? It is not like that, it is supposed to be pronounced contribute”. (He said it like ken-TRI-bute.)
That next period after Spanish I had English. In English class I read a story called “How to tame a wild Tongue” by Gloria Azaldua. The story was about language and how it shapes the character’s Identity and perception based on gender biases and ethnicity. I could really relate to this boy’s situation, because we were both struggling to cope with more than one language.
“For a people who cannot entirely identify with either standard (formal, Castillian) Spanish nor standard English, what resource is left to them but to create their own language? A language which they can connect their identity to, one capable of communicating the realities and values true to themselves- a language in terms that are neither español ni íngles, but both.”
Equivalently, just like the boy, I had trouble coping with what language to connect my identity to. Furthermore, similar to his created “mispronunciations”, I also created my own way of pronouncing words that weren’t correct in the “standard ” way. Essentially language does not have one normal, or one precise way of going about. This exemplifies how a person’s identity intersects with language based on their place of origination. For instance my pronunciation of the two words mentioned in my experiences (“determined” and “contribute”,) have a different cadence when I say them compared to when American’s say them.Three cultures, norms, countries, and languages can bestow a person with a little of each, and broaden their knowledge along with their approach in life. I am trilingual, and maybe I know a little more about life than someone my age and gender who is monolingual. I am not phenomenal in one language but great in three. From how the languages that I speak affect the way I write in English (since English writing is an important part in my life concerning my identity), and cause me to have an exceptional perspective, can let me to definitely say that language plays a big role in my life, and shapes how I am in the different persona's I carry living. I am an English student, and a trilingual teenager.
“Wazzup man, I aint seen u in a while. Hows life?”
“Life is up and down. U know how life is. Mine could be better, nam saying?”
“No,” I sent back.
“Well thas 2 bad. U need 2 pay more attention 2 ppl since u cant understand no body.”
“……,” Was what I replied.
“Imma tlk 2 u later. Dueces.”
I don’t understand how we became friends because he never wants to talk about what I want to talk about. That is because we have very different versions of the world we live in. It makes it difficult for us to talk about anything because we don’t have much in common. When people speak about different topics then it’s harder for them to communicate because they are talking about different things. A person who is familiar with a topic will find it easier to communicate with someone who is also familiar with that topic. When two people are unfamiliar with the topic, it could be language or interests; you will find it hard for you to communicate with each other. Now we all know that the way that conversation went are not how all conversations go. However, we do know that I am talking to someone about things of similarity and therefore have similar interest. It is my understanding that people who have similar interests and/or ideas can be able to communicate even if they are speak different languages.
When people are confused by what another person is saying it is because they either: 1) Don’t know the language. 2) Have different interest. Or 3) Have different opinions on these interests. If everyone was a “Common Joe,” as Mike Rose out it in page 3 of his essay titled “I just want to be Normal.” Then we could all communicate even if there was a language barrier. At the same time, Mike Rose must realize that if everyone were this “Common Joe” that then everyone would be a little less individualistic. People sometimes think that it has to do with race, like Richard Rodriguez did in “Hunger of Memory.” He said that, “An accident of geography sent me to a school where all my classmates were white…” and he made it seem as though he could not communicate with them and vice versa because of where they had come from. And yet, the story that I will tell you next completely contradicts that point.
