“In Defence of foreign accents”

The goal among the international students at my uni,
was to completely drop our accents –
to have our words sound like they’d grown up
with ice cream floats and builders tea.

We wanted to be able to go to any bar, to order any coffee,
to keep any conversation going for however long a time,
only to be able to slip in an
“oh, I’m not from England, actually,”
and watch people’s surprise.

We worked so hard, to lose our accents,
the rolling Rs, the hard Gs,
the lilts that gave us away;
the sound of what we thought was
“not good enough,”
“not practiced enough.”

Oh, how wrong we were.

Accents are identity, just as much as names and clothes
and the street corners you passed on your way to school.
Your accent’s where you’ve come from, it’s the dotted line on an airplane map,
it shows the world you dared to try.

Your accent is your family dinners, the lessons of your mum’s lullabies,
the laundry songs of your house,
the courage it took, to get on that plane.

It’s a road map of the people you care about,
those who sat with you while you were learning,
who let you spin wonders of the words you didn’t understand,
and who offered their pronunciation to try on for size.

My accent grew up with snow in its boots and saltwater in its nose.
My mispronounced “shower gel”,
My Ds and Ts blurring into each other,
is my home away from home.

So instead of dropping our accents,
let us celebrate them.
For all that we are,
and all we’re yet to learn,
and every step along the way.

-Andrea

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