What’s your accent?

I’ve always had a big problem with how people treat accents.

It’s all fine to crack a joke and get a party going with a Bangla or ‘Madrasi’ accent, but I don’t get this self-righteous mockery of accents that’s different from what one considers right.

And guess who gets bitchiest about accents? Indians. And about whose accents? Asian accents.

Somehow a German or a French or Italian (or any Western-appearing person) speaking English with an accent is considered cute.

But if a Mallu rolls his Rs or a Tamilian breaks his Ds or a Bong mixes up B with V, then the crouching Shakespeare inside us roars in indignation.

What is particularly ironical is those from some parts of India who cannot speak a sentence in English without interspersing it with Hindi slang, have the gall to talk about the accents of those with a much better command of the language.

Our primary language and cultural influences are bound to affect our accents — it’s only natural. So why try so hard to disassociate ourselves from it, or judge people on their accents?

I come across so many parents who choose to send their kids to international schools, so that they have a ‘cool’ Brit or American accent. Seriously? Since we cannot strip our skin and turn it a caucasian rosy white, this is the next best thing? The funnier thing? Parents of these kids — parents who studied in regular Indian schools in India — adopt the accent much quicker than the kids.

Next time we want to accuse someone of racism let’s think about glass houses and stones and all that…

In case you are curious, I have a proper Madras accent, with a bit of Anglo-Indian influence (‘cos my teachers were).

What’s yours?

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13 thoughts on “What’s your accent?

  1. Anu says:

    Ha! Ha! That one made me laugh. Here, in North America – they say its we desis who have an accent! Reminds me of a desi who put on an American accents (thus rendered accentless) hoping to get better customer service from a rep. Only, the rep was in good old Bangalore also putting on an American accent.

  2. Sudhir says:

    Yeah, though I stay in Kerala now, I still have a Madrasi accent in my English. And I love it. So….

  3. wise donkey says:

    ha the hypocrisy!
    but i just hate some american accents (they get on my nerves. dr.phil for instance) ok ok i know all accents are equal but then all tastes are equal but we prefer some to the other right..

    my accent? i emphasize the 2nd syllable in a word . for eg bRIDge. guess the source:)
    haGRID

  4. shyam says:

    Less of the Madras accent since I’ve been away from India for a decade. But I tend to pick up the local accent/way of speaking wherever I am, especially over time, so when I was in Singapore I found myself using “waaaaaaa” to express surprise πŸ˜€ Or tagging on a “lah” after a “no” or a “yes”, etc. πŸ™‚ And after 7 years in the UK, I think I’ve got a pretty good overlay of Britspeak. That’s what my brother and sister accuse me of, anyway!

  5. Laksha says:

    OMG Umm! You write what I think πŸ™‚ I hate people that qualify that if we don’t “put on” an accent, the “Americans will find it hard to understand us”. Guess our psyche never recovered from looking up to the Brits in a wierd Stockholm syndrome kind of way I guess – even after so many years after Independence.

  6. Kiwi says:

    V: I am similar to Shyam in this. Am still mostly Madrasi accent, but overlaid with a veneer of Kiwism and local Kiwi slang. Very slightly though, given that I’ve been away for more than 11 years…but the minute I get back to India, that veneer just melts away…interestingly, big N has two distinct accents (Indian and NZ) and Small N doesn’t – she only has one, which my relatives in India tell me is Kiwi, but which I don’t really believe!

  7. UmmON says:

    @shyam/kiwi/laksha: yeah very natural to pick up slangs and accents when you are living there. but some people just work on a non-Indian accent that fits nowhere.
    kiwi, i am sure lil N has a kiwi accent. isn’t that the only influence she has had?
    and you know what, O has a funny mallu accent while using some words. absolute gulf influence.

  8. suba says:

    QUITE AN INTERESTING ARTICLE. IN MY OPINION THE MAIN REASON FOR AN ASIAN TO MOCK AT ASIAN ACCENT ON ENGLISH IS BASICALLY DUE TO COMPLEX. ITS ALWAYS CONSIDERED TO BE LESSER TO BE A NON-WHITE.( I KNOW ITS FOOLISH BUT MANY ARE) . AS FOR MY ACCENT – I COME ACROSS LOTS OF CLIENTS FROM VARIOUS PARTS OF THE WORLD. SOME OF THEM WHO DONT EVEN KNOWY HOW TO WRITE A PROPER SENTENCE WITHOUT A SPELL ERROR OR GRAMATICAL MISTAKES. WHEN AM WITH A FRENCH, ITS FRENCH-ENGLISH , WHEN WITH A GERMAN , ITS GERMAN-ENGLISH , WITH AN AMERICAN I DONT WAIT WATCHING HIS MOUTH – I CAN VERY WELL HANDLE , ITS MY ENGLISH WITH NO INFLUENCE OF EVEN MY MOTHER TONGUE.BUT BUT BUT .. TO SPICE UP ANY TOPIC OR PLACE I ADD MADRASI ENGLISH ! I THINK INDIANS ARE ONE OF THE BEST AS COMPARED TO ANY NON-AMERICAN AS FAR AS GRAMMER IS CONCERNED !FOR ME ENGLISH IS NO GREAT A LANGUAGE TO BE MASTERED & THIS FACTOR IN ME SELLS WELL & AM PROUD OF IT !

    • Careless Chronicles says:

      I have also noticed that Hindi is second on the rung after English and people spoof Hindi tinged with a South Indian accent. However, Hindi puritans think it’s cute to substitute gibberish for other Indian languages and laugh at them. I don’t see from which angle this sort of open prejudice is cute!

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