There was a time when I visited Mexico and only knew how to say hi in Spanish and count to ten. There were some people who I started talking to because they had a soccer ball. I had kicked it back after it came to close to me. Then they asked me do I want to play in Spanish. I only knew one word. “fútbol.” So I walked over. It was five of them. Then I made a suggestion that we have a 3v3 game, but nothing happened. I was scared because they were unfamiliar to me, and I to them, therefore I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them. Then one boy said, “equipo” over and over again. Then I said, “tres and tres.” “¡Si!” he responded. He then pointed to three people and put them on one team and then pointed to himself, another guy and me and said equipo again. I instantly understood that equipo meant team and that I was on his. I said, “What is your name?” “Como” was his respond. Once again I thought that we were at a limit and didn’t think this game would go so well. Then he said, “Objectivo, aqui y aqui.” He placed a stick into the ground a then took another one and place it about 5 feet away from it. That was the goal post. I could tell because I knew the game and because they knew it as well. Our similar understanding of the game allowed us to communicate even thought we didn’t speak the same language. After he placed the second goals we started. There were no actual positions, we just kicked the ball around and tried to score. It was a lot of fun. The score was 6 to 6 and I had to leave soon. I said, “I go adios, soon.” and “¿Como?” was his response. Again I felt like there was a language barrier. It was really starting to become a nuisance. So I simply said, “Never mind.” I didn’t want to waste time trying to make them understand what I was trying to say when I had a limited amount of time left. We continued to play. Then one of my teammates yelled what I assumed to be timeout. We had a conference about how we were going to win. I have no idea what he was saying but I knew that he wanted me to kick the ball far to him on the opposite side of the field while the other person ran through the middle and distracted the other team. In short, we won the game because of that play and then when my Dad was calling for me to leave I yelled “Adios,” and they responded by saying “Good bye”
Language is a very complex thing. There is a lot more to it than the words that you use to communicate. The way you talk and what you talk about are more important than the actual language. If you talk in a way where you are constantly going off topic, then you will find it difficult to communicate with someone who stays focused on the task at hand and vice versa. Speech is a kind of understanding, like when you look at someone and know what they are think. Sure, language is a barrier, but in cannot always stop someone from conversing with another being. But the kind of thing that I am trying to describe is not something that can be written down. It’s a kind of understanding. Do not let your language keep you from making a bond with someone else just because you cannot speak the same language. When you act natural and act your self you will do just fine. Once this occurs you will never have to worry about language again.
I have a secret that’s easy to figure out, no it’s not money or anything you can touch but maybe this will help you figure it out. Every day the sunlight creeps in through my window shining almost directly on me. I manage to stay asleep that is until my cat comes in my room meowing and scratching on anything he can. I wake up and say
“Lester what you doin’ to bed, you crazy cat.”
He looks and says “MEOW.”
I giggled because it was the kind of a response you would expect from a cat. The look in his face says “hungry” at least until I start to put on my belt then he tries to play with the loose end. I get out of bed and see my sister and she says “Hi Jovan”
“Hey Nadya” I say
I see my mom and say,
“Good morning mom”
I get to school and say “Sup” to all my friends, or I might use a playful English accent and say “top o’ the mornin to ya,” but that’s just for fun. Did you guess what the secret was? If you said that I talk to my cat you are wrong, but I bet you do what I do too. I code switch I have multiple ways of speaking. A lot of people do. I code switch because my default speech pattern is a little unacceptable for professional conversations and a little too proper for a friendly talks without being judged.
I go through my day with many ways of speaking. They change depending on whom I’m talking to. I find it is useful if you know how to talk to certain people. I talk like your average African American with less slang in my speech, don’t know why maybe because I was raised that way. I say things like, “Sup,” and, “Ain’t” in my regular speech but you wont hear me talk like that at a job interview. Instead of, “Sup boss” you would hear, “Good morning Mr./Ms. (whatever their name is)” I know how to change my speech and it helps me fit into a new place. Through elementary and middle school I had to talk proper because I was in a “learning environment that encourages proper speech and literacy,” I already had those from preschool so those were no challenges for me. Once high school came into play it was a different environment. People weren’t in uniforms, and you hear a mix of languages and forms of speech all around you. I spoke proper for a while but somehow my speech changed and now when I give a greeting to a friend you hear, “Sup” instead of “Hi.”
Since then my language has been the same, but I can change it with a simple thought. My code switching is a major benefit for me. With my code switching I can do a lot of things that I like to do. You’d be amazed at what proper speech can do for you but don’t code switch so much that you lose your original speech. To quote Mike Rose’s I Just Wanna Be Average “Rely on your own good sense.” What this means to me is that code switching doesn’t require knowing another language, or keep using the same form of speech for a long time it just means know when to switch how you speak you can always switch back after. I like code switching its fun. And honestly I don’t even need to think when I do it. I know how to talk to certain people so I instinctively change the way I speak to show my respect to other people. I’ve done this for so long that in a sense I am a multilingual person because I talk in different ways to different people.
