As a child, I lived in Scotland for quite some time before moving to the US at age 7 or 8. When I started school there, I was often ashamed to speak because my Scottish accent garnered so much attention. I don’t remember if any staff had a reaction, but my classmates were equal parts fascinated and repulsed by my accent: they’d scrunch up their faces because I was apparently impossible to understand, or ask me to say particular words or phrases on cue. Of course, they were only children and really didn’t know any better, but it just highlights the importance of exposing people, from a young age, to other ways of being. Disappointingly, I ended up making a conscious effort to change my accent to an ‘American’ one, in order to fit in.
I’m from the North East of England (born and raised) and despite my family (who are also all from the North East) and peers having strong northern accents, I don’t; and instead I have an accent that most people sight as being American. This leads to a lot of jokes between me and my friends. I’ve also grown used to people asking me about my accent and where me and my family are from. However, because of my accent being strange it quite frequently made me the target of bullying in primary and secondary school which made me extremely self conscious about the way I talk.
In Pakistan, our education system is British. here in America, the English people speak is really different from what I was taught. English being my second language, its kind of hard to adjust. What I want to highlight though, is that if I ask for something like directions to the toilet, people would respond ‘are you talking about the bathroom?’ What else would I be talking about?
At the same time, this goes for words I can’t pronounce correctly as well. if a person tells me ‘I go school’ instead of ‘I’m going to school’ I understand what they mean, but I’ve noticed a lot of people will act like they don’t get what the person meant, and some people even make fun about their improper sentence structuring.
These type of small things don’t cause much harm, but they really do annoy/ anger us on a subliminal level.
My son’s American accent was relentlessly (and badly) mocked and imitated in his secondary schools here in London, and it made him absolutely miserable. This naturally made the other kids do it more. He has taken badly against the country as a whole as a result – a stereotyping overreaction in itself. Prejudice begets prejudice. He hates it here and can’t wait to be old enough to move away.