Who Am I Online

  1. What video did you watch in class, what was the classroom activity today? - Give the reader of this blog a context for this reflection.
  2. What does this make video bring to your mind in reference to the topic of bullying?
  3. Who are you online, how do you appear?
  4. How do you think people perceive you, based on this appearance?
  5. What is the goal of internet trolls?
  6. What are the positive and negative results of online anonymity?
  1.  We watch a video a video on bully and it's impacted. The activity was to look yourself up on Google. I didn't find anything bad. I found actors with the same surname as me, my Facebook, and my Uncle.
  2. The video made me really think of the effects of bully. Some people cry themselves to sleep. Some deal with greater bullies with greater effects.
  3. I think I am seen very quiet on the internet. I don't post anything nor do i like anything weird on the internet.
  4.  I’ve gotten replies from teachers when they look up my name on the internet. My math teacher said that she couldn’t say anything I posted on the internet. She said that i look like a normal person and that good for high school and jobs.
  5. Internet trolls just want to make people feel bad about anything (your friends, your family life, your outer/ inner appearence, etc.).
  6. With internet anonymity it has a positive effect of taking people longer to find who you are. The negative effect is people can still find out who you are.
stop bullying
stop bullying

Senior Art Q1

  ​During this first quarter in Ms. Hull’s senior art class, everything has been excellent. In this quarter we had to create  a ceiling tile, self portrait, charcoal still lives, jack o lantern, bats, and our own painting.  All of the pieces were given 100% of my time and effort, which can clearly be seen through the work. I believe that this quarter has been my best yet. I loved making every single piece because I did everything that I wanted. 

My favorite piece of art work was definitely the tiger picture. I really dedicated a great amount of time on it. I decided to use black and white because I wanted the viewer to experience a special mood. I wanted to make him look mysterious yet at the same very interesting. I’m very proud of tiger I created! I love animals and this has been one of the best drawing I have made. 

The "Fun" Language

The Fun Language

I speak in a very unique way to everyone around me. This causes people that either love me or hate me. This unique language really didn’t start until around 4th grade. That was my first time with a lot of freedom to talk when and how I wanted. The transition almost ruined my life, but saved it at the same time.

Up until that transition,  I attended Waldron Mercy Academy, a Catholic middle school. It was very strict and dull. There was always a lot of homework and you couldn't use ANY electronics, not even at lunch or recess time. In fact, once, my phone  fell out of my pocket while I was walking down the hallway and my teacher picked it up.

“You can have this back in a few days.”, she said

“Why? It just fell out of my pocket.”, I said

“I should have been off in your backpack!”, she said

“Okay, but it was off and it only fell out of my pocket. I wasn’t using it or anything.”, I said

“No arguing. You'll see this in 3 days now for arguing with me.”, she said as I sulked away.

Basically,  my point is that my early school years had little to no freedom. This caused me to be somewhat quiet and shy, until 4th grade. That's when my classmate and I got a little more freedom and knowing me, they gave me an inch and I took a mile. So I became a happy and boisterous class clown. I always made sure everyone was laughing with and not at me. I started making friends with my classmates and enemies with my teachers. I really liked the life that I had chosen. This continued all the way up until 9th grade.

On my first day of SLA, I was very shy and quiet. Though, this changed in a matter of days,  meaning  I was back to good ol loud david by the 3rd week of school. I just needed to adjust to the kids in SLA. With all the freedom I got with this school that I am currently in, I just became a full on comedian, just like how I was at my old school. I was always loud and enjoyable to others. A lot of people said I was fun to be around, even some of my teachers! During the hour of my first lunch I decided to try and use my phone. I was shocked because I realized, it was allowed. I just got too excited which caused me to run around yelling things like


Everyone thought this was hilarious and was so surprised at how little freedom I had in middle school. Whenever me and my friends came up with a good joke, I took it and entertained my entire classrooms with it. By the end of 9th grade year, the small amount of people that disliked me were cool with me and about 90% of my teachers hated me. I had gotten too many progress notes for being loud and disruptive I can’t even count them. Now my ADHD was a huge part of this and I stopped taking my meds for 9th grade year which was a terrible idea, because at the end of the year, my grade obsessed parents were upset with my barely passing grades. They punished me and tried to take my summer away. That was not the worst part, they made me do Khan Academy every day. The good news were that she was not home to watch me do it. So naturally, I played video games and scooted all day long. I wasn’t really a rebel unless I needed to be one.

This made my summer very fun, but I was not able to learn anything or prepare for 10th grade and when it came around, I was not prepared. My parents made me start taking my ADHD medication again and I felt imprisoned again. On the first day of 10th grade, I was somewhat quiet and all of my friends were surprised. It was mainly because of my meds and because I had some new classmates to adjust to, but as always, good ol loud david came out by the 2nd week of school. This loudness in my language made me very fun and also very annoying. I was very unfocused in class and at the same time, my meds only let me focus on one thing, but it wasn’t school. My unique language included things like,

“OH, I say that’s a BIT cheeky!”,

“That’s a little edgy m8 m9.”,

“Aw a bit of edgy banter if i do say so myself.”,

“The host with (*sticks tongue out for an exaggerated “TH” sound*) THE most.”,

And much, MUCH more. I had a lot of favorites and I always had so much energy in class. So I would take it and put it to my language, which in essence created a nuclear bomb.

I was off the rails in school. I needed a better way to release my energy without getting in trouble and ignoring teachers. My language was becoming a weakness for me in school, because it would always get me up to no good. So I decided the best way to release all that energy was to do the one thing I liked the most. I decided to practice my scoot tricks in the morning before school. This helped me so much. I was so much more focused and calm in school. I had less stress and with that I learned to control my language.

I made an alter ego for when I was speaking to important people and I started calming down and trying to not be so annoying in class. I began to speak properly to my teachers and parents. I began to use my language as a skill instead of a weakness. My parents always told my I had good talking skills. They told me that I worded things in a way that was very professional and persuasive. Now I sit back and think to myself just how powerful I have become from my language and all this time, all I had to do was reveal it.

Where Language Comes Out

“Hey Eli, get a kippah on, let’s go!”

“Sorry Mom, one second let me find one.”

“Eli! You do this every week! Hurry up!”

It was shabbos morning or the sabbath as some other people call it. Man I am not excited to go today. I’m just not feeling it. Maybe if I say I have work to do my Mom won’t make me go.

“Hey Mom! I have a ton of work to do I don’t know if I should go.”

“Eli Block! You are going to Synagogue.”

Reluctantly I walked down stairs and headed for Synagogue. The walk is short and pleasant with the cool breeze and smell of ashes in a fire place running through the city. We arrived at the small Synagogue that sits atop a Boar's Head Deli in the middle of center city. The smell of waiting cholent (a Jewish food often made for the meal after Synagogue) rushed through the opening door. I walked about the steep narrow stairs to the top of the Synagogue. I hanged my coat up on the rack threw my kippah on my head and strode into the main room where the Rabbi was giving his Dvar Torah. As he began to speak about this weeks Torah portion I fell asleep.. Resting my arm on my leg and my head on my arm I fell into a restful quick sleep.

I was woken by the violent poking of my brother telling me to wake up before we started to pray again. Sleepily I rubbed my eyes and stood up. I opened my Siddur (Jewish prayer book) and turned to where we were. The familiar cadence of the Amidah hummed through my head. I started to sing along with the community. The lines and lines of prayers to God would go on for another hours or so. Then kiddush started. It is a small meal after synagogue’s prayers and this is where a lot of my true language comes out.

“Hey Eli, can you babysit for Yuval tonight?”

“Yeah sure, um what times do you need me for?”

“Can you be there until 11 or 12?”

“Yeah sure I'll have my mom email you after Shabbos for your address and everything.”

“Okay sounds good thank you so much.”

A polite 15 year old boy who grew up in a middle class neighborhood. In my past experience, I was not unique. I went to a school filled with people who spoke just like me. The history of my language is no secret. My family has been in the United States for a while and the way I speak is a result of that. My family are European Jews from Poland. Both my father and mother grew up in primarily white neighborhoods and they both speak what someone would call “Proper English.”

To analyze the history of my language to a further extent I can look at the several parts to the question “what is the history of my language?” The history of my personal language where I, myself learned to speak or where my ancestors learned to speak. To start I can look at where I personally learned to speak.

I was placed into an environment where almost everyone speaks proper English. Being sent to a private Jewish day school meant no one used slang, no one cursed. So using slang and curse words came to me later as I grew up. Continuing through middle school proper English was still the norm. As social media became more popular among my friends and me, using slang became more common. Then I came to high school where slang and curse words were used in abundance and so that became a norm for me. I know as I continue through life I will stop using slang and most curse words and use more of a proper English like I did when I was younger.

My ancestors spoke Yiddish and as they moved to the United States they adapted. Back in the early 1900’s using proper English and respectful language was not only the norm but using something to the contrary was cause for punishment. My grandfather is a great example of this use of language. y grandfather’s speech is mature and refined. He too grew up in Philadelphia and although he grew up here he does not have a Philadelphia accent.

To look back my language is a direct result of my environment. Therefore the history of my language is not deep. Since my environment is changing my language does to. It is not a constant, it might change based on my age, the area in which I live, and so many other factors.

However there is another language that is not changing. My second language, Hebrew, has not changed as my environment did. It is unique to one specific environment. Hebrew comes out in prayer. When I go to Synagogue, I pray and chant in hebrew. The language does not change it stays as it is written and it will stay written in one specific way forever.

The history of my hebrew language is a result of my Jewish environment. It does not run deep like English to me. My speech is a result of the history and experiences through my fifteen years of life on earth. However the part of the English language I share with hundreds of thousands of people is in no way unique but the history of it runs very deep through. Through immigration and the norms of years and years in the United States a speech was formed that is now you used by many including myself.

Slang to Poetry

“Use correct grammar.  I’m tired of that slang, you need to speak proper English.  Where do you think slang is going to get you?  No professional baseball players talk with slang.  You need to sound like you’re educated.”

“Ok mommom, I will try to speak correctly from now on.  I don’t mean any disrespect but, I don’t see how you expect me to just drop the way I speak.  I have been speaking this way my whole life, it is not just something I can forget about.”

My grandmother is kind of strict on “talking correctly.” I don’t like getting told that I don’t speak correctly because it is the way I talk and I don’t want that to change.  I want people to accept the way I speak, and not criticize me for it.  Clearly everybody in the world speaks differently.

I know that a lot of people go back and forth with speaking differently to their friends and the way they talk to their parents, but I can honestly say that I speak with my friends the same exact way I speak to my parents. Except, I don’t curse at my parents.  My dad sort of speaks the same way I do, so it does not bother him. My mom just accepts it and she does not care as long as she can understand me. A regular conversation with my dad would be something like this…

“Yuurrrpppp, Pops where you at?”

“Wassup, how was school”

“No bad, same old same old.”

“Yeah I feel you.  I been chillin all day yamean.”

“Yeah I wish I could do that. (Chuckles) But wassup with dinner doe?”

