History is Determined by Language


            “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




Comments (1)

Jovan Lewis (Student 2014)
Jovan Lewis

Nice essay I like how you mention who you really are and what you would do if you could. And dont worry you'll get spanish eventually, un paso a la vez. (one step at a time)