Code switching doesn’t take long to master. All you need to do is have common sense. Understanding when to speak properly is the most important part of code switching. You also don’t need to change your voice when you do. Mastering this skill is really easy and only takes about 2-3 days, so you can get used to it. It works because when we learn to talk we learn proper English, so over time as our language changes we will know the proper language and we can willingly revert back to it whenever we want. As stated before you don’t have to keep talking in another way; you can change right back and it will be fine. I do it all the time. After some time of reaffixing yourself with proper speech code switching is a breeze. That is my secret to getting things I want, along with the work that I do. But if you knew me you would have already known that. And with that I say “See Ya”
Changing just for others?
“Hi my names Niyala. Nice to meet you!” That was me introducing my self to my classmates at West Philadelphia High School. I made my voice sound light and airy with a loose smile to make myself seem friendly. Though apparently friendly is not what these people are used to.
I had gotten many scoffs in return. Some replies of,
And the occasional,
“ Who does she think she is?”
Finally someone chose to utter a complete sentence.
“Where are you from?”
That’s a normal ‘get to know you’ question and all, but of course they choose to add the “ You don’t sound like your from around here” at the end of the sentence. There were and few more murmurs then I had had gotten the chance to respond.
“What do you mean? Of course I am from West Philadelphia.”
That type of conversation, including the question ‘Where are you from?’ always had the tendency to pop up during my time spent at West Philadelphia High. At first I had thought that people just wanted to know more about me, though as it turns out, they just wanted to know where my way of speech came from. Soon it had gotten irritating. No matter how many times I had replied with West Philadelphia they would always say I was lying. They had complained that I talked too ‘Proper’ and/or too ‘Correct’ to be from West Philly. I always wanted to complain and argue the fact that my way of speaking was normal for a person living in West Philadelphia and the fact was that ‘they’ had just talked so ‘improper’. Though of course being me, I had no intention to start a fight, so I eventually just gave in to what they were saying. I had not stated that I was from somewhere else; I had adjusted my speech so that it was dulcet to their ears.
Soon I had gotten so use to that way of speaking that it hardly seemed like I was faking it anymore. However that still does not mean that I liked their way of speech. In actuality, I was appalled with the sounds that were making their way past my lips. When greeting someone, when I would normally say;
“ How are you doing”
“Nice to meet you, my name is…”
I would find myself saying something like
instead. It may not sound like it in another persons ears, but to me it sounds completely rude and just plainly ‘not right’.
Recently I had read something from a book that had made me look back on my situation. The book was called ‘Hunger of Memory’. It was about a boy coming to Ameri ca and being made to speak a language foreign to him. He was disgusted that he had to even bother speaking it. He had wondered why he could not speak his native language. He had stated:
“An accident of geography sent me to a school where my classmates were all white.”
(pg 11. paragraph 2)
And I had thought that I had felt the same way as he had. The students may not have been white at West Philadelphia High, but they seemed completely and utterly different from me and what I was used to.
Than he had said
“It’s not possible for a child – any child – to ever use his families language in school”
(pg 12 paragraph 2)
Reading that had made me think that it resembled my situation even more then before. Then I had realized that he’d had no choice but to change his language. He was never given a chance to speak how he had wanted. I was. I was never forced to change my language. I was never even asked to try to speak more like the people around me. I had just considered that if I acted like others around me, I could be like them. I would be liked by them. Though I found out that to be like them, I would have to be myself and if they didn’t like that , then I was be best without them. There’s no reason for me to change my voice for others. No reason to change anything and that was that.
Laura De Jesus
Your English, My English
“What chu want Jordan, damn?!” I replied.
“Areeeeeeeeeed, you deff aint have ta reply like that, b.”
“Jordan, if you don’t just shut the hell, talking fa?” I replied with an attitude.
“What the hell is the matta with chu? Betta pipe that shit down young.”
“Ared, now who you talking to?!” I said with my fists balled up.
“Get the hell out of here, b.” I replied laughing.
“This why I don’t like you now, always think someone playing with ya ass!”
“Now Jordan you know . . . ” We both go into laughter.
As I enter school every day this is a daily ritual that occurs often with me and my friend, least three times a day. People look at us all types of ways. Like “What in the world is wrong with these two?!” That doesn’t stop us and the way we communicate with each other. People tend to stop and laugh or they join in the conversation.