When I talk to my friends we usually greet each other like this…

“Yuurrrpppp.  Wassup bro.”

“Chillin… Yo bro I’m hungry.”

“You tryna go to the store?”

“We out!”

The way I talk doesn’t change based on who I’m speaking to.  Of course when  I’m speaking to an adult or one of my elders I will speak more polite but when I’m talking to my parents and friends my speech is mostly the same.  

I grew up in North Philadelphia. I lived in the same house my entire life. I’ve never lived in an area where there has been different accents or different forms of slang.  Even though I have been to places where they don't speak the same as me, I have never stayed around it long enough for it to have an effect on me.  At a young age, hearing how my parents spoke, and listening to how people spoke around me, kind of formed the way I speak and the terminology I use.  I personally believe that whatever you grow up hearing or whatever you grow up around will form the way you speak.  As much as people try to change the way they speak, they always have a way to go back to their roots.  Say someone gets in an argument, I hear people say things like this all the time…. “I tried to be nice and polite but they kept pushing me and the North Philly side of me came out.” or the Brooklyn side or the Oakland side etc.  So people can try to change the way they speak but there is always a way that they find themselves right back to their roots.

People say I use “ghetto” English, and they have the right to voice their opinion, but to me it is not ghetto English. To me it is normal English and I’m sure a lot of people think the way they speak is normal English too.  I just think that if their is so many forms of a language, no matter it be English, Spanish, German etc. how can there be one type of a language that is normal or regular?  Language as a whole is evolving, and we as people can’t just be stuck in one time zone and try to be normal, we need to evolve with it.

My Languages



“Watchu been up to?”

“Nothin much still playin for this awful team”

“Whats wrong wit it?”

“We just awful, the team is so bad”

This was early in the morning at suburban station on a wednesday. Out of the crowd of people coming up the steps I ran into my friend Jelani, like I do every morning. As all the people walked around close to a light jogging speed we stopped and talked by one of the many tan and brown marble pillars about how the teams we were on were doing. He hated his team, as usual. It seemed like every team he went to he hated.

“You playing for them next year?” I ask

“Nah” he replied.

I laughed

“Who you playin for?” he asked

“Gallagher, still” I said

“When do they have tryouts?”

“Sometime soon, I just got the email the other day” I said.

If this was a conversation with me and my mom it would sound so much different. It would be a lot more proper than the conversation I have with my friends. It would sound like this:

“Hey son” My mom says.

“Hey” I respond.

“How was your day at school?”


“Get any homework today?”


“What classes?”

“Algebra and Spanish” My usual answer so she doesn’t bother me about any more homework

“Well you better get to it and stop messing around with whatever else you’re doing and start on your homework”

“OK” I say

This conversation usually happens when she comes home from work and she sees me eating something standing up behind the counter in the kitchen. But I think my language changes like this depending on where I go because I don’t want to stand out and be considerd weird. I rather just fit in and be like everyone else. I hate being the center of attention most of the time, I only like it when im trying to say something important or I just want alot of people to hear what im saying.


“Hi, I’m Taytiana.” It was my first day at  SLA freshman summer institute, and I wanted to make a good impression

“Hey Taytiana, My name is Jess! I love your bangs!”

“Thanks, I like ya hair, ya're so pretty”

“Awe, thanks hun. You have an accent,where are you from?”

“Uhh….North Philly.You?” I said puzzled thinking to myself, where else could I be from and what accent?


This statement confused me even more because where I live in North Philly is right next to fishtown. Fishtown is a primarily white neighborhood. My neighborhood is more of the slums of North Philly, with all the drug corners and junkies. Coming to terms with the fact that I had an accent was hard for me because it was so unbelievable that I could have one! Of course everyone has a distinct voice but did I really have an accent? When I got home my mom said ‘maybe it’s because you are Puerto Rican’, which made me look even closer at the typical stereotypes of Latina speech. I slightly fit the bill; feisty, fast and putting accents on English words the way they were in Spanish. Although, these things were barely noticeable to my family(who barely considered me Puerto Rican or Nicaraguan, because the color of my pale skin, freckles, and light eyes) me speaking surely must of stuck out to someone who has barely heard anyone roll their R’s or or put accents on A’s and O’s. Something else that must of stuck out to people must of been my slight use of slang from my ‘hood’. Growing up with uncles as drug dealers and gang members you might develop a sly but tough tone. Not to mention having  family from the bronx, I must of picked up a thing or two.

For a long while I figured if I can find a way, a way maybe to sound more white, maybe people wouldn’t take me as a huge joke or laugh at the way I say things. Maybe, just maybe,  if I could cover where I am from people's moms they wouldn’t look at me in fear from my slang or be threatened by the loud proudness in my voice. “ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity-I am my language. Until I can take pride in my Language, I cannot take pride in myself” as Glona Anzaldua said in borderlands/ la frontera. This is exactly what I did, instead of excluding myself from the beauty of my roots, I tried to rip them out; but this was my time to reground myself and take pride in one of the huge things that make up me - my language.

From borderlands/ la frontera by Glona Anzaldua “for some of us language is a homeland” The way my tongue rolls and I exaggerate sounds is making each word mine with a little twist. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane when I am not walking on the ground where I was raised on or taken back to the things that gotten carried from the motherland my family speaks so greatly of, that I know is great. When I speak spanglish, my mix of spanish, english, and slang; I can feel my family in my veins and my jays smacking the pavement as my cousin's footsteps follow all at once. No matter where I am, my language takes me home to my family.

“My name is Taytiana and I am from North Philly” Said Saamir with his hand on hip and other snapping in one long circle on stage, in a feisty manner.

I dropped my jaw and I thought to myself ‘what? are you kidding me?’crossing my arms as a slightly irritated emotion took over my face. While laughs filled the room.

“I don’t think I sound like that.”

“A little,” Savannah said giggling.

Then I realized the point of it was to portray and pick up characteristics of someone who inspired us and I laughed and joined the claps because I am proud of where I am from; and if a funny Puertorican accent,that I never knew I had until my freshman year at Science Leadership Academy High School showed that then that's okay with me. You can’t hide from your speech only improve upon it. My language is much more than the way that I speak or how I speak, it is my culture, my neighborhood, my family and most of all me. When I open my mouth and a rhythm of my molded and made-up words are released, it is music to my ears. Growing up I have never cared about how I spoke, unless of course I was being rude or trying not to say something a bit crazy; now I take the greatest pride in my speech because it is everything I am, from, to and going to.

The Way I Speak

Everyone has their own way of speaking, and it is one of the many things that people notice when they are spoken to. Some people speak in tones that seem more polite or even tones that seem very rude. Saying that one might mean something they say in a certain tone, becomes a guessing game.male and a female go out on a date to a  fancy restaurant. The male  speaks  in a British accent, and the female speaks in an  American English accent. The girl  suddenly finds herself attracted to the young man who has taken her out on this date, whom is speaking in a British accent. The girl thinks that the man’s accent  sounds cute and some of what may seem intelligent. While to the guy, the girl sounds quite strange. There are a million people around the world, and each part has its own way of communication between one another. Some languages get mixed, confused, and even changed.  Of course, that means that every individual has their own way of speaking. What may be normal to one, can sound like gibberish to another person.

Those who don’t speak the same way as you,  often times sounds different and strange. On the other hand, the way you speak may sound different to someone else. It is a recurring pattern with communication. The way you speak determines  how you communicate with other. You are mainly judged   based off how you communicate with them. For example, if someone were to say “She are too pretty, to be talking like dat,” the assumption  is made is that the person is not educated. Let us  compare it to the opposite now. A counter example would be if someone were to say, “ She is too pretty to be talking like that!” There is a clear difference between how the two sound when they say the sentence. The example that was used previously  sounding  more educated, than the last example. . This shows that not everyone is grammatically correct when they talk.

Language also  intersects with one's identity, because it really determines how educated you sound. If you speak a different language, it gives people an insight of where you are from and how you were raised if you have some sort of accent,  based on  the way you speak. For Example, James Baldwin said, “It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power.” The language you learn to speak is a way of getting through life. It is a key of communication and without it, all doors are locked. If you speak Spanish, people assume that your parents are Hispanic or have members that come from a Spanish speaking country. Some people speak with an accent, and people usually questions where that person is from or where they got their accent from. The assumption  is made is that you were born somewhere that caused  you  to develop your language/accent.  In my case , I speak English, and it has been confirmed that I have an American accent. That is a confirmed fact, because even though I am around those who I believe talk the same, others  who are not from the  area in which  I currently live, believe I sound different.  I sound strange to them, because they talk a different way from where one is from.

Personally, I have been judged by the way that I talk. Some may say that I talk like I am “white” or I “do not talk like I am black.”  What they really mean is that I talk like I am educated (which I am). The majority of the people I have a spoken to expect me to use the common slang..  being raised in a household where education has a main role in our lives, has caused this to happen.  My apologies for sounding proper when I speak to those whom expect me to talk my color. How does one speak a color? I don’t think that is possible, and it is  because we live in a society where if you are white you are expected to speak proper. James Baldwin said “ Now, I do not know what white Americans would sound like if there had never been any black people in the United States, but they would not sound the way they sound.” If you are black, then you are expected to speak uneducated. I sound different, because I am African American girl speaking proper English. Sometimes my friends would call me a “white girl,” and even though I had no idea what that even meant, they kept telling me that I spoke a color. I did not like being labeled as something other than my name. It was only because I did not use the common slang that “black people spoke” so I was meeting the expectations that society has for me. You can be African American, Educated, and speak properly than others who do. The thing is that, I do say things different from others that are around me. I learned the way that I pronounce certain words from my parents and my older siblings. For example, I say the words egg and banana different from others. Everyone always ask me to repeat what I said, and they try to correct me, but that is just the way I learned how to pronounce certain words.

In conclusion, everyone has a unique way of speaking. I learned that people come from all over the world, and they bring their own special way of speaking to different countries. A lot of people were forced to move to different countries, and with that, they were forced to learn a different language other than their own. The only benefit out of that is that they can communicate with those who had forced them to move. That’s the only reason why certain languages are more common than others. For example, English is one of the hardest languages to learn, and still people in America or who move to America have to attempt to speak it to live their life properly. Languages come in handy when you need directions, guidance, or even just communication with other people.

Who Am I Online? - William Huang

Part 1 - Group Work (answer these bolded questions in this Canvas assignment)

1. Google yourself.

     a. What did you find?

I found a bunch of doctors and some actual comments I wrote in YouTube videos in the past.

     b. If you didn't find anything, who did  you find that has your same name?

I did find some things, although most of them weren't about me. Like said, I found several doctors who shared the same name, along with a couple of comments I posted on YouTube videos in the past.

     c. If you did find yourself, what kinds of things did you find?

I only found some comments I posted on YouTube the past.

     d. Why does that matter?

It really does not matter. However, what I say in these comments will leave a permanent mark in CyberSpace.

2. Partner up with someone Google each other

    a. Create a 5 word impression of each other - If you can't find the your partner online, then describe the person that does show up when you type in their name. (*remember EMPLOYERS DON'T ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE, HOW OLD YOU ARE OR WHERE YOU LIFE)

I did not find OUR David Roberts, but I did find someone who blogs about energy and politics on Twitter with the same name.

