Yes I have an accent and No I don’t want to talk about it!

“You have an accent, where are you from?” a seemingly harmless and even a kind sentence, one might say. But one would be incorrect! Perhaps if I encountered this question once or twice a year, it wouldn’t annoy me so much. However, I am asked this very question countless times, day after day from pizza delivery guys to the clerk at the bank, from almost all my patients to random people at a park, from a sales person at a department store to a stranger at a meeting. So it has become an annoying problem, a repetitive harassment! Believe me I tried changing my accent but I can’t. I also can not help my irritation and annoyance when asked this question.

 Pointing out someone’s difference, be it in appearance, color, clothing or accent is not polite. The same way it isn’t polite to point out someone’s handicap i.e asking someone with a limp “hey you walk different, why is that?” That is rude and I am sure everyone agrees. But somehow it has become acceptable to point out difference of accent in every day conversation especially when it is completely irrelevant. I don’t think the sales person at the department store really cares where I am from or would remember it for that matter. Perhaps this has become a way to have a conversation or to demonstrate interest in another human being but it shouldn’t be.

 As an immigrant of this country, the initial thought of being a foreigner soon disappeared and I did not have the sense of not belonging here until it was pointed out to me, repeatedly that I had an accent and that my accent was, exotic, a novelty, something unusual. It was even mentioned how remarkably well I spoke English! It pointed out to me that I was viewed as “different”, no matter how much education I had, how I dressed or acted, and that I was indeed different.

 There maybe instances when one strives to be different and to stand out, say if it is a costume party or a beauty contest. One may decide they want to stand out and be extraordinary, but that is their choice. That choice is not given to me when my difference is so blatantly pointed out as a topic of conversation. I don’t want to be different on my day-to-day affairs and I most certainly don’t want to stand out. I just want to be a regular human being and be treated as such.

 But I wonder if I am overly sensitive and reactive. Whatever the reason maybe, I am very much annoyed by this question and I don’t’ want to ignore it any longer. I want to take action, to make my views on this topic clear, and I want to chose when and where I discuss my accent or my country of origin.

To conclude,  “ Thanks for noticing my accent”, “Yes I have an accent”,  and “No I don’t want to talk about it”!


12 thoughts on “Yes I have an accent and No I don’t want to talk about it!

  1. I smiled after reading this…you are so not alone…i get it all the time from the cute “oh your accent is pretty, to the rude, hmmm i can’t understand you”

    I used to try so hard not to let the accent thing show to avoid questions and attention, but honestly these days i don’t even worry about it lol…Great post!!!

  2. Thanks 🙂 I’m not always irritated just sometimes 😉 After a while the question gets old + being constantly reminded that my best efforts to speak English are not enough, isn’t a self esteem booster!

  3. Diversity in society is vital. With out it the society will stagnate and die.

    You should be proud of your ostensible “difference”. I bet you’ve faced and overcome some obstacles to get where you are.

    Furthermore, you should be proud of your multilingual skills. Most americans can barely speak english properly, let alone a second or third language. Being unable to communicate with others in their language is something I deeply regret. If I could have only one wish in Life it would be to be able to understand, speak, read and write every language of Earth.

    I was born in america and have lived here all my Life. I was raised on the east coast in Connecticut. Whenever I go to a different state, a lot of people ask me where I’m from. They think I’m from new york because of my “accent”.

    I think most of the queries about your accent are innocent, although you may run into an occasional “isolationist” who doesn’t want any “foreigners” in america.

    In most cased you simply arouse the curiosity of people you speak with. They just don’t know how aggravating they’re being.

    An obvious handicap or deformity does not arouse curiosity but rather pity or aversion. Few people will ask awkward questions in that situation. An accent isn’t that kind of “difference”. It’s something that makes you a bit mysterious, unique and intriguing.

    1. Thank you Richard for your thoughtful and eloquent comment. Having stopped by your blog, I am flattered that you took the time to read my writing.

