Everyone has an accent

Everyone has an accent

Do you think you have an accent? Are you aware of your accent? Do you notice other people's accents?

I was born and raised in Cuba until I was 18 years old. I didn't learn English until I started College in the USA at 20 years of age. As a result, I have a distinctive accent, diluted and mixed through living in several different countries and three different States in the USA. Therefore, as soon as I open my mouth and say something, people immediately notice my accent. And, of course, I'm also very aware that my accent is different from the accent of others. It kind of makes me notice that everyone has an accent!

When I talk to people, some say, "I love your accent!" which sometimes I take at face value, and other times it seems more as if they are saying, "you are not a part of us."

Others say, "Do I detect an accent? Where are you from?" which again seems to say "you are different." Many times that makes me say, "from Delaware." And then they go, "yes, but where are you originally from." This  makes me want to ask, "and you, where are you originally from,?" which always seems to confuse them.

The reality is that everyone has an accent! Traveling in the USA from North to South, people from Michigan definitely have a different accent than people from Texas. And going East to West, People from New York or Boston have a different accent from Californians. When you think about it, every region has different ways of talking.

The fact that we think the way we speak is "normal" is the first clue that empathy is quite difficult. For instance, just among English-speaking nations, the English think they have the "right" and most "pure" way of speaking English. On the other hand, Americans, Canadians, Australians, Jamaicans and others feel their way of speaking English is normal, and when they hear people from England speaking, it feels "funny" to them.

You might also notice how easy it is to be aware of people who are much worse at driving than you are--but that you almost never recognize someone who's driving better than you.

Remember. . .

It all boils down to the need to remember that Empathy should help us realize that different is not better or worst, it's just, well, different!  Diversity of accents make things interesting, and sometimes help us to focus our attention more intensely to understand better. In the same way, diversity of minds and ways of thinking can contribute to better problem solving and decision making.