-Guy who blogs about energy-

3. Share your 5 word impression with each other. 

    a. Does this impression match what you think your online presence should say about you? Explain in two sentences why or why not.

No, this impression does not match what I think my online presence should say about me. For the most part, I'm not even on the internet. I have no interest in medicine and I don't plan on going into such a field.

    b. What are the 5 words your partner used to describe you from the Google search of your name?

-Asians with degrees in medicine-

Jawn. Noun;

Seyni Ndaw

Too Unintelligible, Too Proper, Too Fast

Too Unintelligible

¨Say, ‘Yo son, you drawlin’,¨ My cousin said.

¨Yo son, you drawling.¨

¨No, drop the d. Drawlin.¨


¨There you go.¨

I was around six or seven at the time, sitting in my cousin's room next to my mom with my cousin sitting across from me. This is the first time I remember being taught AAVE. AAVE stands for African American Vernacular English. Growing up in Philadelphia, it feels as though there is a new word being thrown around everyday. To some, using words such as ¨jawn¨ or ¨boul¨ may seem equivalent to ignorance or lack of basic understanding of the human language, but to me it’s the exact opposite - I feel these developments of the English language are one of the most innovative advancements of our society. By creating words like these and more, we also create efficiency. Some people, however, continue to disagree.

Jawn. Noun; word that can be used to describe a person, place, event, etc. Example: I went to the jawn with the jawn last week after we dipped from the other jawn cause jawn was dead. At first glance, this sentence may seem unintelligible. However, using context we can translate this sentence to: I went to the event with the person last week after we left from the other event because said event was boring. See? The sentence makes perfect sense, you just have to learn how to make sense of it. In a lot of languages, certain details are emitted from speech if the context is specific enough. “Jawn” serves a very similar purpose to this.

“Yo, pass me the jawn.” I say. I’m not gesturing to anything or making it obvious as to what I’m talking about, but if I’m sitting next to one person and there’s a marker on the table out of my reach, that person can assume the “jawn” is the marker.

“Hey, did you go that jawn last week?” I ask. At first, you may not know what I’m talking about, but

as you see me looking at my homework assignment in confusion, you remember our class went to a

presentation last week that had the answers to my homework problems. This supports why AAVE is a language within itself; it has to be learned to be understood.  

“What did you do in school today?” My mom would ask.

“We watched a movie!” I would respond.

“Oh, what was it about?”

“It was about a girl who had three friends and they played a lot together but then one day they were at the park and one tripped and their parents didn’t want them playing with them anymore so then-”

“Seyni, stop. You’re rambling, Summarize it for me.”

“...It was about a girl who had three friends…”

“Try something like this: It’s a movie about three friends who faced hardships because of their families.”

Too Proper

Growing up, I was taught to speak one way by my mother and another by those in my everyday life.  I used to be extremely frustrated with my mom for not letting me speak the way I wished, but now I’m the one who gets frustrated with people who don’t know how to summarize. Seeing as my mom consistently taught an African American studies course at Temple University during my adolescence, she would often stress proper grammar and speech unto me. Because of this, I often struggled with slang - the words not rolling off my tongue as easy as it did for the other kids.

“Seyni, you sound so white.” A friend would say.

“I… what?” I would reply, confused.

“Like, you speak so proper.”

“Thanks, I guess.”

I wasn’t quite sure if I should’ve taken those statements as compliments back then. I was glad to be praised for good speech, but equating good speech to white speech always left a bad taste in my mouth. If two sentences can be said in two different ways but get the same message across, what did it matter if it was “proper” or not?

Too Fast

“Seyni, slow down! You talk so fast!”

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this phrase said to me. By family, friends, teachers and alike, my tendency to talk fast is consistently pointed out. I don’t have a problem with the act of being called out on it, because it is a trait that I would like to work on. However, sometimes my brain works too fast for my speech to be slow, and it is this balance that causes me trouble.

“So what happened?”

“Right! So I had this crazy dream andIwasatschoolandyouwerethereandIdon’trememberwhatwasreallygoingonbutIjustrememberthishugexplosionand-”

“Seyni. You’re talking wayyyy too fast right now.”

“Sorry, I think I just got excited.”

I’ve had an active imagination since as long as I can remember. My family tells me about all the times I would wake up in the middle of the night as toddler crying and screaming because of vivid nightmares I had - some of which I still remember to this day. I feel this translated into my early need to storytell. Growing up, writing class was always my favorite. The ability to make up the most outrageous stories and be able to make them believable with good enough word choice was a concept I admired. However, sometimes I would find myself too overwhelmed with all the stories I wanted to create and the fact that I could only write with one hand. I was burdened with all the lingering thoughts in my mind and no way to flesh them out.

“So then I said,”

“What if we’re all just living in one big projection and I’m not actually talking to you guys right now.

What if  all of us our living in our own individual worlds and you’re not actually here with me right now, but off at an Amusement Park somewhere?” I would bring up randomly.

“Seriously, where do you even get these ideas from?” Some would say.

“You should write a book or something.” Others would say.

I like to think I’ve developed a fairly good brain-to-mouth filter, but once I get an idea going it’s hard to stop talking. Sometimes I even jump from one topic to another if I find something else more interesting than what I’m already talking about.

“So then I’m sitting there… Actually you know what? Nevermind, I just thought of something better to talk about.” I would say.

“Wait, what? You can’t just do that.” My friends would argue.

“Why not?” I would press.

“Because… you’re not just supposed to jump around like that.”

I know this, but sometimes I truly can’t help myself. With a brain that’s always active, it becomes difficult to prevent literal word vomit from emitting from my mouth.

However, at the end of the day I feel all these factors make up who I am and my unique way of speech. Being able to switch between casual tones and formalities without a second thought shows versatility and flexibility. This skill has also helped me to receive several compliments and praises from a multitude of people about my speech and manners, which has benefited me in landing jobs and other opportunities. My tendency to talk fasts let’s people know who’s speaking, even if they’re not looking at me. I feel it also emphasizes my personality as a young writer - with a brain constantly whirring and coming up with new ideas, you never quite know what I could say next. It’s variables like these that I feel help me to stand out as an individual.

Hear Me Out

“Spissific. Speassific. Spas. Ugh, you know what I am trying to say!” I giggled as I yelled. I expressed my irritation with laugher. I hated struggling with “easy” things, especially speech. Talking is the easiest thing anybody could ever do. No skills necessary, just open your mouth and push out a sound. But when it comes to speech everybody expects something more than just a sound.

“No, say it. Slow down and think about what you want to say.” My mom would direct me like a movie. Every time I spoke to my mom she would make sure I knew what I was saying. She would correct me on my grammar and advise me on my slang.

“Spa...” I tried.

“You are concentrating too much on the beginning of the word. SpÉ-cif-ic!” She would say very slow, but enthusiastically. I could not win with her. It seemed like everything had to be perfect with her. I could improve and make everything “perfect” about myself except for my speech.

“SpÉcific.” I made a face of uncertainty. She looked at me as if she wanted me to say it again. “SpÉcific. Specific.” She started to smile. “Thank you.” I whispered to myself. I did not thank her because I was a little frustrated. It was embarrassing, extremely embarrassing. What if I was not with my mom? What if I struggled in front of someone else, like a teacher? Or even worse, like a crush. These type of things would scramble through my head. Banging against my skull and giving me a headache. Awe, how much I hated that feeling. I wanted speech therapy! I always wonder about the kids who took speech in elementary and middle school. And I always wonder why I was not with them. I think I had the “potential” to be in that class, but maybe others did not think I did.

Maybe if I took speech I would feel more confident about words. Maybe if I took speech I would feel more confident about myself! Thinking about it, I can make a list of things that my speech effects. For starters, me not raising my hand in class. I am not afraid to voice my own opinion during a debate. I am afraid of what will come out of my mouth. I always have a lot to say about a topic, but I just keep it in my head. Nicely organized ass if I were to be called on. The words make sense in my head, but once they try to escaped from my mouth, my tongues lassos them back in and twistes them around. Why? Is it my brain or is it my tongue? What should be responsible for this bullshittery? I have no clue.

I try my best to speak, but language has too many factors. “It’s not “yea”, it’s “yes”.” If I had a dollar for every time I was told that, I would be able to afford a medium size Frap from Starbucks and maybe a big chocolate chip cookie. But I do not receive dollars for the corrections of my speech. If it was up to me I would consider my speech to be rather fine than the average. Of course I wish it were better and maybe I do slip up when speaking to adults, but I am only human. I find it hard to speak to adults sometimes. In school you would hear students yelling “Yo Lehmann!” down the hall and you see a smile and a wave in return. Is my principal my best friend? No, he is just a cool adult that cares to have association with his students. Yell the same thing to your boss and I bet they will not be your boss anymore. Adults vary when placed in different communities and environments, and so does speech.

Language is more than a method of communication. It has the ability to make or break someone. I, myself, has been made by language and I too has failed in it.

“Younger people don’t know how to speak. Back in my days…” Venerable people would always voice. I was never interested in their backstories. The past has passed, it is far behind us. There is no reason to talk about it unless we are trying to learn from our mistakes. We should be talking about the future, the place and the time that does not exist yet. Reflecting on the past has no value, benefits or gain for the future. Instead of comparing the past maybe we should be improving the future. Maybe starting with speech.

So what's the Difference?

How can you tell the difference?

“ Are you from Philadelphia?”

“Ugh.. Yeah.”

“Wow you sound so different than most people in the city,”

“ Its cool”

It’s pretty funny that I remember the first time someone actually asked me was I from Philly and that I had an accent . I was shocked at first but, then I was pleased to hear that I didn’t sound like everyone else in this city. I thought about it on the bus and from the bus stop to my house. When I got home, went upstairs to a mirror and over and over again, I said different words to myself and kinda comparing how I sound. I change the way I speak on purpose, like when I’m talking to a boy that I think likes me. I’ll change the tone of my voice and I’ll speak more proper. Some boys like it and some don’t.

My first day at SLA was totally different than what I was used to in my middle school. I had been at that same school for nine years , and I been with the same people since I first started going there. I was used to how they spoke , Puberty played a part in this, and had hit most of the people at Alliance For Progress Charter School. I couldn’t really tell the difference in the way they spoke from when we was in Kindergarten till 8th grade, and since Alliance was mostly full of black students, everyone there, I thought spoke the same.

When I came to SLA, I met many new people.  I noticed that everyone came from different backgrounds and spoke differently than what I was used to hearing. One person that I met, that spoke differently than most black boys that I know, is Kaamil Jones. The way he speaks is really astonishing. The sound of his voice is also leveled. When the halfway mark of freshman year started to come around, I used to think to myself that I was speaking wrong. To me everyone was speaking so nice and elegant and I was just another black girl that was from North Philadelphia where everyone was ghetto and wrong.

“Siani,? Are you sick or something?”

“No, Grandma, why would you say that?”

“You sound different, you sound so much more…proper.”

