Accent/Pronunciation Hegemony: As Experienced by a Non-Western Brown Girl

If one says, “Your name is too hard to pronounce. Can I call you Kizzy?”

What one is really saying is that, “I am not accustomed to filling my mouth with another’s identity. Your experience with language imperialism should have taught you to cater to my preferences."

If one’s response to a detailed conversation with non-western people is only that, “You speak really good English."

One in reality means, “I did not know your people spoke."

Perhaps it is dumbfounding to hear the words, “I am from Pakistan” flow from my mouth without contention. Perhaps it is uncomfortable to be able to hear the shift in my accent when I pronounce Pā-kiss-tān the right way. However, the lack of contention you feel in my words does not mean there is none. The ones who taught me knew full-well to weed out the contention between my English pronunciation and the native strain on my tongue.

When my teachers said, “Don’t stress your T’s like that. It sounds unpleasant.”

What they meant to say was, “Your natural leanings and culture are not enough. They are less. You are less. Your intelligence is only measured by how fluently you can speak in the language of your colonizers."

My Urdu is rebellious still, sometimes it will say its English V’s like W’s and its English W’s like its V’s.

If one says, “You say ‘video’ wrong." What one means to say is that, “I am so ignorant; I cannot fathom non-western folks as articulate speakers if they deviate from white-western hegemonic ideals of pronunciation."

If my friend’s default habit of producing her R’s in her throat instead of her mouth solicits a, “Your French accent is so cool."

What one means is that, “You, brown girl, must adhere to other rules because you are a brown girl." 

Art taken from Shurmmi Tumblr