Thinking back on it the way I speak is nowhere near the same as it used to be when I was younger. Being the fact that Spanish is the first language I was taught, I was fluent. Learning English was hard, especially at the age of five. Entering kindergarten and not being able to speak the native language was very challenging. The main people I knew spoke pure Spanish. I felt like I didn’t belong with them. Once they opened their mouth words flowed right out, but once it came to me, the words stood at the tip of my tongue, stuck.
Time passed and passed, my speech was still not on the needed level. Common words like “hello, yes, no, etc…” were easy to say. Words with similar sounding letters are what killed me, kitchen for example I would pronounce “kichin”. Switching from public to catholic school made it easier for me. By the second grade English became my official second language. Went from phrases to sentences.
“ Hi my name is Laura De Jesus.”
“Hello my name is Chelsea” she replied.
“ Can I sit with you?”
“Yes, we can be best friends” she answered with the biggest smile on her face.
From that day forward that is how I started to meet people and make new friends. It was difficult to keep it up being the fact that my mother and father had their own way of speaking. English was foreign to my father, somewhat known to my mother.
Entering high school was when everything really changed, I spoke English but also created something called “Laura Language” few people have understood it. Laura Language is somewhat like English and Slang but put together. For example “Idunno, yaw’ll, hellur” are a few of the words that I use often. Just mean, “I don’t know, yall all and hello.” I was switched all around, placed in three different advisories. Mr. Lucci’s advisory is where I ended up. I hated it there with a passion. I missed my other friends that I had meet but I had no choice.
“ Hi, Hi, Hi, Hi, I’m Victoria!!”
“ Whatcha doinnnnnnnnn?”
“ Chillin’, actin’ like you ain’t able to see that.”
“ I like candy, do you like candy?”
“ Why the hell are you talkin’ to me?”
So on and so forth. Ive been told I speak with an attitude which I know, but I really don’t pay attention to. It comes out to be “disrespectful” I don’t mean for it to be in that way, but I don’t necessarily stop it. Like Mike Rose says in I Just Wanna Be Average, “ But I did learn things about people and eventually came into my own socially” I learned a lot about the world and how they speak I just meshed it all together. My friends and I speak very similar, rude and not caring about what we say to each other because we know that we are all comfortable. When it comes to adults, or my parents my whole language flips.
“Hi, my name is Laura.”
“Hello, how do you do?”
“Fine, thank you and yourself?”
“I’m good as well.”
“That’s good to hear.”
Growing up with a family who speaks only Spanish is harder than a child with English speaking parents. Jobs and higher positions are given to native speakers because they have more to offer. Society makes fun of people who have accents and speaking deficiencies only for the simple fact in their eyes we have “issues.”
I learned to love myself and the person I am, even my speaking is not as well as others. I’m not saying that I sound like I don’t belong and cant speak to save my life, but people have to question what race I am, and if I’m telling the truth. I wouldn’t change the way I was raised or where I attended school, I like the fact that I am different, where people have to question “ Who is she?” “Is she white or Rican?”
The trip I took where I discovered my accent
I will always remember the first time I discovered I had an accent. It was about five years ago when my family and I went on a family vacation to my mother’s birthplace, Antigua. It is a nice small island in the Caribbean. Shortly after we arrived my aunt picked us up from the airport. When I saw her, I said “hello.” She said it back, along with some other stuff I couldn’t understand very well. I had no clue what she said because she spoke very fast and with a heavy accent. To me, it sounded like she said “Hey-o tap don here”. I was very confused and didn’t know-how to respond to that so I just said “Okay”. She laughed at me.
“How are you doing Aunt Carmen?”
“Good boy, wagwan?”
“That means what’s going on Brandon, that’s just how people say it here”
“Oh okay. I’m good, how long did it take you to get here?”
“What?” My mom repeated her and said “Three minutes Brandon” because she knew I wouldn’t understand what she said. My aunt then drove us to her home. I unpack all of my things in my room and then walked to a local restaurant.
“Hi, can I get a cheese steak platter please” The waiter looked at me with a strange look on his face.
“What chu chat bout.” I asked him again and this time I pointed to a picture of a sandwich. Then he asked me if I was American. I was confused in what that had to do with anything, but I still responded.
“Yes I am, why?”
“Ohhh, I con tell from ya accent, me boy. Ya yankee.”
“What do you mean? I don’t have an accent. What’s a yankee?”
