“Mahtha,” “Bawston,” “oovah,” “ideer;” these are all words that I have begun to notice my family pronounces differently than the phonetics instruct. I believe in accents, or at least, am starting to.
Since beginning at a college in North Carolina, which attracts students from all over the country, I notice my family’s northern accent far more. Being a New Hampshire girl, I notice the southern accents because they are different from what I grew up around and are very prevalent. But I also hear others, including a good friend’s lingering South African pronunciation. Accents amaze me, and I’m curious about the conditions that need to be present to develop one.
Before starting school I never really thought my family had an accent, but now, when I listen, I can easily hear the accents of my parents and extended family. I even start to pick up certain pronunciations that I lost while at school. My aunt’s name is Martha, but she is always referred to as “Mahtha.” It was not until I was at least ten that I realize that “Mahtha” was not my aunt’s name, it is Martha, with an “r,” not an “a-h.”
When I first began school, I am embarrassed to say, I almost prided myself on what I considered the neutrality of my enunciation. I am extremely interested to hear what I sound like to others and to find out if I am, in fact, neutral, because chances are very low that I am. Recently, though, an older student, who is a friend, asked me, “Why want to be neutral? It’s cool to be different.” She is right. Americans in general seem to adore foreign accents, but despise our own. I remember countless times wishing for a British accent. But why should I? I already have my own, unique, accent; and why should Americans dislike our own accents? News programs promote neutrality; yet if people can understand someone when he or she speaks, why try to hide part of someone’s background?
Right now in the world there is significant hatred towards Americans. People do not necessarily want to be immediately identified just by speaking, which I agree with. No one should assume superiority over other people because of culture. I strongly believe that, as Americans, there are some accents that we have subconscious connotations with. We should all strive to not make assumptions based on how people talk, and treat them like equals until they prove otherwise.
Besides that, accents should be embraced and supported, not suppressed. Each generation grows up with certain material standards they are encouraged to live up to. In a way, this takes way individuality. I remember my whole life being taught how important our individuality is, and accents are another way people are naturally distinguished from one another. Individuality should be preserved, which is why I am trying to be proud of my accent, which, based on my parents’, will surely become stronger as I grow older.