I Am More Than Just My Accent

The first time I realized I had an accent was when someone asked me where I was from within minutes of meeting me. I have no shame in saying that I am Venezuelan, in fact, I am really proud of that. But I was surprised that someone knew I was not American after speaking to me for less than five minutes.

When someone meets me for the first time, they feel the need to comment about my accent and even if it’s a compliment, I can’t help but feel self-conscious about the way I speak. I mispronounce words and say things differently, and without fail there is always someone there to point that out. I roll my “r”s and my accent gets thicker when I speak fast. There is no way for me to hide it. I have had people say that they can’t understand what I am saying because the way I pronounced a word is confusing. I have had friends tell me that my accent makes me seem more attractive than I actually am and that men should love me because of how exotic I am. I have had people ask me if I can speak in an American accent (believe me, I’ve tried and the answer is no) and I have even been compared to Sofia Vergara (and not because of my beauty and my sass but because we both have accents). I have people tell me how much they admire that an immigrant like me is going to a school speaking a language different than the one she speaks at home.

For a while, I was ashamed of my accent. I would try to hide it and pretend I was not Latina because I didn’t want to deal with all the questions and comments that it would bring. I didn’t want people to be impressed that a non-native speaker could be a writer, as if I am unable to accomplish great things if I’m not speaking my mother tongue. I was tired of having people admire what I do because I have an accent, and not admiring my work because what I did was truly good. I have even had people tell me how they can’t tell I am not a native speaker when they read my articles or essays for class.

But I am tired of being tired. I am not going to be ashamed of having an accent that shows that for 19 years I lived in a different country. I went to school and I studied hard for my exams just like those without an accent. I had extra curricular activities and met with my friends after school to go over our math notes just like those without accents. I studied other languages and became trilingual. English is not my first language, which is why I have a thick accent when I speak it. Yes, that is admirable, but the fact that I am able to write articles, finish a biology exam, and get a job as a non-native English speaker should not be the reason why you admire or judge me. You should do that because of what I have accomplished or what I haven’t. My accent does not define who I am as a person or what I am capable of.