“Ya lie, yu got accent. Yankee’s American’s”
“No I don’t, you have an accent, and I speak normal.”
He said something else to me but I was unsure in what he said, it sounded like he said, “ya wrong me young bud boy.” I was ten at the time so I just thought he was dumb. I started to get mad because he insisted I had an accent, since I live in America everyone talks the same, we don’t think of ourselves having an accents. We just think that we speak “normal” and if anyone speaks different from us we think that they are strange and they have an accent or dialect. Because of how we are in America, It made me a little confused when he kept on addressing the fact I had an accent.
I left the store and went home so I can eat with my family. I walked into the kitchen surprised to see my cousin. I was happy to see them but also kind of mad because I felt that these were more people I’m going to have a hard time understanding. I thought it might be best if I tried to speak like them.
“Good man, what’s up man?” I felt weird after I said that, but I thought that’s how they talk and they will understand me.
“Look how big ye got, how old ya be?”
“Ten, man” all of a sudden my cousin starts to make a strange face. I reflected on what I said that would cause her to do that. I thought maybe it could be because I said “man” after every sentence. Or maybe it’s because I didn’t pronounce “man” like they do. I began talking normally again because evidently I was doing something wrong.
Mike Rose said something in his story that can relates to my situation. In I just wanna be average, Mike Rose wrote “The curse of a moderately soulful kid trapped in white skin.” In his story Mike is a new student at a new school and most of the students that attend that school are a different race then he is. Mike sticks out compared to all of the others. The quote explains a lot, it make me feel better because now I know that if they were in the U.S., they would have a hard time understanding us and our slang as I do in Antigua. Mike Rose is saying that if you are trapped in a place that has a different way with words then you are used to, it will cause you will stick out. Now I know if I don’t completely understand someone it’s not my fault, it’s just because of where I am. People can tell a lot from the way a person speak, they can identify their race, age, and even where a person lives.
My cousins wanted to help me fit in around there so they are helping me speak with their dialect. It was hard for me to catch on because it was so different from what I’m used to saying. Most of the common phases that people use a lot, Antiguan would say different. Words like “ stop nah, no nyum um, not at tall, me no know, and me gal” are word they say and use on a daily bases. For the most part I don’t know what they meant. But I slowly learned and was able to finish the rest of my vacation “fitting in”. I never thought it would be a dialect that is so far off from mines. After the trip their I learned a lot about how people can tell so much just from how a person talk and that people will stick out if you speak different. I’m with my cousins help it wouldn’t be next that next time and I would feel so alone or “trapped in a white skin.”
Say it again
“Say it again,” said Kimberly, my cousin, excitedly.
“Cir,” I said. It was supposed to be car but I had an accent.
“Why do you say it like that,” Nick, my brother asked.
To me saying ‘cir’ was car. I was confused, “I don’t know it just sort of comes out that way.”
Later that day
we went to my father.
“Dad listen to this, Matt say car,” Nick said.
“Why do you sound like that,” asked my father.
“I don’t know it just sort of comes out like that.”
“Aunt Cynthia is a speech therapist. Do you want to go to her about it?”
“No, I’m sure it will just go away.” At this point I was getting upset. I didn’t want to be different, and I didn’t hear a difference. This all happened while we were camping. The next day at school more of my friends noticed my accent.
“That’s weird. Say Rochelle,” my friend Rochelle said.
“Rochelle.” I said it completely normally.
“Alright now say car again.”
“Weird. Say Park.”
“So you can’t say the letter r. You can make the sound that r makes, but you can’t say the letter.”
This has happened countless times. I thought that the people who found it the weirdest would be my friends, however I was wrong. My third grade teacher, Ms. Westcott, was the worst about it. She devoted an entire hour making me say words that I couldn’t say. Even after that she couldn’t understand the words I was trying to say.
“Where are you from,” she asked the same day.
“How about your parents?”
“Then how do you have an accent?”
“I don’t know,” and the truth is I didn’t. I hadn’t figured it out.
My brother would have to convey information. He always understood it the best. The reason is that he was exposed to it the most. He was my best friend; we lived together, and had every class together. He also lacks the accent, which was more convenient for translating.