Wow, I could hear the excitement in her voice, and it made me think how do I sound when I am on the phone, and was this because of the connection or was my voice and the way I organized my words different than any other day? I was on the phone with my grandma coming home from school, and when she said that I sound different I was shocked to hear this from her, only because I never expected to hear that from someone that has known me since I was a baby. I said “Do I?”.  I don’t think that I sound any different on the phone than I do in person. It’s been said to me many times but I had a different feeling when my grandma said it, but like I said I change the tone and sometimes the mood of my voice and rearrange my words so that they make more sense. I think that I do this without even trying.

I’m not afraid to say where I’m from but I do like to cover up the way speak. Whenever I’m not at home or in my neighborhood, I pretend to be someone I’m not. I try harder and harder everyday to blend in with the students  at SLA but it’s a little out of my character. This is because, I am trying to be someone I’m not. Sometimes I feel really out of place here but I have to remember that the reason why I applied. I wanted to be different than everyone else.

I think there is much more to somebody than the way that they talk, because judging someone by the way they sound or the way they use English words is foolish. One of the biggest things that I learned here at SLA is that everyone isn’t going to be like you or the person that you are best friends with. SLA is the perfect school to go to and learn about how diverse the world is. Even the smallest things like having an accent or even using words that don’t even exist but are in your own personal dictionary are judged quicker than you know it.

Coming to SLA is a true blessing itself. It's projects like this that drive you to want to change society itself. Many people are made fun of because they don't sound like everyone else. Here at SLA its normal to be different, no one here is the same. Everyone here has different views. Different influences. Different understanding of everything that is presented to them, such as language and the effects that it has on the world.

“It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identify,” James Baldwin.

Language isn't Easy

“Ay, where you from”, he said, echoing through the deli. Nobody looked around, because the deli was jampacked with people.

“ Philly, why?”, I responded

“I could tell, with that accent and that way of speakin’, we don’t use those words that you use around here”.  He said in a deep southern accent, slowing down the pronunciation of his words.

I was in the South for a trip with my family. We decided to take a trip to visit all of the southern states, from Georgia to Mississippi. At the time, we were in South Carolina. We had stopped at a local deli for something to eat, after being in the car for the past couple hours. I had mistakenly said hoagie instead sub sandwich.

“Oh.. alright”, I responded, grabbing the hoagie from his hands and sitting down with the rest of my family.

Later that week, I was in Georgia. Georgians have a very different accent than people from South Carolina. In Georgia, their speech is even slower, and doesn’t stop there. It’s slower and slower the farther South you get. My family and I had stopped at a hotel in Georgia, where we stayed the night before we headed into Atlanta. We had just gotten the keys to the room, and right before we left the hotel desk clerk said.

“Ya’ll have a great night's sleep, and have a good morning. Just ring down if y'all need anything”, the hotel clerk said, in the most southern accent possible.

It reminded me of the different things that we say in everyday life that other people in different areas of the world don’t say. They don’t say hoagie, they don’t speak as fast as I do, and they don’t use as much slang as we do. In the city, we speak quickly so we can get out point across. However, in places in the middle of the countryside, they don’t need to speak quickly. In a place like New York City, you need to speak quickly and get out of the way. But in the countryside, it doesn’t matter what you stop and talk to somebody for a solid twenty minutes.

Accents aren’t the only things that are different between cities. Speed of talking, words, and even ways of acting are very different between; say Macon, Georgia and Tokyo, Japan. Not only is there a language barrier between Japanese and English, there is also a different speed of saying something. In Japanese, you have to use emotion to convey some words, because a word said calmly might mean something different than something said in a high pitched voice.

For example, I was in Indiana to visit my family this summer, and they spoke with a ¨nasally” accent, which means they relied on their nose a lot for speaking. I couldn hear it myself, but people told me about it. Words like soda and pop, pond and lake, and even sugar all have different meanings everywhere in the US. In Maine, they call what we call a lake a pond, and a lake is a much larger body of water. Sugar in the North means the sugar we use in cooking, but in the South it may mean to kiss somebody.

The classic example for this is how people say soda. Some people call it soda, some call it pop. Some call it Coke, and some people just straight up call it a soft drink. It’s different everywhere, and that’s one of the best parts about language. It’s different everyone, and nowhere is the same as somewhere else.I don’t know how these words changed meaning just depending on where they are, but whatever changes them is probably the culture where they are.

Another time, when I was in California this past summer. I stayed with two Vietnamese immigrants, whom my grandmother had taken in after the Vietnam war. They learned English, but still have a heavy asian accent, making it hard to understand their English sometimes. They took me to all the local asian places, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. We stopped for Pho, which is a Vietnamese breakfast. In the restaurant, they were talking about something, but I couldn’t understand because of their thick Asian accent, I could understand them perfectly when I was, for example, at their house.

The same probably happens to us when we speak with our regional accents. Somebody from Boston will probably be easier to understand if he’s in Montana rather than if he’s in his hometown of Boston. James Baldwin once wrote ,“A Frenchman living in Paris speaks a subtly and crucially different language from that of the man living in Marseilles; neither sounds very much like a man living in Quebec; and they would all have great difficulty in apprehending what the man from Guadeloupe, or Martinique, is saying, to say nothing of the man from Senegal-- although the “common” language of all these areas is French.” This can mean the same for English. If you replace the French towns with cities in the USA, then it will still have the same message - English isn’t just one language, it’s a whole variety of languages, all bunched up into one generic term. In the essay, he was talking about how Black English is it’s own language; and it is. But so are so many other versions of English.

Identity Theft?

Identity Theft?

“Oh my gosh, I want some syrup on these waffles!”I  remember saying to my friends, as we sat down at the lunch table.

“Syrup!?” one  questioned with a smirk.

“You mean sy-rup?” another suggests cracking up.

“You talk so ghetto!” the other laughed  tears pouring down her face.

“Yea, yea, Whatever.” I replied  laughing  as I get up and walk back to the lunch line.

It wasn’t funny. Deep down inside I felt angry. I did not like being put on blast,  especially when it was about  the way I pronounced things. I also, did not like being called ghetto. Back at this time, I was shy and meek. Ghetto was the last word, I would use to describe anything about myself.  At that moment, it was like a huge spotlight was baring down on me. I felt exposed. I wasn’t from a different country, I was simply a twelve year old African- American girl. I did not have an accent, so why did I pronounce syrup so differently from my friends?  I later came to find out,  that anyone can have an accent. You do not have to be a foreigner to have a defined way in which you speak .The movie American Tongues, defines accent as the way in which you talk. that determines who you are and your identity. I felt that because I said certain words differently, I wasn’t speaking with knowledge. This caused me to consciously  change the way I said things when I was with my friends. Not just any words though. Only the he words that would always seem to have a more proper way of being said. 

Doing this became a strain on me  because  I would often times have to think about my sentences before saying them. This was so that I would know what words would sound funny to my friends and made them laugh. I did not want to be corrected again,  because I didn’t want to experience the uncomfortable feeling of being teased.   Not only did I do this with my friends, but I did it in any setting where speaking the way I spoke would sound as people often told me, weird or ghetto. However, growing older I learned that in order to accept myself , I would first have to accept the way I spoke. 

My language is my identity. I am in the way I speak. James Baldwin once wrote “Language incontestably says a lot about a person.”  This is very true because I define myself through the things I say and the words I use. You can often tell how a person is  by the words they use and the way they form their words. My language reflects entirely on my identity. People can often tell where I’m from and the type of person I am, because of the way I pronounce things. Words such as: water, dad, bread, and iron, are the main four words in which people can tell that I am a “Philly girl.” Being a Philly girl, is not the only way that I identify myself. However, it plays a huge role in the way I speak and why I talk the way I do. Born and raised in Southwest Philadelphia, exposed me to many different ways of speech. One of the main types of speech used however is  slang. I learned slang  from many of my neighbors and the people I would hang out with. This caused me to make adjustments to my own language so that I would fit in with the people around me. I could then relax both my brain and my tongue. Nothing sounded funny, in my neighborhood. This was the only place, in which I would feel comfortable saying certain words in the way I did. However, there are many people from Philadelphia who pronounce these words in the way deemed proper. I often consciously change the way I  pronounce these words, especially if I am in a different setting. When I am around a group of new people, I make sure that if I have to say these words, I say them correctly. Although, the episode with the syrup correction, was years ago, I am still conscious in the way in which I pronounce these words. This puts a strain on me, because I began to realize that, I am trying to change the way I said things because I was afraid of getting corrected.
This then affects the way I act. If I am consistently changing the way I talk, I cannot fully express my bubbly and talkative personality. This in turn affects, the way people identify me. I realized this before it became a habit. I can now fully accept the way I speak as a part of me. This makes me also feel good with my identity and the way I am. I no longer hide and mask, the way I pronounce certain words. Correction sometimes comes, but instead of the brash and ridiculing laughter, the made me feel so uncomfortable years ago. There is the warm humble laughter of the people willing to accept my pronunciation of these words. Even if the laughter, was how it was years ago, I have now not only only accepted my language but my accent. My accent that determines who I am.


“You have a stutter.” My first best friend, Brock, said to me. We were about five years old. We were playing with a plastic kitchen setup in my parlor. I was confused.

“What’s a stutter?”

“What you just did with your words.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about. No one had ever mentioned a ¨stutter¨ to me before. I went to ask my mom because I didn’t think he knew what he was talking about. She said I did have a stutter. My mom then proceeded to talk to Brock’s mother about how she intends to inquire about me having to see a speech therapist when I start school. At the time, I didn’t think too much about because I was only five. Eventually, I did end up starting speech class in 1st grade.

“Madison, you have to go to speech.”

I hear the voice of my 2nd grade teacher, Ms.Macy, call out from the other side of the classroom, alerting the class once again that Madison Militello has to go fix her stutter. I feel the eyes of my classmates shift towards me. I quietly sigh on the inside, collect my speech folder, and head out the door. My best friend, Kayla, was waiting outside for me.

¨Did you do the homework?¨ I ask, as we make our way down the hall.

¨Yeah, it was pretty easy.¨

Another speech class with Ms. Robin. Every week twice a week I went to the first floor of my school and met with Ms. Robin, the speech therapist, to work on my stutter. I didn’t like going, but I knew I had to. I understood that a stutter was a natural occurrence and I would never be able to fully control it. I still dreaded going. It wasn’t like the class was bad or anything. We just went over exercises to improve my speech. Not many other kids in my class had speech class. I felt embarrassed. I just didn’t understand why it was me. Out of all the people in the world, why did I have to have a stutter? I was insecure of something I couldn’t control.

Over the years, I’ve learned to accept it. Having a stutter as a young child really affects your self esteem and the way you look at yourself. It made me feel as if I was lesser than the other kids, like there was something wrong with me. Now I understand that no one is completely perfect; we all have something different about us. My stutter is what makes me different. When I was younger, I never realized this. I automatically labeled my stutter as something I should be ashamed of. I’m not fully proud of it now, but I’m more open and accepting about it.

