Have you ever started a conversation with a stranger and within the first couple of seconds it feels like you’ve given away your “identity”?” Well, in my case, I always give it away when saying my first name. The conversation usually continues as “Oh, where’s your accent from?” Or, “You’re not from here, are you?” So, I always reply with the same generic answer explaining where I’m from: “I am not from here, I am Dutch.
This interaction makes me realize I am part of a “special group,” a group of people with a foreign accent. This makes the perception of having an accent quite negative, it puts you in a box right away. I believe an accent should get linked with your identity in a positive way as it basically creates a sense of authenticity. Let’s be honest, does perfect pronunciation even exist?
When we’re talking about accents we are assuming there is a “normal” way of saying things and all others are different, which doesn’t make any sense. Even in the U.S. there are dozens of “accents,” from southern to New York to southern California. Each person’s accent is influenced by several factors, like their family background, the region they are from, their nationality, and other social factors. In addition, English is a language that can take many forms, the way an English word is spelled does not determine how it is pronounced. For example, the word either can be GREEN TEA /iy/ either or WHITE TIE /ay/ either. There is not just one “correct” way of saying things. However, it is frustrating if your accent gets in the way of your capabilities and people don’t understand you or they ask you to repeat yourself.
In my first year living in the U.S. I was quiet and afraid people did not understand me. After a year, I realized in order for me to overcome this hurdle I needed to work on myself. I had to speak up, the more I spoke, the more practice I was going to get. It takes time, but it was worth it, my confidence got a huge boost when I realized people actually understood me, even though I have an accent.
The mission we have at Blue Canoe is that we want to help you increase your comprehensibility, which “is the measure of how easily a listener can understand your English,” says Karen Taylor, co-creator of the Color Vowel® System. This means that we want to help you refine your accent while maintaining your authentic voice. I believe it should always be our goal to help people communicate better rather than make them all speak exactly the same way. Stay authentic and embrace your identity!