I tried again and again to get rid of my accent. To repeat the word car or park so I could be normal again. I wanted to sound like everybody else. Mike Rose writes, “Who wants to be normal,” in his book “I just wanna be average.” The answer was, me. I wanted to be like all of the other people in my class. Speak and act like them. However, after a few years, I realized my accent represented me. My brother and I are identical twins and people get us confused. Then I developed my accent. It became my identity, my difference from Nick. To tell us apart, people tell us to talk. I finally had my own thing. I was no longer one of the twins. I was the twin with the accent. I was the kid with the accent (although everybody still called me Matt). And I liked that.
I realized that not everybody is the same. Everybody had their own thing that set them apart from everybody else. Mine, of course, was my accent. There were smart kids and funny kids, but nobody had an accent like I did. I was special.
High school brought on a new experience. Nick wasn’t there to translate, even though my accent had lessened through the years. I was afraid I would have to write the words I was trying to say. But nobody noticed my accent. Most of my class understood my accent. It wasn’t until I pointed it out one day in history that people started to notice, or at least ask about it.
“Wait. Say park again.”
“Where does you accent come from?”
“I’m not sure. It just kinda developed when I was in second grade.”
And that was it. Nothing else except the occasional “say car again.” I was shocked. People picked up the words I was saying much faster than in elementary school. I felt like I lost what had set me apart. I knew I still had it though. I never noticed it though, until I had to make a video. I realized how weird I sounded.
It wasn’t until English class this year that I knew where my accent came from. We watched a video about language. The video told us that people from Boston were about to speak. My friend Victoria, who was sitting next to me, said, “Hey it’s your people.”
“No they aren’t I can say Merge,” this was soon after a man on the video said Merge (meaning Marge).
Victoria just laughed.
“Alright but I can say perk.”
That’s when I came to the realization that I had a Boston accent. It wasn’t until we wrote this paper that I realized how my accent has effect my life. It was my identity for a long time. My language never controlled me; I didn’t stop speaking because of it. I didn’t change because of it. I instead let it become me, let it set me apart.
“Hello Mr. Chris, how are you today?” I said. Once I had opened my mouth and talked, my whole mind just turned pitch black. If a person were in a room with a bunch of special people knowing that they are focusing on every single move someone is to do, anybody would feel awkward.
“Good day nice weather, come. Come take a seat with us” He said. It was not that noticeable but my legs felt like springs when he had told me to sit down. In my mind I was so happy but meanwhile my nervous side was blocking most of this.
“Calm down, remember he is just human like you.” The lady said I thought to myself and said, “Yea she’s right. Let me just get this done and over with.
“So I was told that you really, really want to come to this school.” Mr. Chris said. I was afraid to answer because he might counter back with another question that I probably won’t be able to answer right. So I just left it off with a simple, but surprising yes. This was my biggest achievement of the year 2010.
Sitting down in the super comfortable chair really helps calm my nerves down. I have to say the way I felt coming in has changed in like only 5 minutes. I felt like I was at home for a second. Then I was knocked back into reality.
“Eric if you could just sign a couple of papers then you would be good to go.” Mr. Chris said. My hand grabbed for the pen, this felt like a good moment. If I would ever write a story of my life this would be in it. The pen went on the paper and so did my name. I was ready for what was coming up for me. I can tell by my mom face she was proud. Even though she kept the same face on I’m pretty sure this was how I felt.
After everything was done I went home, relieved of what I just did. Then I called up some friends to go play ball.
“Yo homie, trina go play some ball today down smith.” I said. I went to go take a shower and packed up all of my stuff and I was out the house. I was happy to tell them some good news but I don’t know how they will take it.
“Yo, guess what. I got accepted to the high school I applied to.” I said.
“Forrr reallll, yo that’s cool”. Friend said.
I could tell he wasn’t happy but I had to do what was best for me. Back in the 8th grade we applied to the same high schools but we didn’t get accepted to the ones we wanted to. Our only choose left was to go to a neighbor hood school. We told each other that in high school no matter what we got each other’s back. But I guess this wasn’t going to be happening anymore. I can tell by his face expression that he was mad but I’m pretty sure at some point he would be like “Well, ya know if ya think it’s the right way to go, then go”.
We played ball until the end of the day then we all just left. On my way home my phone rang, it was my mother.
“Hello Eric.” Mom said
“Yes Mother.” I said
“Where are you at?”