I met my best friend, Kayla, in speech class. From first to third grade we had class together. I don’t know why we were paired together because she didn’t have a stutter. She couldn’t pronounce certain letters correctly. She’s the one person I truly know who is understanding about it. Of course my family is understanding, but they have to be. I like how I can really trust her. I’ve known her for so long and she knows everything about me. That was one benefit of speech class: finding my best friend.

There was one specific time I remember that I was utterly embarrassed from my stutter. I was in 2nd grade and my teacher was going around the classroom asking everyone if they started my school in kindergarten or first grade. The whole room was quiet so my teacher could finish up quickly to move on. When my turn came I panicked.

“Madison, kindergarten or first grade?”

“K-k-k-ki-ki-ki-kin,” I felt everyone’s eyes on me.



I don’t remember finishing the word. Out of all the times I’ve stuttered, somehow it’s one of the few memories I have of it. It’s stuck with me for all these years. I don’t like to remember it but it’s apart of who I am now.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. According to studies, boys are more likely to have a stutter than girls. So in that aspect, I’m not that lucky. I’m lucky in the way that I am someone who doesn’t have a noticeable stutter. I am not fully able to control it, but at times I can. In a more comfortable setting, around very close friends and family, I’m more likely to stutter. This happens because I know there’s less pressure. My family knows and they’ll always accept me no matter what. There’s more pressure around your peers and friends than at home. In school or around people that I’m not fully close with, I feel myself begin to stutter. Pressure is a big part of it. If I feel as if all eyes are on me, I panic and will stumble upon my words. It might not be noticeable when I do or almost do, but there’s a feeling of on the verge of stuttering. I control my speech right before I feel like I’m going to stutter.

My stutter has affected my personality greatly. It changed the way I see myself and others. I’ve become a less judgemental person and realize that everyone is different in their own ways. Sometimes in life there are certain occurrences that you just can’t control. Everyone has their own quirks and attributes that make them the person they are today. Even if we’re not proud of them, we can accept them.

Papi Chulo

“Yo quiero un cheesesteak with onions.” I said to my dad.

“That's all, tu no quiere ketchup” Replied my dad.

“Yeah, that's all” I said

“Ok mijo”.

When my dad first arrived in the US he didn't know English. He worked in a “bodega” as we call it in our language, or a “Papi store,” as the Americans call it. Most Puerto Ricans and Dominicans were known for owning stores like these. When my parents had me, my brother and sister, they had to learn English. My father still currently does not know a lot of English but when he talks to us we mix our conversation with Spanish and English, same with my mother. I call it “Spanglish”. When we do talk in Spanglish, sometimes it's intentional and sometimes it's not. When we don't know a word in the language we are speaking in we usually say it in the other language to see if the phrase we are trying to say will get across.

My language has been a problem at home, although only for tiny reasons. I speak both Spanish and English at home. Both my parents speak both as well but don't know as much English than they know Spanish. For me it's the opposite. I know more English than I know Spanish. This is where the Spanglish kicks in. The reason  language is a tiny problem at home is because when me and my parents are having a conversation in Spanish, I stutter a lot and don't remember the words I want to get across, so I use Spanglish.

In school, my language has been a minor problem as well. People has commented on my accent my whole life. Although it’s not a very thick accent but when you get used to my voice you start to notice I have a tiny accent. Having this accent make me pronounce things differently.

“Laffy Taffy and Frooties would probably be my favorite candy,” I said.

I was with my friends and we were discussing different types of candy and which ones were our favorites.

“Ehh, those two are good but aint’ nothing gon’ beat chocolate!” Said Johnny.

“Eww, Choawcolet! That jawn nasty, I hate Choawcolet” I replied.

“Did you just say Choawcolet? Haha dude, it's chocolate not Choawcolet!” Said Johnny.

Everyone laughed.

“Chocolate...Choawcolet same thing.” I laughed.

Chocolate wasn't the only word I pronounced weird. Same goes with hockey. I feel like the differences on how the O’s are presented in both languages is what makes me pronounce it weird. I also pronounced pizza strange as well. The way you pronounce pizza is “pete zuh”. The way I pronounce pizza is “Pee suh”. I think this is just a Spanish and English mixture problem.

I had two different types of speech. I consider myself two different types of people when I talk in those two different types of speech.

“You talkin’ bout’ boul?” I sai

“Yea, that boul real funny.” My friend replied.

“What boul say that make you laugh?”

“He just be saying the funniest and stupidest stuff”

“I make you laugh all the time, I'm a comedian myself yameant.”I laughed

“Keep dreaming young boul”

“Is you crazy? I make everyone laugh all the time, you juss hatin’.”

When around my friends I have what I call a ”loose tongue”. I don't have a limit on how I speak. I curse unintentionally like it's part of the language. I don't speak proper english when around my friends because I know they wont care and I don't need to impress anyone with my speech.

“Hello, my name is Alexander Torres.” I said.

“Hey how's it going, my name is James. Let's get started. Tell  me about yourself.”

“Well, I'm from North Philadelphia. I'm Dominican, I can speak both English and Spanish. I work very well in any environment.”

“That's interesting. How did you learn Spanish?”

“As a kid I learned Spanish first then as I started school, I learned English.”.

If I were to speak  to someone who is trying to hire me for a job or if I was going to an interview for some reason. I would speak more proper just so they can get a good first impression of who I am.

Now since my parents do not know a lot of english I try to speak more proper in front of them as well as with any other stranger I come upon. Although with my brother, sister and cousins I'll speak with my loose tongue. I would speak “ ghetto” with my friends because I know that they will understand me. Not to get you confused but I do not speak ghetto intentionally, if I'm speaking to you I'll probably speak ghetto first and then change my way of speech according to who you are.  In this generation people have confused “speaking ghetto” with “speaking dumb”. Speaking ghetto does not have to do with anything in your education. If we were to compare education through grades, between a person who speaks ghetto and a person who doesn't, I believe you would not have told the difference. People have also confused speaking ghetto with speaking smart. They have labeled speaking smart as speaking white, speaking ghetto as speaking black. Now as much as I hate this saying I won't be getting into it.

Having a Spanish accent isn't the only problem causing me to speak weird. I also have a “north philly accent”. I talk less proper and speak “ghetto”. When I first came to SLA, some people commented on how ghetto I talked. When I talk I make up words that has a similar meaning to the original word. For example, the phrase “do you know what I mean”, I would use “Yameant”.  it is a quicker way of saying the original statement but just a faster way. This accent has affected me a lot. Not only did it make me speak weird but also help me find friends that have a similar accent. If I could find someone with a similar accent  I would know that they are similar to me in some way. Accent can be a big factor in determining  who you are and where you come from.


“Honestly I thought you were really weird from your instagram.” My new friend says.

“Wait, what? Why?” I say confused.

“You’re just super tumblr.”

“What does that mean?”

How am I a website? How do I relate to a popular website at all, I’m a person. I’m known as “That Tumblr Chick.” It somewhat stems from my fashion choices, somewhat from my instagram or twitter, and somewhat how i present myself. Sometimes I dress fashionably, but mostly not to school because that takes too much work. But how does the way I present myself make me the ambassador to a whole website?

If you google “Internet and self esteem” you’ll find thousands of articles from less than reliable sources. There is science proving how it can boost your self esteem, but also impact it negatively. It’s sort of like a high in a way. You feel great about yourself for about 10 minutes after you post some picture that really has no affect to your life. Instagram probably affects my self esteem too much. Modern technology has done worse for my image issues than anything else. The amount of likes my selfies get mean more to me short term than getting an A on a paper or getting 5’s on my standards. That shows how low my self esteem is but also how I value myself

Everything makes me feel bad about myself I guess. There’s always something someone has that I want. Most of the time its appearance or personality wise. There’s always someone prettier than me or more interesting than me. Sometimes I wish I cared more about what I perceive myself as though. My mind is in this constant struggle of caring too little or caring too much and never knowing what I want. I went to private school in 7th and 8th grade and I was always the odd one out. They were all prettier than me and had more money than me, or had nicer parents than me. They had things I desired most of all. I tried to act like I had money and faked confidence left and right. It was nice short term, but then I realized “fake it till you make it” doesn’t really work in the real world. I had a friend who was a professional ice skater and probably the best life situation possible. She had amazing parents, Juicy Couture purses, 12 pairs of ugg boots (not even exaggerating), and she was beautiful. Internally though, this girl was miserable. That’s when I first realized money didn’t buy happiness. No matter what socioeconomic status this girl was at she was never content with herself. The identity she was given did not affect her self esteem in a positive way.

Self esteem and status have so much to do with technology lately. Social media makes you crave some sort of acceptance or identity through these posts that don’t even mean anything. So if I’m tumblr, then what are you?


“Good morning!” My step dad proclaimed.

“Good morning!”

My step dad bent down and kissed me.

“How are you feeling?” He asked.

I gave a smile

“Did you sleep well?”

“Yes.” I responded with shyness.

My mom came and I asked her if she could carry me. She grabbed me under my armpits and picked me up. I rested the side of my face on her right shoulder, crossed both of my hands behind her neck, and crossed my legs behind her back. I couldn’t put my thoughts into words. I was afraid and ashamed to talk to my step dad. I hardly spoke to him unless if he spoke first.

I was 8 years old the first time I met my American step dad. I was still in the Philippines at the time. He looked different compared to us. He had discernible features. He seemed very tall and his skin tone was pinkish and lighter than ours. But, his way of speaking was something else. His language was different and he didn’t speak our language. He spoke English!

We had been learning the English language since nursery but we never really spoke it because we spoke in our own language, “Ilonggo”, one of the dialects in the Filipino language. We learned alphabets, numbers, and as we got into elementary school, we were learning phrases and sentences in English. Even though English was taught in school, we didn’t use it to speak; not even at school.

My sister and I were always speechless when our step dad spoke to us. We couldn’t form words in our mouth. The way he spoke was very amusing and intimidating. He used words we’ve never heard of before and his pronunciation was different. In school, we were taught to pronounce every single letter of its own. For example, “what do you want to eat” is “watt doo you wannt to eet¨. So, when my step dad would ask me, “what do you want to eat?” I would give him a shy smile. He said “what” without the “t” and rolled his tongue when he said “do”. I kept the amusement to myself and was always too shy to speak to him. We were always stunned by him. He seemed like an entirely different person because of how he spoke, but there were times when he was interested to learn how to say a certain thing in Filipino. As we were eating, my step dad asked.

“How do you say rice in Ilonggo?”

“It’s kan-on.” Someone blurted out.


“No, KAN-ON.”


Everyone cracked up. It was a funny thing but, it was quite entertaining. He was fascinated with our language. As years went by, we no longer were frightened to speak to our step dad. We may still be intimidated by him and were too shy to chat with him, but we spoke more than before.

In 2012, the movie “The Hunger Games” was released and it grabbed the public’s attention. My sister, my cousins, and I decided to watch it. I loved the fancy outfits, the places, and the energetic characters in the movie. However, I was kind of perplexed by the plot while my sister and cousins understood it and were very thrilled after the movie. We came home at around 8 o’clock at night as my mom and stepdad were having dinner.

