In today’s society it is looked at that to make it one must blend in with the ‘popular and superior’ crowd and allow one’s life to fit the others. When the topic of language is raised, English is the most commonly spoken in the US obviously and standard English seems to be the most professional language of all. When living in the US it was something that seemed to be ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ as if being different in that sense is wrong...
In elementary school I never really thought about such a thing much. All I knew and understood was that now that I’m in Philly, away from most of my family English would be the language I’d hear the most and speaking it for me wasn’t an option; I had to. I never was exposed to the thought of how speaking a different language that may be foreign to others could be a bad thing until that day...
My mother had decided to pick me up from school that day and I was happy to have her walk me home and have that sense of security. While walking I noticed some kids who go to the same school as I did walking also on the other side of the road. Two little boys about that same age as I was (about 7). After I noticed their presence my mom called my attention and said in a voice only I hear “Ki jan jou ou te pasé?” (How was your day?) “It was good” I told her. Then her phone rang and she picked up. It was my dad. What I noticed was that she was talking english with him when usually when it comes to him she speaks her home language. Creole. A language which Haitians speak. Then soon I realized it was because she was trying to explain to him how to communicate with his boss at a more professional english level that he asked her advice for. I wondered if everything was alright.
At the corner of my eye I could see and hear the kids snickering say that “she sounds Jamaican” as if there was a problem even if she was. One actually had the nerve to ask with a smirk on his face if she was one. On the phone my mom didn’t notice but I was so mad I yelled “shut up you african booty scratcher! You ugly too!” but with that I did also felt embarrassed. On the phone my mom was loud which made it easy for people a block away to hear her accent. But she’s my mother and no matter how loud she may be it would never change the importance and impact she has had on my life.
Though she wasn’t from here she made an effort to try and speak the language that was foreign to her and it was bad that most didn’t even notice that. Too bad back then, I was too young to understand that. But because of that it is to be felt that many with accents aren’t taken seriously when needed because they don’t speak or sound like they’re speaking ‘proper english’. But as I got older and really looked at the American society I came to realize that its prejudice, injustice and more. For example I remember awhile back, my mom ordered a pepperoni pizza on the phone and it was on speaker so I eavesdropped onto the conversation. It was because of my mother's accent the person constantly asked my mother to repeat what she was saying as if she was speaking a different language. On top of that they took forever to deliver. When I ordered the pizza and said the exact thing’s my mother said the last time because I don’t have that much of an accent they understood me and the delivery came under 30 minutes which confuzzles me.
Even though she had an accent in the end the workers were able to understand what she was saying because we got what she asked for but why give me different service than her? It has been called to my and many others attention that some people in society feel as those people with hard accents aren’t truly educated and can be easily taken advantage of many things such as their disability to speak standard english. Which isn’t true at all. If one were to take a survey of who agrees with this quote ‘one shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover’ many would agree but I feel as though society has never even tried to live up to that expectation.
All leading up to what I’m trying to say. It isn’t fair for someone to be treated differently just because you don’t understand them. There are other ways to communicate and to automatically assume they aren’t able to have the same skills or intelligence that you have. There is such a thing as being open-minded and I believe if more people were able to think it that matter thing would be a lot better. I read a piece by Bell Hooks that is titled "this is the oppressor's language/yet I need it to talk to you":Language, a place of struggle” and that quote means a lot of things. One, she explains how originally Africans weren’t meant to speak English as they do now. It was because when in the time of slavery where they were taken from their homeland, there was so many different Blacks from many different tribes and areas in Africa, with their own type of language that it was complex to communicate with one another, especially their new masters. So they were forced to learn and speak under the language of their oppressor which is what we all know as to be English. It still amazes me till this day of that effect and the same thing happens till this day to foreigners who come to America hoping for opportunity and along that process are stripped of their identity by being forced to speak English and forget about what they use to speak.
All I can say about my true ethnicity is that its special just like any other kind of race or culture. It shouldn’t be judged because of its differences from other. in fact it should be looked at in the opposite way because being different is what makes it unique and special. I just find it hard to believe but strongly agree that many have a problem accepting that notion.
hooks, bell. Hooks on the Language of Power. New Learning. Web. 11 Jan 2013. <http://newlearningonline.com/literacies/chapter-6-critical-literacies/hooks-on-the-language-of-power/>.
Baldwin, James. "If Black English Isn't a Language, Then Tell Me What Is."New York Times. (July 29, 1979): <http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/03/29/specials/baldwin-english.html>.