“I’m still at the park playing ball.”
“Well hurry up its 8 o’clock.”
“Ard mom I’ll be home when ever I want.” I said.
“What did you just say, are you suppose to be talking to me like that son.”
“Oh sorry, I meant ill be home in a couple of minutes.”
“Okay well hurry up.”
Honestly I couldn’t understand a word my mom was saying. Knowing two languages and mixing them up gets confusing at times. But that is just how she normally speaks. I feel that we speak almost alike because we both know two of the same languages. Some times my other accent comes out when I speak English and I just have that awkward moment. During my interview this was one of my biggest fear, but I guess being scared of something happening makes it not happen.
Once I read a quote from James Baldwin’s essay “If Black English isn’t a Language, Then Tell me, What is?” the quote stated “there have been, and are times and places when to speak a certain language could be dangerous even fatal” This quote is told me to be careful of what I say and where I say it. Just like the dialogue with my mom and I. It is not fatal but dangerous because it could lead to a habit. What is fatal is me speaking Khmer in front of a bunch of people that don’t know it. The first thing that will go to their mind is that I’m talking about them and could lead to some serious problems.
If you want to know how my family talks, you should listen to my Uncle.
“Yo, was up Josh!” This is a typical greeting from him.
“Nottin chillin, chillin, you know just doin me.” I said, as I was getting up to shake his hand.
“Hey can I use your laptop for a minute? So I can download some music to my iphone…. Really quick.”
“Yeah. It’s over there on the table.”
“Yo nigga how you do this s***!!”
See, I grew up to a lot of people speaking to me mostly in slang and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. Mostly everyone I have seen grew up with people talking to them in slang, so in a way you can say that slang shows up in everyone’s history. In mine, you would see that we use it like everyday. I was so use to people speaking in slang but as I got older I started to really listen to how I spoke with most of the elders I came across, with them I used less slang and started to speak more proper. Like instead of saying “wassup grandpa,” I said, “Hey grandpa how are you”. This will also show up when I talked with most of my teachers. I would use less slang. Sometimes I would even use none at all. There are some teachers I would talk to in slang but that’s only if they talk to me in slang. The way I respond to people all depends on how they talk to me. To me, it’s funny when I hear one of my cousins talk. He lives in New York and for some reason when he spoke he always had the word “son” at the end of ever sentence. He would say something like “hey wass up,” son or “yo son you better stop playin with me, or I’m gonna f*** you up son”. I always thought that was funny how no matter what he said he always had the word son in it. The reason why I think he used to say son a lot might be because he grew up in an environment where other people did it too. He might have picked it up from someone else too. If you think about it the way people speak can go back generations or even decades.
When people think of speaking proper most think of white people because back in the day, whites were educated. A quote from “Professor Willie Lynch’s Speech,” where he says “Gentlemen. I greet you here on the bank of the James River in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twelve. First, I shall thank you, the gentlemen of the Colony of Virginia, for bringing me here,” shows this. He says that speaking proper original comes from educated white folks back way back when. Slang must originate from slaves, if speaking proper is speaking like a white educated person. Then speaking in slang must mean speaking like a slave. We can see this in “Her Days As A Slave Famous Speech by Mary Reynolds,” she talks about how her days as a slave were like. She says in one of her paragraphs “I was jus' bout big nough to start playin' with a broom to go bout sweepin' up and not even half doin' it when Dr. Kilpatrick sold me.” When she was speaking it sounds similar to the way most teens speak today.
The way people speak today all depend on how people used to speak decades ago. See today it might be a little bit different the way people speak but it all still comes from the roots of the past. If people in the past spoke differently, then that would have probably made a major difference on how we speak today. Also, in the essay that we reed in class called “If black English isn’t language then tell me what is?” by James Baldwin. It said, “The brutal truth is that the bulk of white people in America never had any interest in educating black people, except as this could serve white purpose.” In this case this shows that since whites never educated blacks in the back days. They had to come up with another way to speak to each other, which creates the existence of the word “slang” because that’s how they used to speak to each other.
The history of a person’s life can really influence how they speak. Since people back in slavery times came up with a way to speak to each other, they still use it today. In personal experience, the people around me speak in slang. So in a way I adapted to my environment. Without history then people today will not have the same type of language we use today.