      I must give a clarifier as there is more to the story. Underneath my annoyance lies another feeling, that being shame. Not shame because of my difference or accent but because I have to answer the question with “I am from Iran” … Becoming a naturalized American and achieving high education in medicine has not helped reduce this “shame”.

      It isn’t that I am ashamed of where I come from but the occasional responses I have received, including discussions about “nuclear weapons” (said by a clinic patient) or the axis of evil reminder (by a physician) or discussion about 1979 hostage crises, etc. etc., has left me sensitive and defensive.

      I’d have no problem discussing culture, language, costumes and other fun aspects of Iran but given I am neither political, nor religious, having people make such assumptions has become difficult to ignore. It has become like a bruise that hurts every time it’s poked.
      There is also the occasional pat in the back “you must be so glad to have escaped”. It is hard to articulate these reasons though, at least for me. A part of me wonders had I been French or Swiss, if I’d feel different when asked the accent question!

      p.s. I am so impressed by your blog and your work and glad I found it through Maryam Chahine’s blog. I am so fascinated by this blogging world and I’ve met so many interesting people in less than a week!

  4. All I can say is that I sympathise with you. Many americans are quite ignorant of the realities regarding iran and most of them willfully so. Iran is not our enemy.

    I’m sorry you’re being subjected to the worst of the american reality. This empire is in it’s death throes and the society is disintegrating. Our constitution has been shredded, our civil liberties are being stripped from us and our working class is being driven into poverty.

    Our ostensible government is engaged in immoral, illegal wars of conquest, invasions, occupations and “interventions” and attempting to hide it all behind the lie of spreading “democracy” throughout the world.

    The american propaganda machine is working overtime providing the people with a multitude of “wedge issues” and “enemies” to blame for turning the “american dream”, which has always been a sham anyway, into a nightmare.

    Lest we forget, the present regime in Iran, good or bad as the case may be, is ultimately the result of one of those CIA orchestrated “interventions” in what was, at the time, a functioning democracy.

    But democracy is only desirable if and when it advances the global capitalist agenda. Any democracy that impedes the hegemonic spread of capitalism simply cannot be allowed to flourish.

    America finds even a murderous dictatorship preferable to a socialist democracy as long as the dictator is in compliance with the capitalist imperial programme.

    I too feel shame. Shame for the actions of the land where I was born and of many of its people.

    1. Thank you. It is very reassuring to received empathy. I am truly impressed by your knowledge base and objectivity. I suppose, I need to grow a stronger spine so when faced with irrelevant and ignorant statements and opinions regarding my political view or my country of origin or my lack of a religion, so that I can eloquently and firmly voice my stance. As is the case for most people, I tend to remember and hold on to negative remarks, however scant, than any and all positive remarks made about me! It is the power of negative thoughts I suppose.
      I’d be curious to see what you think of my essay which you in part inspired it.
      I will also want to thank you for inspiring me to change my theme to Chateau. It is still a working progress but I feel it is a better representation of me.

      1. Isn’t it sad, how we usually remember the bad and so easily forget the good?

        After 50 or so years of trying to reason with people who choose to be ignorant, I finally learned to recognise an exercise in futility when I see one. That is to say, I learned to know when to simply call it quits and let the delusional cling to their delusions.

        I’ll have a look at your essay momentarily and I’m honoured to be thought of as “inspirational”. Thank you most sincerely.

    1. Amazing … Though the optimist-wannabe in me wants to believe that at least some of the good lives on (and I am not so irreversibly jaded to refute that idea).

      “…to let the delusional cling to their delusion …” powerful and poignant. It is indeed much more productive to encourage and nurture the open minds of this world than to try to open the permanently closed ones. Great reminder, thank you!

      1. Well, your inner “optimist” does have some grounds. After all, Mark Antony says “oft”, not always!

        Rather than wrongly abuse they who have been deluded, I would prefer to take the fight to those who have created the delusions.

      2. perhaps this would make you laugh. I’d initially read “oft” as “off”. Language and its many interpretations and significance! (In this, I am using the English language for humor!). Thanks again and have a great day

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