Week No.6 Artist Talk/Short Story


Walking into the exhibit, immediately, I was forced to take on a role of a character that would complete my experience in the gallery. I was chosen to be a translator for my client in this office, which happened to be a replica of where someone gets their citizenship for the United States. In the office, we went through a type of interview that was crucial in becoming a citizen. The interview required the reading of a couple of sentences in which the person reading it had to do so with an accent. This accent was the same one as the person conducting the interview had. It was a hispanic type of accent, and the lady kept on repeating that we had to get rid of the accent of the person wanting to become a citizen in order for her to become one. This exhibit hit home to me in various ways. One being the stories my mom and other family members have told be about the process of becoming a citizen of the United States. The other, the accent my family has because they come from a different country.

My family comes from Uruguay and they have been living here for about twenty five years. They have adapted, to a certain extent, to this culture but one thing that does not leave them is the accent they have when they speak English. In Uruguay, the language that is spoken is Spanish. I am the opposite of my family. Even though Spanish is also my first tongue, I study in an environment where English is the main language. When I speak Spanish to those who are fluent, I have an American accent that makes it obvious that I grew up in this country. Regardless of where I am with my family (especially with my mom because I spend most my time with her), there is always someone who stops to ask where they are from when they hear them speak either  Spanish or English. Some people ask and are unsatisfied with the response because they do not know where Uruguay is located. For the most part, people are surprised to meet someone from such a tiny country. And that is as far as the conversation goes with the stranger.

There have been  other situations where having an accent is looked down on for no reason. My mom works in a lab at a hospital, and there have been instances when people ask her a question and she responds in a very professional matter but of course with an accent since English is not her first language. Then the person, who usually is a coworker, looks at her funny, almost laughing and then proceeds with asking to repeat herself because they did not understand her due to her accent. Now, it is not that hard to pay a little bit more attention to the annunciation of someone speaking when personally it is difficult to understand them. But the way this lady asked my mother was just rude. Another time, my mom was speaking to our landlord and everything my mom would say, the landlord would try to contradict or prove wrong. She definitely gave off the energy of being better than my mom because of her race. Even though my mom is European looking and white, she does not have the typical white American look and also has accent. Apart from being insulted by this situation it also made me laugh a little because my mom has gone to university in two different countries and our land lord did not even go to college. So obviously if anyone is less knowledgable in this situation, it is the landlord.

Because of these incidents and others similar to them, my mom is sometimes scared to speak in English because of her accent. Society has led her to believe that since it is not her first language, other people will not be able to understand her point nor value her opinion since so many times her accent is made fun of. It also gives her a feeling of inferiority because so many do not appreciate her accent and associate it with being uneducated. My public speaking professor told my class once something that I found to be very valuable, and it was not the first time I had heard this. If someone is speaking and they have accent, no one has the right to laugh at their accent nor at what they are speaking. Automatically, the person speaking is smarter than the listener because they can speak more than one language, unless the person who is listening to speaker is also bilingual. It is usually the people who can only speak English that make fun of people with accents, and I do not understand why they choose to do this. I do hope  though that these people become more educated on the reason behind people having accents.


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