Growing up as a bilingual child, I’ve had my fair share of stutters and pronunciation mishaps when I was first learning to speak and enunciate my words clearly. I’ve also had instances where I sounded funny to other people because I have a slight accent when I’m pronouncing certain words or syllables. I didn’t know until I was older that “vaporru” was actually “Vapor Rub” and my mother referring to “confleis” was her way of telling me to get the “cornflakes.” But for the most part, being able to speak two languages has been a blessing.
However, it angers me when people make fun of someone for not speaking a language fluently and having an accent. Don’t you realize that laughing at how someone speaks while they’re speaking is rude?
Sometimes these people don’t speak English fluently and their sentences turn out to be grammatically incorrect, but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid.
My mother is a very smart woman despite not completing high school. She came to the United States from Mexico as a 16-year-old girl without knowing a word of English and immediately had to start working. Without any schooling or professional English classes, she taught herself enough English to hold a conversation and get by in Los Angeles.
When I hear her stories on how people make fun of the way she speaks or mockingly correct her grammar at work, it infuriates me. This is a woman who left her family and friends behind to build a better life for herself and her children. She doesn’t deserve to be looked down on because of how she sounds.
There are certain times when foreign accents are imitated for comedic purposes, but using them to promote stereotypes is wrong. Comedians like Gabriel Iglesias exaggerates people’s inflection of words in order to share his crazy experiences around the world. If you mimic someone’s accent good-naturedly and the other person who is being imitated doesn’t take offense to it, then you have the green light to be funny. It’s only when someone intends to insult another person that it’s disrespectful.
Never be ashamed of your accent and where you come from. Judge people based on their character and what they say, rather than how they sound.