This critical analysis essay discusses the assumptions that people make about accents and whether everybody has an accent or if only people that are from different areas have an accent but you don’t. It conveys that no matter where you are from, people will always believe you have one even if you don’t believe it yourself that you do. Most generally, people label others with accents as less capable and unable to comprehend what is being asked of them to do. However, most of us know that this isn’t the case and it goes to show how having an accent can affect the way a person lives.
I have an accent.
In the television show “The Office” Michael Scott is the boss of a paper company called Dunder Mifflin. In the episode “Diversity Day” corporate sends a sensitivity worker to the Scranton office because of Michaels insensitive behavior; however, he is dissatisfied with the training so he decides to do his own presentation. He makes everyone take a card and put it on their forehead and he wants them to treat other people based on the race that is written on the card. Nobody knows what their race is so when a person is talking to another individual, they have to drop hints of what their race could be. One of the interactions is between an “Italian” and a “Jamaican”, and the Italian person asks the Jamaican person if they wanted to go to the beach. He then asks if they would like to get high, and she declines, and then the Italian person says, “I think you do mon.” The last interaction is between one of the workers that just arrived from a meeting and Michael. The woman is from India and she gets approached by Michael and he says to her, “Oh! Welcome to my convenience store. Would you like some gookie gookie? Well, I have some very delicious gookie gookie! Only 99 cents, plus tax!” She doesn’t say anything and slaps him and walks away and then Michael says to the rest of his employees in a painful voice that now she knows what it’s like to be a minority. The language attitude that is expressed by Michael is the fact that everyone from a particular country or cultural group has the same accent.
If you’ve ever imitated an accent, you most likely were relating that accent to a specific ethnic group. Sometimes it is easier to identify if a person has an accent rather if you have an accent yourself because you have different things to compare it to. However, if you’ve ever gotten told that you have an accent, it may sometimes come as a surprise. Lippi-Green states, “Generally accent can only be understood and defined if there is something to compare it with.” (Lippi-Green 45) This difference can be found right outside the environment you grew up in. If you were to go to a new location, many people would insist that they aren’t the ones that have the accent because that’s what they’re used to hearing. Although, you can’t hear the accent you have and if you try to figure out the accent of the people you grew up with, you probably won’t be able to pin-point it. Lippi-Green discusses the topic of The Sound House. She gives us a description of how the sound house is supposed to be our vocal apparatus, and how we gain different tools and different materials from our parents. After that we grow a bit more, and we go to school and we decide to build some new things in our sound house to make it our own. She also states that once you have finished your sound house and you grow a bit older, somewhere in your adult years, you see another sound house and this one is very unique and you look at yours and it’s been the same for the past decade. You want to change it up, but you’ve lost the tools you first began building with. After years of working on your sound house to introduce a new language or sound, it still has its quirks and people may notice that it’s not an original sound house but rather one that is trying to imitate another one. The whole analogy of the sound house is very relevant to our everyday life because we all come from different backgrounds and we were raised differently so the tools my parents gave me to build my own sound house are going to be completely different from someone else’s. If I had a sibling, sure our sound houses would be similar, but we wouldn’t be friends with the same exact people and the older you get the more influence other people have on you.
This cartoon shows two men and a woman singing the national anthem of the United States, it also seems as if they are from Mexico because one of the men has the Mexican flag in the back of his shirt that says, “Love it and Leave it”. All three are singing in unison, “Jose’ can you see?” meanwhile the teacher has his head in his hands in disappointment thinking, “I give up.” On the blackboard behind him, the class that is written is Assimilation 101. Let’s say that if we didn’t know where the people in the picture were from, we know that Jose is a Spanish name and that they think that “Oh say…” sounds like that may be a common mistake just because it sounds like that name. Because the class is called Assimilation 101 you can conclude that the teacher is supposed to teach them how to adapt and condition them to the rules of this country, and one of them is to correct their language. However, they seem proud to be singing the national anthem the way they are no matter how they are singing it.
I’ve come to believe that this whole idea of assimilating to one language because of the country you’re in is unfair. And let’s say a person does assimilate, you cannot expect a person to sound “American” because they obviously might have not been born in the country but they are making the effort to try and communicate with others and learning the English language which is what majority of the population speaks. Unconsciously we judge people by their accent to where they might be from just like Michael Scott did in his presentation, however a lot of negative stereotypes may be linked towards this so it isn’t always an accurate representation of where this person might be from. Regardless whether you have an accent or not, it matters if your voice is being heard and if you have something positive to contribute to the conversation.
McCoy, Glenn. https://images.app.goo.gl/EGfw5bePq4ozkk2P9
Michaels Scotts School of Management. https://youtu.be/PLp8pjqwlsc
Lippi-Green, Rosina. English with an Accent. Language ideology, and discrimination in the United States. Appalachian Journal, vol. 26, no. 1, 1998, pp. 46–49. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40934880