Language - Jennysha Cruz

Language Is All Around Us

Jennysha Cruz


It’s funny how a simple “hello” can sound so differently depending on where you are or whom you’re around. The variety in accents could be different from country to country even town to town. Through geographic location and public exposure people take on accents to better adapt to their environment. You learn and change the tongue you use to fit in with others, to feel comfortable, and most of all welcome in the community that you’re in.


“W-AH-T-ER, that’s how I’d pronounce it.”

“Really? People from Philly usually don’t say it like that, more like W-O-T-ER with an “O” sound ya know?” That right, I lived in Philadelphia all my life and commonly hear people pronounce water like that. It’s a normal thing to hear that though. On the other hand, he’s a Jersey person if anyone spoke with an odd accent it was him, or at least that’s what I thought.

“Or what about the way people say orange” I asked.

“Like AR-ANGE”

“There’s an “O” in that ya know. It’s OR-ANGE, no “R”.”

“Well you know people usually pronounce things differently depending where they were raised or how their parents expect them to speak.”


This was the first time I was actually confronted about the way I spoke, it was in 7th grade my math teacher over heard a conversation I was having with another on of my peers and he explained to me that people don’t only say things different because of where they lived but the way they were raised. He went on to tell me the way he pounces creek isn’t like I would say it but more like “crick,“ instead. It’s an odd thing language is but it’s what got me thinking, do I speak right to others or do I sound as goofy as my math teacher when he tried to say creek. A difference in language was always something I could recognize easily. Though the thought of sounding a certain way depending on where you were from never really occurred to me. I use to think people from different countries had some big fancy accents like the Austrians who greeted one and another with a cheery, “Good ‘ay mate!” or “Top of the mornin’ to ya” as the British would say. Through out middle school I was quite the observer. I didn’t speak much but sure as hell listened a lot. Though once I went to an international camp I was flooded with all different types of accents from so many people. “Hello,” “Hi-ya,” “Ello,” and “Howdy,” were the new greetings instead of my ordinary “hey,” or “what’s up”.  I pretty much had this image of everyone sounding completely the same because; well we were all from the U.S. If anything people from different countries were the ones that sounded differently. I didn’t recognize that there was such a great variety in accents.


I went to a camp in 2009, this was my first ever time staying at an actual sleep away camp. People my age had a similar way of communicating yet different at the same time. I made lots of friends that could fit into the stereotypical New Yorker accent or Jersey accent. The Jersey girl had an odd way of saying; “talk” hers would sound more like “twalk” instead. Living in Philadelphia one would think since Jersey isn’t so far away but really she did sound a bit funny to me when she spoke but I’m sure she got the same feeling toward me as well.


I took these observations home with me I suppose I can honestly say I started noticing things differently. After camp I thought of the way people spoke and that is how I became interested in making my speech better. Becoming quite the grammar Nazi when I spotted someone saying something incorrectly. I was often judged by my brother’s friends or other family members because I didn’t have the Latin tongue that they had. They’d call me white or the smart one in the family because of the way I spoke to them. I didn’t change from English to Spanish like others in my family did. I spoke English with them, mostly because it was my comfort language. I do have to say the names they’d give me were pretty strange, “blanca” or “cana” which were both words to describe a white girl. My family had this idea that because I spoke properly and didn’t mix my Spanish and English tongues together that I was considered white. They were stating that race had a direct connection with the way someone spoke. Also, they’d frequently told me I was expected to do well in school because I spoke properly. They were always judging me because of that one thing, my speech.


Even though my family often judged me I wasn’t always the victim especially in my immediate family, when household members would pronounce or say a word wrong I’d often correct them. For example, one that was commonly used in my house had to be the word of possession “mine” when my parents or brothers tried to say something belonged to them they’d say “mines”. It was really annoying for a long time. Even today they still use the wrong words. I’d still correct them on their mistake though I realized with my brothers especially he couldn’t break the habit. Unlike myself I go to a magnet high school while my brother goes to my community high school. So you see I’ve learned that accents can be found not only in an international environment, such as my camp but also in different communities and where people tend to spend their time the most such as their school.