Where is your accent from?
So much is at stake when you communicate. When arriving to a new country, mastering the ability to interact with locals becomes paramount. There is the new culture to comprehend, local jokes to decode, an unfamiliar city grid to navigate and survival pressures like how to pay international student fees, juggle a part-time job, submit vital documents to immigration or even use the public transport system. But the human spirit is strong and somehow we manage to settle in and call the city our second home.
But then, just when you think you have a handle on it all, you get the irritating question from many of the city’s inhabitants. Wait for it…
So where is your accent from?
This question, often asked innocently is inappropriate.
That’s quite a strong accent I hear. What’s your background?
This question is completely illogical.
Or, the question designed to test your own knowledge of your own language background.
Oh, so you’re from Colombia (pronounced like “Columbia”), Awesome! So what language do they speak there? Spanish? Wow, that’s the first I’ve ever heard of it. Interesting. I thought they spoke Colombian there.
Or how about this one?
I can hear you’ve got an accent. Where are you from?
We are from wherever we feel comfortable and call home anywhere on this globe.
If you are finding such questions irritating, how can you address individuals who are so set on receiving their answer?
Rather than taking the opportunity to meet a person full of possibilities and knowledge, such questions investigating your origins can be demeaning, even if they are not intended to be.
It is important to develop the ability to preserve your personal space if you find such interactions confronting. Not everyone is going to be offended by being asked “where are you from,” but for those who are, here are some fun suggestions!
Try These Ideas to Advocate for Yourself!
If you want to advocate for your pronunciation and stop people feeling like they can freely comment on your speaking, you might need to think about some strategies to respond!
1. Bounce Back
Ask a dumb question, get a dumb answer. You can have some fun with this one in particular:
Q: “I can hear you’ve got an accent. Where are you from?”
A: “I’m from Albert Park, how about you?”
2. Rhetorical punch
Q: “That’s quite a strong accent I hear. What’s your background?”
A: “I come from an IT Background, I’m not sure what my accent is to do with that. What do you mean?”
3. Shine a mirror in their face
Q: So where is your accent from?
A: I can hear you’ve also got a bit of an accent, tell me where yours is from and I’ll tell you where mine is from.
How do you feel in response to questions about your country of origin, accent or language background? What strategies do you use when communicating to create a safe and empowering environment with your communication partners? Comment below! We’d love to hear some more insights and approaches!
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