Friday, August 3, 2007

Here we go, again

So why is it that, whenever people hear me speak, they always ask where am I from, and when I respond, "San Diego," that doesn't seem to satisfy them?

While I was "directing traffic" at last night's Forensic Science class (students were being taken, one by one, to examine the "crime scene" in a separate room), one of the students asked me where I was from. I told her, "San Diego." Her response: "Where are you really from?"

Okay, just because I don't speak with the "proper" accent for this area (my friend Chris L., who is a Fayetteville, NC native, can turn his Southern accent on and off at will; I don't have such an accent, despite the fact I was born in Charleston, SC), does this mean that I automatically have to be branded as different? What so unusual about hearing a kind of hybrid accent coming out of someone who looks like me (check out my picture to the left - I certainly don't look like any Southern Belle now, do I?) ...

This brings me back to a very interesting exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. This was in their Truth exhibit. You come to a panel of a wide variety of different people, male and female, white and black and brown and every other colour imaginable, and your task is to match the face with the voice. Who would have thought that an apparently Chinese looking woman would be speaking with a strong Jamaican accent, a Black man speaking with the stuffiest British accent you can imagine, a Japanese looking woman speaking with a strong Spanish (specific to Peru) accent, etc.? My former roommate, Anita C., spoke with a British accent that my British friends had pin-pointed where her accent would have originated (don't recall the area now), but guess what - she's from Hong-Kong and went to English Medium Schools. Another friend, Iman Kh., was born in Egypt, and raised in Luxembourg and Switzerland. If you hear her speak, you would have guessed that her first language was French and that she spent her life in a French-speaking country.

Looks aren't everything. It used to annoy me immensely when I get judged as "foreigner" solely on the basis of my accent and my looks. It still annoys me today, but not as much as before. I just marvel at how ignorant some people can apparently be, even in this supposedly more enlightened day and age.

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