“Everybody has an accent”

Leonilda Renaldo

Being brave enough to speak another language isn’t something that comes easily. For a long time, I didn’t feel comfortable talking in any other language than my native one, and if possible, I tried to only speak it. It was only much later, when I first started being involved in places that prioritized diversity, that I realized the meaning of these words. Since these places focused on creating a multicultural environment, almost nobody spoke the same language. Everybody had to speak English so that we could understand each other.

To be honest, I had to hide my joy. My native language is English and I’m from the States. Believe me when I say my American accent is strong. Really strong. But to me, the American accent that I had wasn’t even considered to be an accent. It was just normal. I didn’t even think of it as an accent.
Imagine my surprise when someone commented on my accent. Even more so when the rest of the group I was with nodded their agreement. And that wasn’t even the only time it happened. During the rest of the night, I heard people commenting on my American accent all night. And I was just as shocked every time it happened. I didn’t even know what to say to that.

A few days later, I told my German friend what had happened. I admire her a lot because even though she has a really strong German accent and makes a number of mistakes, she wasn’t afraid to go for it. She spoke fearlessly, even if she did make mistakes, even if she had to repeat herself many times because of her accent. Anyways – I was telling her about how weird it was that people had commented on my “accent”. That was when she told me something that I still remember to this day: “Everybody has an accent.”

There are two sides to every story, and that was a side I hadn’t even considered. A way of thinking that didn’t even occur to me. Did everybody really have an accent? No, others had an accent, I didn’t!
When she first said those words, I didn’t think much of them. But during the next few days, they kept coming back to me. At some point, I realized this: if everyone has a different accent, even in their native language, then having an accent in a second language isn’t really a big deal.

That marked the beginning of a new era for me; everything just clicked. Suddenly, I didn’t feel as hesitant to go for it and I felt brave enough, maybe for the first time in my life, to talk.

It could be that you have also had a similar experience to mine. Or maybe not. If things have already clicked for you like they did for me, tell me: what did someone say that made you realize that you could just go for it?

Maybe people have commented on your accent. Have you already had to answer questions about your American, British, or Australian accent? Did it shock you was much as it did me?

Tell me about your accent!

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