“Hello!” We greeted them.

“Nay, nag lantaw kami The Hunger Games.” (Mom, we saw The Hunger Games) My sister exclaimed.

“Oh, ano na sha?” (Oh, what is it?)

“Bag’o na sha nga movie.” (It’s a new movie) One of my cousins responded.

“Nami sha, grabe ang effects.” (It’s good, the effects were great)

My stepdad was eating his salad as he was paying attention to what we were saying. We were all shy to tell him but my mom told him instead.

Every time someone spoke to my step dad, my mom would clarify it or she would just tell him since she’s more comfortable to talk to him than us.

“They saw a movie and it’s called…”

“The Hunger Games”

Our words clashed as we said it.

“What was it about?” He asked.


We all looked at each other and said, “Budlay eh explain.” (It’s hard to explain it)

“Jhila (cousin), ikaw explain ah!” (Jhila, you explain it!) My sister announced.

“Ahay indi ko ya! Kamo da ya!” (Oh no, I don’t want to! You guys do it!) Jhila insisted.

Our voices were over each other and we’ve had enough giggling and pinpointing. We didn’t explain the movie until Jhila did bravely.

“There are districts in the place and they have to fight to each other. Katniss Everdeen volunteered to join the fight and she almost died because there are like buffaloes chasing her and the guy…”

“...they’re going to eat them and they went up the car and they’re waiting down the car and the dogs or buffaloes were chasing them.”

“Ahhh,” he nods and was puzzled by the explanation.

“So, they were fighting against the buffaloes?” He questioned.

We were as confused as him and started cracking up. We gave up and mumbled that it was very hard to explain the movie.

“Was it a good movie?” He continued.

“Yeah.” We grinned.

We were more comfortable with our step dad but we weren't comfortable in speaking using a language we hardly use. He visited the Philippines once in awhile but, sometimes he’s with my mom. As a matter of fact, we only see him if he’s visiting which doesn’t happen constantly. Around summer in 2012, my mom and stepdad both decided that my sister and I are migrating to the U.S. In November of 2012, my sister and I migrated with our mom and step dad. We came right in time for Thanksgiving in San Francisco which means, we would celebrate Thanksgiving with my stepdad’s family.

My sister and I met our step dad’s side of the family for the first time before Thanksgiving. Their kindness soothed us from feeling anxious. We didn’t know what’s in store for us in the U.S and we were worried about them asking us questions and us responding in English. Luckily, we spoke but my sister and I were too self-conscious about our English. We were shy but I’m glad that they made us feel comfortable and made us feel like we were apart of their family. We may not impress them through words, but we certainly felt their fondness towards us because my sister and I gave them the respect and kindness they needed.

Mark Twain once said, “Actions speak louder than words.” He is saying that what you say doesn’t matter, but, what matters is how you act towards someone or something. I believe in this saying because my sister and I didn’t communicate much to our step dad but, we understood each other through our actions; not enough words were said and expressed but our actions said it all. Looking back at my experience makes me realize that words don’t really matter, but, your actions matter the most.

I'm Sorry, What Was That? (Samuel Dennis)

“WOAH!”, the class exclaimed

“Settle down, settle down! Now, ‘Menduyarka’ said that he is from Seattle, and he obviously pronounces some words differently from the way we do here in Philadelphia. Let’s keep our requests low, for he is a new student.”

I noded my head up and down frequently to agree with all of her statements. I began to believe that “my way of speaking” is going to be one way that I’ll be able to make friends.

“Can you say bag!?”, a boy exclaimed, impatient to wait his turn.

“Beg? Why do you want me to say that?”, I responded.

Everyone’s mouth gaped open as they began to realize the whimsical difference between my voice and theirs. I covered my mouth, as if I had just provoked a pack of lions. I was frightened, I didn’t know what to do. I stood still, hoping I would crash through the floor.

Everyone began a chorus of laughter as tears swept down my face. From that point on, I became an outsider in my school.

With every time I would try and show them my true self, I would become degraded to something lesser than being human.

“I wanna play!”, I would scream, approaching a group of boys about to play a game of football.

“Go away! We don’t want you to join us, ‘beg’ kid. You won’t understand our calls anyway.”, they responded.

“Stop calling me that! I just want to play with you guys!”

With fast movements, I ducked just in time before a football pelted my head. As I got up slowly, I had seen that everyone was looking at me with demon eyes, piercing right through my anatomy. They didn’t like me. They wanted nothing to do with me, so I didn’t bother them. I left with my head held downwards, watching my feet for every step I took. It was official. I was an outsider.

“The accent of one's birthplace persists in the mind and heart as much as in speech.”, said by La Rochefoucauld. Being a Seattleite, with a home filled with West Africans and a number of Eastern Asians, it was inevitable for my words to become altered in some way. Since I didn’t grow to have an African accent, my accent from Seattle became so unknowing that I didn’t feel like I had an accent at all. Even after moving to Philadelphia, my words had become a mixture of every part of my heritage. It seemed that my nightmare wasn’t going to end. I began to conceal my pronunciation of some words, and ceased my participation altogether. Just so I could learn by ear, and hear others before I said anything that will get me degraded again.

“What would you like?”, the lunch lady stated, too bored to stand behind the counter for the next 2 hours.

“Cereal, aaaaaand. Oh! Can I have the baggle?”, I asked.

“Cereal and the what?”

“The baggle… “. I try to point to the pile of circular bread behind her, but I am cut off by her telling me to step out of line and wait.

As time goes on, I realize that everyone has progressed in the line, and the bagels have disappeared onto everyone’s own trays. Everyone’s, but my own..

Eventually, the lunch lady exited her shift and walks over to talk to me about what I had said.

“What were you saying back there?”, she said.

“I just wanted a baggle.”, I responded, tears beginning to form in my eyes.

She looked very confused, and didn’t seem to try and put the pieces together. While trying to fight back the tears, I pointed towards the empty basket behind her. She followed my finger to the basket, her facial expression changed instantly. She stared at me for a relatively long time. Long enough for me to think about what I could’ve possibly done to deserve something like this, She returned inside the cafeteria kitchen and grabbed a frozen bag of bagels. While returning to me, she muttered words that resembled those of “Can’t even pronounce damn ‘bagels’”. The tears I tried to hide continuously fell and those words rang in my ear. I ran out of the cafeteria. It was only the first day.

You’d begin to think of yourself as a monster. An outcast. No one can understand what you say or want ,and you can only accept it. You then have to live with what you get. A plethora of “huh’s” and “what’s” that trigger somethign your mind to restate something so completely obvious to you, but so oblivious to them. You’re left alone to think to yourself, “What’s wrong with you? What did you do that made everyone despise you?”, when the only thing you really did was grow up in a different environment. A different world. You have no clue on where to go next.

Until you meet someone who does understand. Someone who gets what you have to go through. Someone who can be your Clark Kent, and save you in desperate times when you have no hope left. Someone who can help you out. When you need it the most.

Later that week, there was another new student whose family derived from Cambodia. Her name was Sarina Kun, and English wasn’t her main language at all. She was introduced to the class with her hair over her face. After scanning the classroom, everyone was more scared than intrigued.

“Everyone, this is ‘Sah-REE-Nah’. She’ll be your new classmate from here on out.”

She patted Sarina on the back, and she was pushed forwards a little. With that movement, everyone slided back in their seats.

“Go on, ‘Sa-REE-Nah’. Take a seat near Cory and we can begin class today.”

“Hello there. I am Sarina. It is nice to meet you all of you”.

“Im sorry. What was that, Sarina?”

“N-Nevermind. I said nothing of all… ”

Sarina was born in Cambodia and was almost murdered by her mother. Afterwards, while living with her father, she moved to America to remove all contact with her. Sarina began to learn English in old, worn out textbooks that her father had collected while back at Cambodia. It wasn’t perfect, but her English  was good enough to have simple conversations.

After being paired with Sarina for multiple projects and classwork assignments, I began to understand her more and more of how she dealt with things. After years of being with her, I watched her pronounce English words that I can’t, gain a beautiful singing voice, and making connections of her own life to mine. Both being profiled from where we grew up, we became alone, and eventually wound up talking to one another. With our differences, we persevered to merge within our own society, and we became who we are now. With the influences of those from school, but also from the influences of each other. My home, my family, my school, and Sarina taught me how to be me.

Freeze framed over a barrier (Saamir Baker)

“Teylor come here.” Kwame called out

“What do you want?” Teylor said irritatedly

“Listen to how he says this line in our poem”

In my mind, I think I'm saying mother and brothers perfectly. It’s been the same way I always pronounce stuff with a ‘th’ in it mo-ther, bro-ther. How do I say it differently?

“I have two younger broders and i am scared for my moder, I don’t want to see her digging her sons in the grave because a cop thought the black brush in his hand was a gun  

I want to be able prove that I will live after 25”

“You see how he says mother and brother?”

“No, Saamir say it again. But this time just say mother and brother.” Teylor said softly

“Moder, broder. What am I saying wrong?”

“You say it with a d, instead of a th. Make your tongue move like this when you say it”

“Mother? Brother?”

“Yeah like that say it like that!”

I took a lot of pride in the fact that I learned how to say two words the correct way almost instantly. I tried to say them again but again to my agony I said ‘Moder and broder’ again! I never knew I said it with a ‘d’. It was kind of upsetting to me that no one ever decided to tell me about the way I spoke.

Though I knew deep in my heart this wasn’t new at all to me, but it still stung. Ever since kindergarten I had a bad reading and speech problem. Teachers thought I would be another statistic and never succeed, but somehow with all of their doubts, I ended up at SLA. My mom fought to get me help with learning how to speak properly because she couldn’t understand what I was saying to her. I couldn’t pronounce my own name properly, so everyone called me Sa-mir instead of Saa-mir, and it became my new name.This was my secondary name because I wasn’t able to speak properly. Even to this day, because I am so used to it, I let people call me Samir.

My school's speech woman, who came to help me, supposedly, would never show up at first. She downright refused to help me after a month of being with me because she thought I was in her mind fine, though no one still couldn’t understand what I said. It took my mom threatening to call her boss if she didn't help me. To this day, I only remember her helping me once. That one time was in the middle of class, and was spent talking to me for only 5 minutes before leaving. Sometimes I wonder what if she actually gave me the help and compassion a real teacher would have gave me. How would I be able to speak now? Would I be able to say th words with no problem?

Later on in life, the next school I moved onto helped me learn how to read to the point of me exceeding my classmates; through a lot of hard work and determination in more ways than one. As I grew up I learnedto speak and read better but still I had a small session everyday where I got pulled out of class to learn how to speak. The teacher I had was very good at teaching me I still remember her lessons she gave me, and how much she beamed with passion. Her and everyone else in that school knew I could succeed, and helped me do it. Which is why it came at such a surprise when Teylor (now called Ty) and Kwame pointed out I wasn’t able to pronounce ‘th’ words. It turned out that even my girlfriend knew I couldn't pronounce words even further than just the ‘th’ words, which came as a shock to me. I really thought I was pass all of my struggles as a person who couldn’t speak properly.

It disappointed me, and made me lose a lot of self-confidence. I thought I had been progressing further  and becoming a better speaker . I really took pride in the fact that I had overcome such a huge barrier speaking wise, just to find out I was jumping over it in slow motion. It was never fully overcome to begin with, and it was really disheartening. What made it even worse was the fact nobody told me that what I was saying was wrong.. After Ty told me how to pronounce words properly I went straight to work. I desperately tried to change the way I spoke, but I couldn’t. It was my signature flair to the way I spoke.. I started to accept the fact I said things differently. I learned that I shouldn’t beat myself up on something that was just me, it was just something that is me.

While I was getting the tools I needed to become a better speaker, I learned how to read. I went from barely being able to read a Dr. Seuss book, to reading full novels. Reading became my hell when I couldn’t read, but once I learned how to read, it became somewhere where I can escape. I credit the amazing teachers I had that did not make me feel like I was dumb. They gave me confidence in myself as a reader, while giving confidence in my speaking ability. I also credit reading so many books to helping me learn how to speak better. Since, the two go hand in hand.

I soon realized that though I hadn’t overcome a barrier in my life. I had overcame the reading barrier in my life. I was once behind a grade or two behind everyone else in my grade, to becoming a front-runner in my classroom. Advancing from basics to advanced, with no pun intended, and reading at a level two or three grades pass my own. Scoring a junior reading level on tests. It made me proud that I had overcome the hurdle by a whole football field and exceeded that expectation, while accepting I still had more to go with my other ones. Because isn’t life but one big challenge? We all face multiple challenges in our lives. So I learned to look forward to every challenge from that day on.

Lost In Translation

Laith Abuharthieh

November 9, 2015

“Yuuuuuurrrrrppp. what up bro”

“How you been?”

“Ehh, you know chillin like a villain, how about you?”

“nothin much, I’m so tired man”

“Same this work we get be chalked”

This is usually the first conversation of many that I would have when I see my friends in the morning. The word “yurp” is the first thing I say when I see my friends This is something we have been saying for the past year or two. Most people know that when they hear that noise it’s coming from me or one of my friends. It’s almost a reflex to say it now, whenever I am walking somewhere I say “yurp’’ to get someone's attention. I started using the word when I heard my cousin say it I thought it sounded funny so I started saying it. However when I am at home I greet my family a different way, it usually sounds something like this.

“Salam alaykoum” or “hey” or “hi”

“How was school?”

“It was fine I guess, how was work?”

“Same as always, tiring as ever.”

When I am at home I don’t use slang for a few reasons, one being no one really understands the meaning of the slang that I use or my family would just think I am plain dumb. I also don’t use slang out of respect. I wouldn’t use the same tone I have with my friends that I have with my mom, because I am normally a loud person when I talk to my friends but when you speak to your parents or elder family member you should have a normal and respectful tone of voice. When I talk to my mom using slang she gives me this look basically saying, speak like a normal person or don’t speak at all. I feel like when I speak my own language it’s more relieving, not having to use correct grammar after focusing on school work all day five days a week, it makes speaking easier and just plain fun.

During the weekdays at school, my friends and I would speak “ghetto English”. Ghetto English is basically slang that we use to describe something, or to exaggerate something. Sometimes we come across words or sayings that are humorous so they end up being part of our daily vocabulary. I have two sides to my English speaking I have my improper ghetto side, and my proper English side where I would sound out every letter in each word. Usually if I use slang in my house my mom wouldn’t understand half of the things I say, so the result would consist of her mocking me every time I say something that isn’t “proper English”. To me there is no such thing as proper English, everyone has their own way of speaking and no one can tell you that you are talking wrong or because you speak differently or speak incorrectly, maybe when they speak it sounds incorrect to you. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from you will always have an accent.

This summer I went to visit my family in Palestine, before I left America I knew I wouldn’t be speaking much English for awhile because no one in my family speaks English from Palestine except for a few of my cousins. When I reached Palestine I was forced to speak Arabic. Since I learned from hearing my mom, grandma, and family speak it I picked up the different accents. When my aunt and I started conversating she kept laughing at the way I would speak. She told me that I mix different accents in one sentence. To me it sounded normal, when I asked her what accents I used she would tell me

“Depending on what word you say, you sound it out how an Egyptian would say it then you would go back to a Palestinian accent”

“It’s not my fault most people that speak Arabic around me are Palestinian or Egyptian so I naturally picked it up.”

A few months ago I figured out that one of my cousins spoke English. I thought maybe he knew the basics like how to greet people. Turns out that he spoke very well, and I was the one who inspired him to learn English. A few years back he heard me speak it and he automatically found an interest in the English language. After a few weeks I started losing my “ghetto side”. One reason was that he didn’t understand what I was saying when I would use the “American slang” so I had to start speaking properly. Since he spoke English I would talk to him more than anyone else so I wouldn’t get teased about the way I spoke Arabic. Overtime I found myself not using slang, not only that but the way I pronounced my words began changing. I started to pronounce every letter in each word that I said. My cousin told me that he wanted to speak English like how my sister and I do.

“Oh my god Ahmed your English is very good!”

“Thank You, I wanna get better, I want to speak how you and your sister do.”

“what do you mean we just sound different, because I learned English in Philadelphia and you taught yourself through videos on you tube. I probably have the Philadelphian accent”

I don’t want to speak properly, I wish I could speak faster and not pronounce every letter like my T’s and stuff like that, can you talk to me more so I can sound like you?”

“Sure why not.”

Over the course of a month his English took more of an effect on me then mine did on him. Instead of him learning the “American slang”, I started to speak properly, and different than I have when I first arrived. I also started to speak Arabic more efficient then I have before. I also picked up the proper accent of Arabic I should have been using all my life. Rather than speaking two different versions of Arabic in one sentence I used words that matched the origin of where I learned it.

After I came back to America my family noticed that I started to speak “properly” My mom was content with the fact that I learned how to speak both languages correctly like a “normal person” after our vacation. That didn’t last long, a week or two after we came back my “ghetto side” started to grow. Now when I speak in slang when I am at home my mom would ignore me until I start speaking like a “normal person”. I learned that when it comes to speaking English, nothing you say is right or wrong when it comes to the way you talk. Pronunciation, and speaking “correct English are two different things.” Although my family may think that their way of speaking is correct, but if you ask someone from a different area, city, or state they will tell you that you are not speaking “proper English”.


“Ma quiero comer” Yo dijé

“¿Qué?” said my mother

“Yo steven go downstairs and tell mom I’m hungry” I said

“No you go downstairs and tell her” Steven responded

“Mira puto vas a ir downstairs y de le que quiero comer” I angrily said

Steven quietly said “Okay”

Ever since I started speaking spanish which was when I was about 6-7 years old. Me and my sister Tania would speak to each other in english, however halfway through our sentences we would speak in spanish then switch back to english to finish off the sentence. When my younger brother started to speak, me and tania would get him to adapt to the way we spoke because we are bilingual. My mother Sonia and my father Jose got frustrated because this became a habit. He liked that we were getting comfortable speaking yet he was disappointed because he didn’t want us speaking like this. One day me and my family went grocery shopping and Steven, Tania, and I would speak the way we did at home. We would speak wherever we went. These kids who looked to be about our age gave us sideways looks because we would switch languages every so often and one of them would get mad. He approached us and said angrily, “Shut the fuck up you fucking spanish speaking hicks”. The real definition of the word hick is a person who lives in the country, regarded as being unintelligent or provincial. The word hick in my opinion means a really loud hispanic person. At that moment, Steven, Tania, and I replied with, “We’re not hicks”, we just switch languages halfway through the sentence because we’re used to it. The guy left, and we continued our conversation. This got me quite mad because he was judging us by the way we spoke instead of getting to know us. This is my accent or my way of speaking,

“How was it at the escuela?” Steven asked

“Todo went fine”, replied tania

I replied with,

“Can we try to stop doing this language swap halfway through the sentence because it’s kind of bothering people, even our own parents.”

The next day, was the first day of us trying to stop speaking the way we did. This is how it went...

“B-bu-go-bue this is hard”, I angrily said

“Yo know”, steven said shyly

“Me heads hurts”, Tania replied

Eventually we all took speech class during elementary school to help us stop, however things may have gotten even worse. There were other hispanics just like Steven, Tania, and I, but they knew how to maintain one language while speaking. However they knew more curse words than we did. We only knew puto, so we eavesdropped on their conversation while they were spoke spanish.

“Mira cabron necesitas a se mi tarde”, said one guy

The guy turned around and noticed us,

“And I don’t like your fucking language you fucking hicks.” He left angrily. When we heard that we ran so we wouldn’t get in trouble. After a while, we came together and discussed what we heard.

“Are we hicks?”, asked Steven

“I don’t think we are”, me and tania responded.

Later that day we went home and asked our parents

“Are we hicks?” I asked

“No it’s that people just assume and label us just because they see one person be a hick then assume we are as well”, said Sonia

“We aren’t hicks, but let me find out you guys are becoming hicks”,

said Jose angrily. We went straight to my room and talked about the way we spoke. We realized we didn’t want to continue switching languages in the middle of our sentences, so we did our best to stop. The next morning we woke up and greeted each other.

“Good morning Steven and Tania”, I said

They both replied with

“Good morning Jonathan”.

We were happy that we stop speaking the way we used to, little did we know it came back. We hated the fact that we spoke like this and this is why we were in speech class for the rest of elementary school. We never got the chance to improve our english because our english was awful due to our tongues. By tongues I mean the way we speak is from our tongues. So our tongues are bilingual and used to either using accents or not using accents. I remember I couldn't pronounce certain words because of the way vowels were said. I’ll also extend a letter or so.  At the end of the day Tania, Steven, and I got the hang of staying in one language and we at times tend to do it just to joke around. However we still struggle to say some words but we take step by step.


“Christos Anesti Angeliki. Kala esai? ” said the Sunday school teacher Kostadina.

“ Alithos Anesti kai kala.” I responded and took a seat in the swivel chair located in front of the cherry wood conference table. The room filled with  more and more Greek kids with smiley and happy faces. My phone which was in my lap buzzed profusely with text messages. Glancing at my teacher and back to my phone

.“ Yo fam, wassup.” The message was from my cousin Kaylee.

I responded with “Wassup fam lol , yo that party last night was to poppin’ dawg. You got super turnt and was drunk all over the place gurl.”

My teacher then asked me to stop texting and to place my phone in a basket located in front of her. She then asked the class “ What did everyone do this weekend?”

We took turns saying out what they did that weekend in a clockwise way. When it finally reached me I simply said “ I went to my cousin’s party and it was pretty fun.”  I wondered why I couldn’t say aloud what I had said to my cousin over the phone.

To be honest, I don’t necessarily know how I ended up in a Greek Orthodox Church. When I was younger my grandmother would always bring me to their festival in May. It never really included church in it but it did include kiddie rides like mini rollercoasters and the traditional park favorite the teacups. It also had food, lots and lots of Greek food. I think that’s where I fell in love. A couple of months after that I started to come on Sunday and participate in the worship service with my grandmother. She worked during church in the Narthex passing out beeswax candles to the church’s parishioners. Eventually, when I was 10 I became one of those parishioners and I got baptised in the father, son and Holy Spirit. From there I enrolled myself in many Greek school classes which taught be the native language of the church and I also joined Greek dancing. Although I was in these activities with many Greek children, some my age and some not. I never felt like I was actually being myself. I always felt as if I was being what everyone wanted me to be, sort of like a black Greek  girl. If that’s even possible. I think all I ever wished for while being in church was another person that could understand what I was going through. I had a friend who was Guatemalan whose name was Maria, but I feel as if she could still blend in, her skin color wasn’t so easy to spot out.

A quote that really relates to my situation is a quote by Bell Hooks, as used in his essay “ This is the oppressor's language yet I need to talk to you”: Language, a place of struggle. He states “ I was in danger of losing my relationship to black vernacular speech because I rarely use it in predominately white settings.” I tend to code switch often when I am around predominantly white groups of people. I throw it all out the window and act totally different without any consciousness of it, it’s sort of something that just happens to me. I  don’t think I’ve ever noticed my miraculous change of voice when I was around everyone. At home I could use “black”  language when communicating with friends and various “ghetto” slurs but then when I when I traveled from the quote on quote “ hood” and crossed into the suburban part of town it was as if all of my black language I felt comfortable with at home and school got thrown out of the window and my inner valley girl voice popped out.  Maybe I spoke like that around them because maybe I was scared I would sound ignorant but then again why should I be scared, it’s me. I was being myself when I talked to my friends and the people around me who shared the same race but when I was in class surrounded by a different race who  probably spoke less slang and more words with an actual Webster Dictionary meaning behind them my voice started to scrunch up into a ball, and I became less vocally expressive then I was everywhere else.

There’s another quote by Richard Rodriguez, and he stated this quote in his essay “ Hunger of Memory” and the quote states “ Like others who know the pain of public alienation, we transformed the knowledge of our public separateness and made it consoling - the remainder of intimacy.” I can relate to this quote very much, I always feel publicly alienated at my church mainly because of my skin color and because of that I don’t have a voice. My “black” language cannot be expressed because I am too scared, scared of being labeled as ignorant and even possibly ignored. I only feel a consolment around my other black friends because I know they wouldn’t judge me or make fun of me. They would understand exactly what was coming out my mouth and the ways I acted, because they probably acted and spoke the same way.

In conclusion, language is something that affects my spiritual and social life because of the fact I cannot express how I really feel in my “black” language when I am with people who don’t speak the same. I just want to be myself everywhere I am, no matter what race I am surrounded by and when I do speak I want to feel comfortable  with what I am saying out of my mouth, and I want to be accepted, and not judged or labeled by people because everyone is different and everyone speaks differently than they next person. No one is alike and that is one of the things that makes this world unique.

Two Different Languages Two Different Me

“Wu co ehou, ye wu hon yie sedia umo be pe wa sem”

“Ahni me ye”

It was the first day of school, and I was sitting in my living room. This was before we had changed the floor so the floor was a very dark reflective hardwood. I remember looking at my reflection in the floor when my dad said that sentence. Ever since I was 5 years old he said the sentence in or native language “twi” because I knew almost nothing in English. He told me that, “When you get to school you should be good so that people will like you.” You see my family was very new to America at this point. My father and mother had both left Ghana after my birth and came to America, in a attempt to give me a better life. I myself spent only spent 3 years in Ghana before I was brought to America. In Ghana I learned the language of “twi”. The same way a baby grows up hearing English, and picks it up was how “twi” was for me.  I attended school in Ghana which only furthered my knowledge of the language. I became “Ghanaian” in the sense that all I knew was Ghana.

I nodded my head to show that I had both heard what he said and understood. My dad then drove me to the school so that I could start my first day of kindergarten. The car ride to school was silent but emotions raced around my mind as if they were baby bunnies that had consumed sugar filled carrots. I was afraid to be in a new environment, but happy to make new friends. I was sad to not be able to do nothing all day, but excited to finally be going to American school.

“be biara en cosu ye!”, Good luck! This is what my dad said as I left the car, but I ignored him and looked for room 27 the place that my dad had told me to go. As I walked to class I started to realize how scared I was. I had never been in this environment before and it truly terrified me. As I searched for room 27, this fear started to bring tears to my eyes. Eventually I ended up on the floor silently crying till a lady came to me. She sat on the floor with me and patted my back in an attempt to comfort me. After 5 minutes of her consoling me she rose up and helped me up as well, then she asked if I needed help.

“I room 27” my broken English was a product of what I had seen on T.V. and the little I had been taught in Ghana. Luckily the lady walked me to the classroom which for some odd reason was located on the second floor. Once we entered the class the lady gave me to the teacher and explained why I was late. After the lady left the teacher asked me what was my name to which I responded;

“Opoku”, then she said

“Where are you from?”

“Ghana.” I replied. The teacher then nodded her head and told me to wait for the ESOl teacher to come take me. Eventually the teacher, a man that I would later call Mr. Owens, arrived. He then took me to a small little room on the third floor where a variety of little kids where. The room contained kids, of a variety of ethnicity. Mr. Owens guided us into all sitting in a circle, then we all introduced each ourselves and started playing games such as Hokey Pokey.

It wouldn’t be till first grade that I would realize E.S.O.L stood for English for Speakers of Other Languages. Mr. Owens taught us the language of English by using games and music. But while he was teaching me English I realized that he was also indirectly teaching us how to be American. The games and music where American games and music, this caused me to start listening to american music, reading american books, and of course speaking the american language. I was truly becoming American, but only in school. At home, or even with my family, everything was in Twi. This was mostly because my parents were fluent in twi so in order to talk to them I could only speak twi. At school I found myself acting more and more American while at home I was acting Ghanaian. It was as though the moment I entered my house an internal switch was flipped from American to Ghanaian.

I started to realize that Language is the basis of your identity. Language is more than just words, it is a collection of letters that when put together in a specific matter, and said in a specific matter reveals who you are. In every country you can identify where someone is from based on how they speak. For example it is possible for a Philadelphian to identify a Texan based on their repeated use of the words y'all and their accent. The way the Texan uses specific words has allowed him to be given the idea of what we call a Texan. This statement is supported by a quote Rita Mae Brown once said; “Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people came from and where they are going.” Thus proving that language is the basis of our identity because both the words we use and the way we use them can reveal ourselves. Our accents show that we are foreign, our abbreviations show that we are southern, and our slang show that we are young.

Who is Paul-Ann

It was  late October, and the air was still unnaturally warm. Myself, being only 9,  didn’t pay much attention to the weather. I was more interested about the extra recess. While I was jumping rope, someone ended up walking over to me. The question they asked me was one I could never forget.

“Can you speak Jamaican?”

Such a simple question, yet it shook me to my core. Apparently this person was one of those who’ve heard that I was from Jamaica. And just like the rest, they wanted to confirm it for themselves that I was Jamaican. Yet my response is always the same.

“Jamaican? It’s just English.”

Seemingly disappointed, he ran off. I continued to jump rope pretending not to remember that familiar disappointed face every time I told each person that fact.

I was born in Westmoreland, Jamaica where I lived for a total of nine years.  In 2010, I migrated from Greater Portmore, Jamaica along with mother. When I moved, my accent followed. It wasn’t hard for people to identify me as a Jamaican. If the question wasn’t “What did you say?” then it was always “Can you speak Jamaican?” Yet I responded with the same line each time. Eventually people gave up on the questions and I was happy.

Until people started to mock the Jamaican accent, that is.

“Hey, mon. How ya doin’ mon.”

“You hungry, mon? Thirsty, mon?”

“Wanna play with us, mon?”

I couldn’t take it anymore. I snapped.

“Not all Jamaicans say mon!!” I screamed at them. What I didn't realize was that my accent showed itself once again in that one sentence. “It speaks itself against our will, in words and thoughts, that intrude, violate even, the inner most private spaces of mind and body.” Bell Hooks once said. You can’t hide who you truly are. Instead of quieting down with the mocking like I had hoped, they laughed. They laughed. They started to mock me even more.

“What was that you said, mon? I didn’t hear you, mon.” I felt my eyes starting to sting with tears. I repeated what I said but it was barely a whisper. I ran away. I ran away from them to the other side of the field. I vowed to myself on that spot that I would hide my accent forever. That I won’t make it show it’s ugly face ever again. I vowed silently as I cried in the corner.

James Baldwin once said, “Language, incontestably, reveals the speaker.” I believe that if I had heard of this quote before I would have understood why I was so upset. Why they were making fun of my language. The reason why I was so upset. If only I had heard of this before I would have understood that because they were making fun of my language, I felt that in some way they were also making fun of me.

From that day forward, I tried to completely get rid of my accent. I tried to learn the American way to say things. I tricked my family into thinking that if I don’t say them this way no one will understand me. I believed I also tricked myself into believing this too. I spoke slower. I knew it worked. How? Well because of a certain exclamation of an old classmate of mine.

“You’re Jamaican!?” She had screamed. I couldn’t blame her. She was Jamaican herself, and didn’t see me as one of her own. I didn’t understand why I felt like a part of myself was missing. Like I had just sold my most prized possession. I didn’t understand.

It was the summer of that year. I was going to Jamaica to visit my family. It was going to be two years since I had seen my siblings. I couldn’t wait. It was only natural to be excited to see your family, I thought to myself. Yet I knew that part of me was excited to go back to the place I called home.

When we moved my mother never told me that we were moving. The entire time I thought we were just visiting my grandmother like we do every year. I didn’t know the reason she decided to move without telling me. I still don’t know. I remember my friend Alexia tried to telling me I was moving yet I didn’t believe her. I regret the day I promised her I’ll come back.

When I arrived at the airport my dad was there waiting for me. My older brother and two older sisters were also there waiting. After a round of hugs I would never forget the conversation that happened next.

“You sound so American like.” My brother had said. Only thing was I couldn’t understand him.

“What did you say?” I had asked him. Everyone looked at me a little strange but my brother shrugged it off and spoke slower as if talking to a toddler. It helped though and I was finally able to understand him.

I didn’t realize right then and there why I had the sudden urge to cry and fought back the tears. My dad however noticed them and asked me what’s wrong. I told him that I got something in my eyes and didn’t want to rub them.

I think my final straw was when we went to visit my cousin and she said the words that made me come to my senses about what I had done to myself.

“You sound so American. Are you really Jamaican?”

“People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances, or in order not to be submerged by a reality they cannot articulate” James Baldwin once said. What I think this quote is trying to say is that people try and change their language to fit their own needs. But as Bell Hooks says it doesn’t always work. Your real language will always come back into play.

So that night as I slept in my grand-aunt’s house, I wept silently knowing that I have lost a part of me I can never get back.

That trip to Jamaica taught me a lot about my language and I tried to enforce what I learned. I tried to gain back the part that I lost. I wanted it back so much that at home I use my Jamaican slang and a forced accent. I truly wish I never had tried to hide who I was and now I sincerely regret it.